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Evolution of the Virtual Pet

LCP houseThe earliest example of the species comes from 1985, when Activision's Little Computer People hit our screens. The guy, here on the stairs was your "pet". You had to look after him by filling his water tank, delivering food, etc. It's also the only example of a virtual pet having a pet, on the bottom left of your picture.

LCP playing cardsThe LCP could even play games with you. You could feel sorry for the man, and would want to feed him, and would get concerned if he was ill.

TamagotchiUnlike with Tamagotchis. Tamas are a stupid invention. They take the idea of a virtual pet, which is good, and make it annoying. For a start, it doesn't look like anything in particular. It also makes 24 hour stupid beeping noises distract you.

OK, they're good for kids to teach them how much work a 'real' pet is. But they stop being game and start being too real. The Tama craze was stupid: in my day we went crazy for sensible things, like a Rubik's Cube, which was...

... annoying and difficult. OK, I see the Tama's point. It's a good 'ol gimmick.

Norn from CreaturesAt least the Tamagotchi appears to have something to do with "real" living things, due to it at least having a face. Conway's Game Of Life, on the other hand, doesn't. It's supposed to simulate the life cycle of bacteria, or something. It just turns into lots of blobs that make a mess on your screen, then stop apart from a few that insist on following their own infinite cycles. You can have lots of fun making your own arrangements, and watching what they do, until you realise you've just wasted two hours you could have spent doing just about anything else, which would have been more fun.

In fact, only one thing has managed to do a decent job of A-life. That's right, from Cambridge, England... the Norn! For a start, they look really cute, and you can therefore feel responsible for them. Secondly, they have a definite life cycle to follow. Thirdly, the whole simulation of them is excellent, with chemicals, hormones and best of all, evolution. And its import features means you can swap Norns and put new objects into the world.

In the future, we'll have truly intelligent machines. This will not be the great advancement you might think. For example, you'll tell the vacuum cleaner to do the stairs, and it'll say "Can't you see I'm watching TV?!" So enjoy machines while they're stupid.