Digital Pets These keychain-size toys, starting with the Japanese import Tamagotchi, took the country by storm in the spring. Pushing buttons to feed and nurture the needy little buggers is a delight for kids but a nightmare for teachers and parents drafted to babysit.

The Microsoft Network
Aiming to topple America Online, Microsoft poured money into its own online service's inexcusably lame entertainment features, such as a clunky comedy area and a women's e-zine unfortunately dubbed Underwire. Judging by AOL's vapid new Entertainment Asylum area, however, maybe the online giant is vulnerable after all.

The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield
D'oh! This shoddy CD-ROM, which offers a cursory, unfunny tour through the cartoon environs of Homer and family, is a flagrant injustice to one of the best shows on television.