10 Television Firsts

H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile RF via Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile RF via Getty Images

Today marks the anniversary of the day Lucy Ricardo gave birth to Little Ricky on national T.V. This may not be a big deal these days, but in 1953, the word "pregnant" wasn't even supposed to be uttered on the airwaves for fear of offending someone. Of course, as the saying goes, there's a first time for everything - and here are 10 of them.

1. First birth. We'll start with Little Ricky's debut, of course.

I Love Lucy was a national phenomenon, so when Lucille Ball became pregnant in real life, it was immediately written into the storyline and achieved the series' highest ratings ever. On January 19, 1953, Little Ricky appeared for the first time on the show - just 12 hours after the real-life Lucy gave birth via Caesarian section to Desi Arnaz, Jr. The episode received higher ratings than Eisenhower's inauguration the next day and Queen Elizabeth II's coronation six months later. Lucy never was referred to as "pregnant," though - merely "expecting."

2. First toilet. Sort of.

Even though networks had decided to allow a television birth more than four years earlier, apparently a toilet on television was just still too risque. In a 1957 episode of Leave it to Beaver, Wally and the Beav ordered an alligator from the back of a comic book. They decided to keep it in the toilet tank because simply keeping it in the bathtub would surely scare the crap out of the next person to hop in the shower, who would then make the kids get rid of it. The problem? The network refused to allow the toilet to be shown on T.V. It was basically impossible to shoot the episode without showing the toilet - it was kind of the whole point of the plot - but eventually a compromise was reached. The toilet tank would be shown, but the bowl would remain a mystery.

3. First gay couple.

You may not remember the show Hot l Baltimore - it's one-season run was hardly memorable. Based on an off-Broadway show by the same name, this Norman Lear production featured the first openly gay couple to appear on the small screen. It also featured a couple of main characters who were prostitutes. These elements, which were quite controversial in the early 70s, also makes the Hot l Baltimore...

4. ...the first program to require a "mature themes" warning at the beginning of the opening credits.

Perhaps the public wasn't ready for such mature themes during primetime, because the show was canceled after just 13 episodes. In case you're curious, that's "Hotel Baltimore" not "Hot Eye Baltimore." The name indicated a neon hotel sign with a burnt-out letter.

5. First married couple to share a bed.

This happened a lot sooner than most of us think - after years of seeing Rob and Laura Petrie retire to their respective single beds at the end of the night during the "˜60s it seems like we didn't actually see a real-life couple hit the hay together until several years later on The Munsters and Bewitched. However, the first couple to share a bed happened nearly 20 years before on the early sitcom Mary Kay and Johnny. In 1947, the married title couple hopped into the same bed in their New York apartment. Why the networks shied away from such normal married behavior for the next 20 years is a mystery to most of us - as far as we know, there was no public outcry against Mary Kay and Johnny for sharing the sheets... especially since the pair were married in real-life.

6. First interracial kiss.

Score one for the Shat - on November 22, 1968, William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols locked lips on Star Trek. Pathetically, some stations in the South refused to air the episode.

7. First uncensored usage of the word "shit."

As far as we know, that occurred on the October 14, 1999 episode of Chicago Hope. Mark Harmon used it when he uttered the classic phrase "Shit happens."

8. First commercial.  

Commercials have been around since nearly the beginning.The first one appeared during a Dodgers and Phillies game on July 1, 1941 - it was a 10-second ad for Bulova watches. The first marketing company to use the brilliant idea of advertising toys on T.V. did so for Mr. Potato head in 1952.

9. First religious service.

Likewise, religion on T.V. is hardly a new invention. The first-ever televised service took place on March 24, 1940, and showed the Protestant Easter Services on NBC in New York. An hour later, the Roman Catholic Easter Services aired on the same network.

10. First abortion.

The first illegal abortion occurred on Another World in 1964, when a character's boyfriend talked her into aborting their baby. The character later killed her boyfriend. One of the most famous instances of abortion discussed on television, however, happened just two months before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal. The controversial topic was approached by Maude in a two-part episode in 1972. When Bea Arthur's title character found herself pregnant at the age of 47, she and her husband decided against keeping the baby. Response was mixed, and many stations ended up dropping the show entirely.

What T.V. firsts do you remember?

tv

The ChopBox Smart Cutting Board Has a Food Scale, Timer, and Knife Sharper Built Right Into It

ChopBox
ChopBox

When it comes to furnishing your kitchen with all of the appliances necessary to cook night in and night out, you’ll probably find yourself running out of counter space in a hurry. The ChopBox, which is available on Indiegogo and dubs itself “The World’s First Smart Cutting Board,” looks to fix that by cramming a bunch of kitchen necessities right into one cutting board.

In addition to giving you a knife-resistant bamboo surface to slice and dice on, the ChopBox features a built-in digital scale that weighs up to 6.6 pounds of food, a nine-hour kitchen timer, and two knife sharpeners. It also sports a groove on its surface to catch any liquid runoff that may be produced by the food and has a second pull-out cutting board that doubles as a serving tray.

There’s a 254nm UVC light featured on the board, which the company says “is guaranteed to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria" after a minute of exposure. If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to cleanliness, the ChopBox is completely waterproof (but not dishwasher-safe) so you can wash and scrub to your heart’s content without worry. 

According to the company, a single one-hour charge will give you 30 days of battery life, and can be recharged through a Micro USB port.

The ChopBox reached its $10,000 crowdfunding goal just 10 minutes after launching its campaign, but you can still contribute at different tiers. Once it’s officially released, the ChopBox will retail for $200, but you can get one for $100 if you pledge now. You can purchase the ChopBox on Indiegogo here.

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11 Fascinating Facts About Tamagotchi

Tamagotchi is the toy that launched a thousand digital pet competitors.
Tamagotchi is the toy that launched a thousand digital pet competitors.
Chesnot/Getty Images News

They blooped and beeped and ate, played, and pooped, and, for ‘90s kids, the egg-shaped Tamagotchi toys were magic. They taught the responsibility of tending to a “pet,” even though their shrill sounds were annoying to parents and teachers and school administrators. Nearly-real funerals were held for expired Tamagotchi, and they’ve even been immortalized in a museum (of sorts). Here are 11 things you should know about the keychain toy that was once stashed in every kid’s backpack.

1. The idea for the Tamagotchi came from a female office worker at Bandai.

Aki Maita was a 30-year-old “office lady” at the Japanese toy company Bandai when inspiration struck. She wanted to create a pet for kids—one that wouldn't bark or meow, make a mess in the house, or lead to large vet bills, according to Culture Trip. Maita took her idea to Akihiro Yokoi, a toy designer at another company, and the duo came up with a name and backstory for their toy: Tamagotchis were aliens, and their egg served as protection from the Earth’s atmosphere. They gave prototype Tamagotchis to high school girls in Shibuya, and tweaked and honed the design of the toy based on their feedback.

2. The name Tamagotchi is a blend of two Japanese words.

The name Tamagotchi is a mashup between the Japanese words tamago and tomodachi, or egg and friend, according to Culture Trip. (Other sources have the name meaning "cute little egg" or "loveable egg.")

3. Tamagotchis were released in Japan in 1996.

A picture of a tamagotchi toy.
Tamagotchis came from a faraway planet called "Planet Tamagotchi."
Museum Rotterdam, Wikimedia Commons//CC BY-SA 3.0

Bandai released the Tamagotchi in Japan in November 1996. The tiny plastic keychain egg was equipped with a monochrome LCD screen that contained a “digital pet,” which hatched from an egg and grew quickly from there—one day for a Tamagotchi was equivalent to one year for a human. Their owners used three buttons to feed, discipline, play with, give medicine to, and clean up after their digital pet. It would make its demands known at all hours of the day through bloops and bleeps, and owners would have to feed it or bathe it or entertain it.

Owners that successfully raised their Tamagotchi to adulthood would get one of seven characters, depending on how they'd raised it; owners that were less attentive faced a sadder scenario. “Leave one unattended for a few hours and you'll return to find that it has pooped on the floor or, worse, died,” Wired wrote. The digital pets would eventually die of old age at around the 28-day mark, and owners could start fresh with a new Tamagotchi.

4. Tamagotchis were an immediate hit.

The toys were a huge success—4 million units were reportedly sold in Japan during their first four months on shelves. By 1997, Tamagotchis had made their way to the United States. They sold for $17.99, or around $29 in today's dollars. One (adult) reviewer noted that while he was "drawn in by [the Tamagotchi's] cleverness," after several days with the toy, "the thrill faded quickly. I'm betting the Tamagotchi will be the Pet Rock of the 1990s—overwhelmingly popular for a few months, and then abandoned in the fickle rush to some even cuter toy."

The toy was, in fact, overwhelmingly popular: By June 1997, 10 million of the toys had been shipped around the world. And according to a 2017 NME article, a whopping 82 million Tamagotchi had been sold since their release into the market in 1997.

5. Aki Maita and Akihiro Yokoi won an award for inventing the Tamagotchi.

In 1997, the duo won an Ig Nobel Prize in economics, a satiric prize that’s nonetheless presented by Nobel laureates at Harvard, for "diverting millions of person-hours of work into the husbandry of virtual pets" by creating the Tamagotchi.

6. Tamagotchis weren't popular with teachers.

Some who grew up with Tamagotchi remember sneaking the toys into school in their book bags. The toys were eventually banned in some schools because they were too distracting and, in some cases, upsetting for students. In a 1997 Baltimore Sun article titled “The Tamagotchi Generation,” Andrew Ratner wrote that the principal at his son’s elementary school sent out a memo forbidding the toys “because some pupils got so despondent after their Tamagotchis died that they needed consoling, even care from the school nurse.”

7. One pet cemetery served as a burial ground for expired Tamagotchi.

Terry Squires set aside a small portion of his pet cemetery in southern England for dead Tamagotchi. He told CNN in 1998 that he had performed burials for Tamagotchi owners from Germany, Switzerland, France, the United States, and Canada, all of whom ostensibly shipped their dead by postal mail. CNN noted that "After the Tamagotchis are placed in their coffins, they are buried as mourners look on, their final resting places topped with flowers."

8. There were many copycat Tamagotchi.

The success of the Tamagotchi resulted in both spin-offs and copycat toys, leading PC Mag to dub the late ’90s “The Golden Age of Virtual Pets.” There was the Digimon, a Tamagotchi spin-off by Bandai that featured monsters and was marketed to boys. (There were also Tamagotchi video games.) And in 1997, Tiger Electronics launched Giga Pets, which featured real animals (and, later, dinosaurs and fictional pets from TV shows). According to PC Mag, Giga Pets were very popular in the United States but “never held the same mystique as the original Tamagotchi units.” Toymaker Playmates's Nano Pets were also a huge success, though PC Mag noted they were “some of the least satisfying to take care of."

9. Rare Tamagotchis can be worth a lot of money.

According to Business Insider, most vintage Tamagotchis won't fetch big bucks on the secondary market. (On eBay, most are priced at around $50.) The exception are rare editions like “Yasashii Blue” and “Tamagotchi Ocean,” which go for $300 to $450 on eBay. As Complex notes, "There were over 40 versions (lines) of Tamagotchi released, and each line featured a variety of colors and variations ... yours would have to be one of the rarest models to be worth the effort of resale."

10. A new generation of Tamagotchis were released in 2017 for the toy's 20th anniversary.

The 2017 re-release of the Tamagotchi in its packaging.
Bandai came to the aid of nostalgic '90s kids when it re-released a version of the original Tamagotchis for the toy's 20th anniversary.
Chesnot/Getty Images

In November 2017, Bandai released a 20th anniversary Tamagotchi that, according to a press release [PDF], was "a first-of-its-kind-anywhere exact replica of the original Tamagotchi handheld digital pet launched ... in 1996." However, as The Verge reported, the toys weren't an exact replica: "They're about half the size, the LCD display is square rather than rectangle, and those helpful icons on the top and bottom of the screen seem to be gone now." In 2019, new Tamagotchis were released; they were larger than the originals, featured full-color displays, and retailed for $60.

11. The original Tamagotchi’s sound has been immortalized in a virtual museum.

The Museum of Endangered Sounds is a website that seeks to immortalize the digital sounds that become extinct as we hurtle through the evolution of technology. “The crackle of a dial-up modem. The metallic clack of a 3.5-inch floppy slotting into a Macintosh disk drive. The squeal of the newborn Tamagotchi. They are vintage sounds that no oldies station is ever going to touch,” The Washington Post wrote in a 2012 profile of the museum. So, yes, the sound of that little Tamagotchi is forever preserved, should it someday, very sadly, cease to exist completely.