If you were born in the late ‘80s, then I can say with near-certainty that you had a list one Tamagotchi as a kid. The first generation of Tamagotchi toys were released to the Japanese market by Bandai in November of 1996, and were in American and European stores by May of 1997. Tamagotchi was an immediate hit, and more than 82 million units have been sold over the years. Its designer, Aki Maita, even won the Ig Nobel Prize for economics in 1997—an accolade that isn’t always a bad thing. If your Tamagotchi fever hasn’t broken over the last two decades, Kevin Neubauer’s CircuitPython Badge has its own Tamagothi-inspired virtual pet to keep you going.
Neubauer developed the CircuitPython Badge as an educational toy. It runs on a Microchip SAM D51 Arm Cortex-M4 microcontroller, has 8MB of SPI flash storage, an accelerometer, a piezo speaker, a handful of NeoPixel-style LEDs, three buttons, an SAO (Shitty Add-On) connector, and a small 128x64 OLED display. Power is provided by three AA batteries, and all GPIOs are broken out along the outer edge of the circular board.
As the name probably made obvious, it runs Adafruit’s CircuitPython. Neubauer wanted some sort of application to show off his badge’s capabilities, and decided a Tamagotchi-like virtual pet would be perfect for the job as a virtual pet is well-suited to this badge’s small screen and limited number of buttons.
If you were in coma in the later '90s and aren’t familiar with Tamagotchi, then here’s the lowdown. Each Tamagotchi was a tiny little egg-shaped electronic game device with an itty bitty monochrome LCD screen and three buttons. A virtual pet will hatch and then wander the screen, and your job is to feed it and clean up its poop in order to keep it alive. Various gameplay mechanics have been introduced over the years, but generally the pet will grow from a baby and eventually become an adult.
A similar game already exists for Arduino devices, called Tamaguino, but Neubauer had to write his own program for CircuitPython. Its gameplay is very similar to the original Tamagotchi, and you have to keep your pet — a cat — happy and healthy over time. Even if you don’t have the CircuitPython badge, you can still play this on any other CircuitPython gadget that has an SH1106 or SD1306 OLED screen and three buttons.
You can purchase the badge for $50 from the RandomBytes Tindie store, while more details are available on Neubauer's website. The code is open source, so you can even change the assets to create your own pets!