A digital pet, also known as a virtual pet, is a type of artificial human companion: a simple computer designed to simulate a pet. The computer is usually housed in a small, egg-shaped plastic container, and the image of the "pet" is displayed on a simple black and white screen. You can also have a virtual pet online where you can play games and spend pretend money for the pet. Three or four buttons allow the user to perform different tasks, such as feed the pet, play games with it, or wash it. When the pet is unsatisfied, it beeps.
The user's "goal" in maintaining the digital pet is to keep the virtual animal alive as long as possible, and in most models, to make it grow into the best "adult" form. In order to keep the pet alive and growing the owner needs to feed, groom and play with the pet. The two most popular digital pet brands are Tamagotchi and its many spinoffs, and Neopets. There is also a popular program for the PC known as Petz.
Digital pets created a massive fad in Japan, where they originated, and to a lesser extent in the United States during the late 1990s. The idea of an actual animal composed of technology rather than flesh also inspired a number of anime, such as Digimon (itself a contraction of "Digital Monster").
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