Every week, Today in Nostalgia looks at the trends we once clung to, defended, and were ultimately betrayed by. Memberships to the Beanie Babies Official Club accepted, BYOB Pog slammers. Let’s do this.
Trend: Nano Babies
Era of cool: Spring – autumn 1997
Describe, please: Regardless of apparent visual similarities, it is important that you never EVER liken Nano Babies to Tamagotchi, because they are two completely different toys (how dare you). True, they were both hand-held digital offspring that required just as much care as human children, but where Tamagotchi were mystical creatures, Nano Babies were just that— actual babies. Babies you could name, feed, change, play with, and send off into the world after three to five days, if they survived you. Then, you would get a new baby. Just like real life.
Colours of the actual device varied, as did the babies’ gender: randomly selected, you could find yourself with a bevy of girls, boys, or a steady rotation of each. (Or, you could purposely kill the kid you didn’t want if you had a really great girl’s name lined up and got a boy—like I did, when I was trying to name each child after the starting lineup of the Rockford Peaches. Looking back, this was a grim habit.)
If they died in the midst of their life cycle, you were forced to come to terms with the beautiful fragility of life, as well as your own shortcomings as a person. For this reason, Nano Babies are arguably the root of most guilt complexes and anxiety issues we have today. After all, if you—11-year-old child—hadn’t taken a nap in the middle of the day, Baby Dottie wouldn’t have missed her afternoon feeding and ruined your streak of 11 healthy and grown fake children.
Why they were cool: Because at age 11 you were too old for Barbies (unless you were me, and used yours to re-enact the Star Wars trilogy), and too young to babysit. And thank God: at the rate we lost our Nano Babies—both in the digital sense and in terms of how often we left them on the bus—it was right for our parents to distract us with amateur electronics as we tried to convince them we were grown up enough to look after living, breathing human beings. (Though, as if that stopped any of us from bringing our Nano Babies to the mandatory babysitting course.)
Odds of a comeback: Never ever (in the All Saints sense of the word). First of all, most of us are now old enough to have actual children, so carting around a tiny digital baby on a keychain is below a Furby on the chain of socially acceptable things to bring out in public (so: still very socially acceptable, Furby4Ever). Second, today we have apps. And animals we can legally adopt. And friends. And friends’ kids. And Farmville, I think. (That’s still a thing, right?) And any other way to pass the time because we have incomes and no curfews, and we’re grown-ass women.
Ultimately, Nano Babies were practice for the real world… if the real world meant frequent, lengthy falls outs with friends who accidentally sat on and killed your Nano one day before she was set to grow up and move on. Not that I’m admitting to anything, but damn it, her name was Kit, and she was my last Rockford Peach.