Sunday, 15 April 2012

In praise of Lego

Lego meets mini-golf!

It is 50 years since Lego was introduced to Australia.

I'm not certain there was always Lego in my life, but certainly from the age of about 5 my brothers and I had a big box of the stuff to build things out of.  Many was the afternoon that we'd be raking our fingers through that box, with conversations along the following lines: "I need a white single two-by-two ..."; "Oh, I need a red single one-by-two ...".  Rake, rake, rake "Here it is!"

The perennial beauty of Lego is that your construction is only limited by your imagination.  As Lego has introduced ever more specialised components, the ability to build what you see in your mind's eye has improved.  For example, I was building 8-bit spaceships compared to what my son is able to invent now:

Just about everyone I know has a similar story about Lego.  How it was the go-to toy for rainy days; how, if you were inspired by something you'd seen on TV, you'd recreate it in Lego; the pain of kneeling on Lego (a phrase immortalised in a collection of "songs from our childhood" compiled by my brother-in-law); the frustration of not being able to find the right piece when you needed it.  These are the common experiences of several generations of kids and, when Mrs G and I started making minions, we agreed they would also have that experience.  True to our word, they too have access to a big box of the stuff.

Somehow Lego has managed to retain the interest of many people beyond childhood, and their diversification and licensing deals have largely been good moves.  The Lego Star Wars range is the clear leader here, and the fact that I can play through the Star Wars saga as a Lego character on my TV is like all sorts of Christmases come at once.  Having a minion around who has accidentally wiped your save, from time to time, enables me to have to play through it all again ... !  Neat-o!

There is possibly only one down-side to Lego - the historical inability to integrate it with other building systems such as Meccano, K'nex or MegaBloks.  However, even that's no longer a problem.  The Free Universal Construction Kit enables interoperability of all of these systems and more.  What's more, you make the pieces yourself, with a Makerbot or similar 3D printer (h/t Steve).  The possibilities now really are endless.

So, if you have a soft spot for Lego and something suitable in the cupboard or fridge, I invite you to pour some in a glass, raise it and say after me: "Here's to Lego!"

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