ActiMates Barney Acting Out — In 1997, Microsoft’s hardware group introduced the ActiMates Interactive Barney, a plush, interactive version of everyone’s favorite purple dinosaur. ActiMates move, play games, sing songs, and – using optional wireless transmitters for VCRs or PCs with MIDI/game ports and Windows 95 – interact with compatible software, VHS video tapes, broadcast television programs, and even Web sites. However, children’s advocacy groups are now warning parents about software programs dubbed “Barney Trojan Horses” appearing on the Internet. These programs, usually labelled as “Barney shareware,” typically simulate a system problem when they run and appear to exit, but actually remain in memory and continuously send commands via the wireless PC transmitter. According to Chris Hedges of the Barney Advice and Research Foundation, the Barney character will misbehave when it comes into range of the transmitter and speak phrases such as “Let’s go draw on the walls,” “I hate sharing,” “It’s fun to throw vegetables,” or “We can go pee-pee right here!” Hedges notes these programs deliberately don’t attack the Arthur and D.W. ActiMates characters, but warns parents that Barney and the Internet are a volatile mix. [GD]
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