It is hard to believe it’s been twenty years since I watched my friend and beloved New York Times CyberTimes colleague Joe Hutsko joyfully chronicle the beauty and and pain of living with—and loving—another in his series, Tamagotchi Diary.
Technology has advanced in ever more ways that even we, charged with chronicling its impact, imagined. But the themes in Joe’s series are as resonant as ever. Loss, and the attempt by those of us who are left behind to make sense of it, is eternal, mystifying, and wrenching.
—Lisa Napoli, Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonalds Fortune and the Woman Who Gave it All Away
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“Tamagotchi Diary” was a series for “Cybertimes” in which Hutsko chronicled his increasing attachment to his virtual pet. Eventually, his Tamagotchi experience helps him get at his own buried feelings about his older brother's suicide at 21:
Maybe it's like the movie Poltergeist, like I've got to convey him to some other place. Since last night, I've been looking at my Tamagotchi a little differently: Is that the point of his unexpected installment into my life? To have entered at this point, and act as some sort of vehicle meant to drive my lost brother out of the places he's been hiding in my head and heart, off into a shinier place, where I can look at him without feeling sad? Is that what's happening?
—Michelle Goldberg, The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West
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From the Introduction, by Rob Fixmer, former editor for The New York Times CyberTimes:
"Joe was among the first bloggers for CyberTimes, though we ink-stained Times veterans were still print-oriented enough to refer to his and other weekly contributors as columnists. Joe stood out for his desire to experiment with long-form journalism online. He had seen a report in Wired magazine about a new digital toy that had already taken Japan by storm and was now about to enter the U.S. market. Called a Tamagotchi, it was a sort of electronic pet rock that, if cared for and nurtured properly, would mature and thrive. Joe proposed that he buy one of these Tamagotchis, raise it and then keep a diary about the experience for CyberTimes.
"I was skeptical. First, it was hard for me to imagine that many of our readers would find such a toy all that interesting. But Joe was persistent, and eventually he talked me into the idea. Hell, if he wanted to play mommy to a bunch of semiconductors that beeped rather than burped, let him have at it.
"I was pleasantly surprised with the result. What Joe turned in over nine columns was not a review of a toy but a surprisingly introspective journal, simultaneously humorous and emotionally compelling as he came to see this toy not just as his digital dependent but also something of an emotional surrogate for the brother he had lost years before. It was like nothing else we had published in CyberTimes, and in retrospect, I consider it to have been a wonderfully successful experiment.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Tamagotchi, Joe has aggregated those decades-old columns into a book, and I must say they have aged rather well. Rereading them all these years later, I was struck by how they still exude the charm, humor and emotional surprises that made them such interesting reads back in 1997. I was especially pleased to learn that the book would be illustrated by Christine Maichin, the talented CyberTimes designer who created the original whimsical illustrations for the New York Times on the Web."