I’m sure everyone remembers Bonzi Buddy, the adorable but sneaky purple gorilla that made his home on your screen. I used to have it installed on my Windows 98 computer years ago and despite his spying habits, I still put him to use as he told jokes, sang songs and revealed interesting facts. Long after Bonzi Buddy was removed from the Internet, he somehow lived on in my imagination.
Years ago, during the days of Windows XP, I managed to find the Bonzi Buddy character file online for use with Microsoft Agent and started having fun with it in an entirely different way. I learned how to create simple VB scripts to have him say anything I wanted him to say and make rude noises. I also had him play games, including a number guessing game. It was possible to have fun with him without worrying about him spying on me.
The more scripts I made for Bonzi Buddy, the more a completely different story began to emerge. I began to imagine Bonzi Software creating a product called Bonzi Club, one that printed coupons for use at your favorite fast food restaurants. (“If you use them all, you’ll gain 500 pounds!”, he would say) From time to time there would be Bonzi Challenges that gave you a chance to earn points for prizes. One challenge required you to walk into McDonald’s and sing this song:
I love McDonald’s!
My favorite place!
Hamburgers and shakes and fries,
Happy meals and a prize!
If you sang that song, you would have won 5,000 points and a special prize, but if you didn’t, you would have those points taken away even after the software turned on your microphone to hear your excuse. Having a balance at zero points would put your Bonzi Club membership in jeopardy, so it was necessary to use the coupons on a daily basis, even if it meant eating fast food every day. After all, zero points meant getting kicked out of Bonzi Club and losing access to its perks. Attempting to run the software with no points caused a scary skeleton to appear on your screen and remind you that your account is no longer active and that you needed to uninstall the software to avoid seeing the skeleton again. Furthermore you had to wait 6 months before you were given another chance with Bonzi Club.
Then I began to imagine Bonzi Software expanding its product line, soon releasing Bonzi Browser (“the new way to browse the web!”) and selling plugins such a password manager.
Imagining having to buy add-ons for Bonzi Browser gave me insights in how software companies can fool you into thinking you’re saving money by manipulating the price. I don’t know if this is a real practice or not but it’s possible. For example, Bonzi Software set the retail price of its password manager add-on at $29.95 but was offering a deal where you only had to pay $14.95. (“That’s a 50% savings!”) Hence the illusion of saving money.
Meanwhile Bonzi Software continued to expand. Eventually The Bonzi Channel and Bonzi Radio would be launched as the company ventured into broadcasting. I even imagined a smart speaker shaped like Bonzi Buddy’s head that responded to voice commands much like Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant.
Finally, I imagined Bonzi World, a “family friendly kingdom of rides, food and great savings”. It was a giant man-made island with an amusement park, a shopping center, a hotel and meeting complex. However, Bonzi Software had a great deal of difficulty trying to find a place to build this island as no one wanted one nearby due to concerns of it being a giant eyesore. Finally they had to settle for building it halfway around the world off the coast of Ochoro, an imaginary country near India that served as a gateway to the Indian Ocean.
So now Bonzi Software (now Bonzi Enterprises) was stuck with the awkward dilemma of having visitors to fly halfway around the world just to visit Bonzi World. There were too many hurdles to overcome, such as requiring visitors to have passports and advance reservations at Bonzi Tower. None of this fared well for Bonzi World and it began to suffer financially.
And that leads us to the mega typhoon that would destroy Bonzi World and founder Jim Bonzi would descend into madness and denial after having lost so much money as a result.
Now you know the rest of the story.
(With apologies to Joe and Jay Bonzi)