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Erector Set Turns 100 239

Posted by timothy
from the dirty-puns-obvious-and-therefore-redundant dept.
GospelHead821 writes: "It's been one hundred years since the first Erector Set was patented in Europe under the name of Meccano (It is sold under this name in Europe to this day). Unfortunately for Erector, the advent of plastic Lego bricks in 1958 spelled misfortune for the more complex, metal frame construction kit. Erector fans should keep an eye out, though! The Brio Corp. may be looking to reintroduce the Erector Set to the United States sometime soon. I remember playing with an old Erector Set when I was a kid, but I haven't seen one in quite a while. Here's hoping it makes a comeback. As versatile as Legos are, there's just something unconvincing about a Martian Destroyer Robot made out of plastic." My ranking is Capsula > Erector > Tinker Toys > Lincoln Logs > Lego.
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Erector Set Turns 100

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  • electronic (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Vardamir (266484)
    A CAD type app that had erector qualities would be neat.
    • A CAD type app that had erector qualities would be neat.
      Lego got a headstart on that with the Mindstorms product. It's computer is decently powerfull, considering that the 'toy' was originally aimed at young children. (It turns out more adults bought them than kids ;-)
  • by SlamMan (221834) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `tigiuqs'> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:02PM (#2408629)
    Oh come one, lincoln logs aren't good for anything. Ohh, I made a log cabin. Big whoop. I made a moving plastic dog that shased my car around with legos.

    • No kidding! While I hate that Lego kept adding "special pieces" for practically one purpose, the base set and a few cool thinks like pnuematic pumps could build anything! I used to build entire cities out of base parts until lego started commercializing them with "special parts". Lincoln logs build log houses and huts. Maybe a tower or two.

      Sure, you could build a city out of lincoln logs, but when's the last time you've heard of a log city (village) surviving very long?

      • I used to build entire cities out of base parts until lego started commercializing them with "special parts".

        Just don't use that special "entire-city-in-one" part.
      • Everyone always seems to be complaning about the special lego pieces, but take a look at this [ebay.com] erector set on ebay [ebay.com]. Look at the cylinders and the piece for the cab. I have a hard time believing that some of those pieces are "generic" pieces.
    • Does anyone remember "Girders and Panels [ultranet.com]"? damn I loved those, I think it was 1975 or so, I was like 5 or 6 me and my brother used both of our kits to build (what we thought looked like) the Chicago skyline.

      It consisted of interconnecting "girders" that looked like the real deal and allowed you to build a lattice either of squares or Xs. Then they supplied these thin plastic panels that either looked like skyscraper windows or some other architectural glass panes.
      When we were don we took out giant "Voltrons" (I think it was Voltron, maybe a Voltron precursor... all I knew was it was a huge plastic Japanese robot that allowed you to shoot misses that could choke babies, funny I never knew of any one choking and any of them... but more importantly, you could launch their fists! Really far and hard, it hurt like hell!) and proceeded to level our mini city Godzilla style...

      Hmmm. After that I don't think we ever played with it again, no wonder they're gone...

      Hey remember Micronauts [micro-outpost.com]?!....

      • Does anyone remember ?Girders and Panels [ultranet.com]??

        I had totally forgotten about those. Yeah, I had got the "Bridge and Highway" set for Christmas in 1977.

        Hey remember Micronauts

        Yep, far more interesting than Star Wars figs, but without a movie tie-in, they were doomed.

    • ...what's good about Lincoln Logs--the taste. Mmmm...creosotey.

      chewin' nasty brown logs since 1974

  • E in E (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anne_Nonymous (313852)
    Has anybody used an Erector Set in an engineering course in the last 10 years?
    • I just got back from visiting a small-town toy store with my son. Of course I had to walk by the Lego section. To the right, Legos. To the left, Technic. Further left, K'nex. And behind us...Erector Sets! They had about eight different sets that were available. Now I just have to wait a few more years so I can justify buying them (he's not quite two).
    • Here are scans of an Erector Set Parts Catalog [ohio-state.edu]. They are posted on the Ohio State University College of Engineering site so maybe someone there is using them for a course.

      • Yes, we used those back in my "Gateway Engineering" year at OSU. This is now called "Honors Engineering" One of the elements of this year long integratedengineering first year is a robot design project in which you have to build a robot with an erector set and a handy-board.

        There is information and some pictures of erector set based robots
        here [ohio-state.edu]

        Mine was the first year to use erector sets, which were chosen since they were cheaper than lego. I think that my group was the one that fried a handy-board on the robot's frame, then came up with the mandatory cardboard shielding for the boards (non-conductvity would be an advantage of Lego)

  • They sell it as Meccano in Canada too.

    Canada don't need anglofied names.
    • It's also sold under its original name in Australia. Unfortunately it's no longer the metal Meccano - its plastic now for safety and economic reasons. Plastic is generally perceived as 'safer' by parents who are the likely purchasors, and it's definitely cheaper.
  • Ah, Erector... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Old Man Kensey (5209) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:05PM (#2408643) Homepage
    Somewhere tucked away at home is my dad's old Erector Set from when he was a kid (60's, early 70's). That was a very cool toy. The interesting thing about it is where Lego gives you exploded diagrams of where every single piece goes, Erector gave you unit assembly pictures with some detail pics of how hard-to-see stuff fit together. You had to figure out what you needed, and if you didn't have it handy, what you might use in its place.

    Some professor over in Britain blames the decline in British engineering on the steady growth in dominance of Lego over Meccano. I can believe it -- Meccano/Erector makes you figure out how to build it and Lego doesn't.

    Lego is like a prefab model kit, Erector is more like the further projects in those 180-in-1 breadboard electronics kits.

    • 180-in-1 breadboard electronics kits.
      I loved those as a child! Ah, memories. I built an AM radio transmitter, and even an electronic "roulette" game with a pile of LEDs out of one of those kits. :)
    • Re:Ah, Erector... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DoubleD (29726)
      Erector sets are cool, i recall my mom letting me play with them when i was 3 (i think) and i was too interested in playing with them to bother putting them in my mouth. Great fun. Overall though I remember lego being the toy that attracted me the most. The range of representation afforded by legos greatly surpassed that of the erector set IMHO. I think part of the lack of popularity of Meccano / Erector could be that it was too realistic. By that point in my life I would go take something important apart :) or work with my dad fixing something. Lego on the other hand depends a great deal on imagination and using a bunch of funny looking blocks to build the world's greatest space ship or a fort of Indestructability.

      Along this line of reasoning the decline of British engineering would be more accuratley attributed the trend away from do-it-yourselfism. This itself a symptom of our increasing consumerism. The decline of Erector with respect to lego is more likely a symptom of the decline of British engineering rather than its cause.

      Now excuse me i am going to go take apart my roomate's cd player :).

      DD
    • yeah but the fun of lego wasnt buildint what you were supposed (?) to build. it was thinking of something cool and then basically building it as good as you could with the bits available.

      creativity and engineering all in one...

      (and kindof a moot point between lego/ i guess)
      • damn those html tags - that was meant to be...

        (and kindof a moot point between lego/<meccano/erector&gt i guess)

        oh yeah, and damn that 2 minute posting limit...

        and damn my ignorance of the preview button..

        and damn the -1,Offtopic I'm going to get for this...
    • ???Plans??? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wowbagger (69688)
      There are plans for Lego?

      When I had my Lego set, I just got a pile of blocks. The only "plans" were those I created. I created spacecraft, forts, lighthouses (with pieces of a flashlight). As I grew older, I used Lego to build frames for motors, apparatus to work with my 100 in 1 kit from Radio Shack (that dates me, considering they are over 200 in 1 now) (really dating myself - my 100-in-1 kit had an "IC" that was nothing but a ceramic substrate with printed film resistors and a transistor on it).

      It's like anything else - games, toys, video tapes. When you give the kid a definition of what they are supposed to do, you stunt their imagination. If you give them the tools, and turn them loose, they develop their imagination. Don't buy the "Lego StarFortress", just buy a bunch of Lego. Buy an [erector|mechanno} set, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, [1-n]00 in one kits. Let the kid read books, not watch Disney. When they are older, get them playing D&D, not Stupid Moron Brothers by NonMindO.

      (Of course, my earlier experience with small, modular components might account for my being a big OOP fan. Use at your own risk.)
    • Re:Ah, Erector... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tylerdave (58777)

      I don't know about everyone else, but I never used the assembly instructions from a Lego set. I chose which sets I would get for my b-day / x-mas based on the cool parts included, not the suggested assembly. I totally disagree that Lego is a like a prefab model kit. The only people that I know that do use the instructions are adults who wish they were still imaginative children but just aren't. Besides, who claims that Lego is supposed to make you a better engineer? I think Lego helped my creativity and my sense of spacial manipulation more than my mechanical engineering. Is this a bad thing?

      I will admit that it was pretty cool when my dad gave me the left-overs of his Erector set, and that I would have probably gotten more out of it if I had more components.

  • Indeed, capsela is one of those great inventions that never really became popular like lego and erector. Sure, it had some limitations, and the fact that nobody bothered to make a "programmable capsule :-)" but, it was really neat and versaitile ... I built boats, land rovers, cpu coolers (Yes... i know...) , wall climbers, string walkers.... you name it, capsela could do it.

    • Yes, but the dang gears inside the robot capsela kit weren't made of hardened plastic, and the lousy thing broke. My parents and grandparents spent so much money on the things... cool concept, bad production.

      Now erector, that was awesome!
    • Capsela did have a 'programmable capsule' which can be seen here [moe.edu.sg]
  • I loved the erector sets. When legos came out, they were almost exclusively static objects, as in none of the stuff could move. Erector sets, hwever, were great for that, and only after a few years did lego come out with the movable blocks and stuff. Now however, they are pretty much even. The erector sets do look cooler though.
  • Meccano still around (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mwongozi (176765) <slashthree@nosPAM.davidglover.org> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:07PM (#2408653) Homepage
    Meccano is still pretty popular here in the UK. I never even realised that it had a different name anywhere else.

    There's a good web page here [zetnet.co.uk] which has some plans for some cool models (dinosaurs, airplanes, diggers, etc.), and some photos of some pretty weird things made out of Meccano, too. :)

    • Meccano isn't really the same as Erector. Take a look at this [usmeccano.com] site which details the history of Meccano in the United States and its relationship to Erector. Meccano was the toy that budding civil engineers played with, I think most software engineers played with Lego. At least when I was growing up in the UK.
    • It was sold, at least when I was a kid, under the `Meccano' name in Canada, too.

      A toy that is sold with a wrench is just cool.

    • A variation was sold in Germany for many years (starting in the early 20s I believe) by Märklin, known more for model trains.

      I got the largest one when I was like 4 or 5, and bought all expansions when I turned 21 :-). I still have it and on occasion use it now, over 40 years later.

      Unfortunately they apparently stopped making them. There are some photos at http://home.t-online.de/home/HGFinke/metall/engl.h tml [t-online.de].

    • Hey, Chris' website has appeared here again! He seems to get a lot of traffic from Slashdot...

      I've been, on and off, a member of the West London Meccano Society (featured somewhere in the link above) since I was ooh, too young to do anything serious with Meccano, as opposed to now being too busy... Introduced by my Dad, who's built more Meccano trucks and cranes than I care to remember, along with writing many modelplans for them and various texts on particular areas of model construction - a review of how to build different types of vehicle suspension system, for example. Sorry, no URL for his work but they're sold by MW Models [btinternet.com] under the Everything Automotive banner.

      Anyway. I was fortunate enough to be at this year's SkegEx show in Skegness, England for a little while. Some absolutely stunning models were on show - if anyone wants to see more photos (though no plans I'm afraid) of some really, really good models, I can heartily recommend John Thorpe's page [demon.co.uk] though there's a lot of photos so it's a little slow to load :-) Always difficult to call a favourite, but three stick out in my memory:

      Very, very impressive, all of them.

  • i remember those fondly, they still sit in an unused foot locker of mine. the main advantage of legos is that they don't rust/edges aren't dangerous. I remember building an X-wing out of a combination of an old airliner set and some pieces from a monorail spacestation set. quite an accomplishment. and that was before all of the newfangled specialty pieces (although i had to use some nifty transparent pieces to make the x wing canopy)....R2 droids were always fun, quick and easy to make. 30$ for an x wing kit from lego seems a bit much. any one else remember making star wars models out of legos?
    • ah...yes... :)

      I remember taking my Expert Builder sets (and my brothers', too, come to think of it)...the Crane, Tractor, Engine, Bulldozer, and motor sets, plus pieces from various space sets, and making a 2' long X-Wing fighter, complete with opening and closing wings.

      Pity the current crop of Lego Star Wars sets really aren't very accurate (even the Tie Fighter scale model, the sails on which are too long).

      I really kind of envy the guy who made the full-scale Milennium Falcon....wish I had that kind of money and those kind of parts.
  • Personally, having had all of those toys as a kid (with the unfortunate exception of the Erector set), I'd rank Legos above Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs.

    I made a lot more interesting and creative things with Legos than I ever did with the other two toys. I mean, there's only so many buildings and fortesses you can make with Lincoln Logs, and I ran into limitations with Tinker Toys really quick thanks to the limited supply of sticks in the sizes I needed.

    However, I made an endless array of neat things with Legos. When I was five, I made a robot with moving arms and legs using just basic Legos and the wheel-and-axle Lego bricks which had pegs at the center of each wheel. They made perfect articulation points. I was also fond of space ships and castles long before I ever saw the specialized sets come on the market. (Plus, a space ship with ramparts and stone edifice gave me a lot of amusement after I got those sets.)

    Personally, I'd rate it as:

    Erector Set > Capsula > Legos > Tinker Toys > Lincoln Logs

    • > Personally, I'd rate it as:

      > Erector Set > Capsula > Legos > Tinker Toys > Lincoln Logs

      How 'bout a poll?
    • I moved to the States from England in April of 1969. We came on a Danish freighter (which we pretty much had the run of).

      As one of only two families, and the only small children on board, the crew loved my brother and I. I can still vividly remember building Lego cars and trains with the crew members and using the really cool battery-packs and motors to run them all over the ship.

      I still love lego. My oldest son (8) is starting to get into some of the Technic stuff. My middle son (4) is just starting to express his creativity with Legos.

      When a four-year-old is silent for long periods of time you tend to worry. Last night I went and checked on him. I quietly peeked into his room and he was busy playing with his Legos. It didn't take long before he came out to show me the plane that he had built. Extremely rudimentary, but yes it was a plane and I was proud of him.

      There are a lot of cool toys on the lists being made. I could probably still find my old Erector set at my parents house. But Lego allows younger children to participate than any of the others (except for maybe Lincoln Logs).

  • the erector set was very awesome, and so was lego, but, i have to give it up for G.I.Joe (if there was only more "electronics" involved, we could really have had something). Happy b-day erector.
  • sniff...i always wondered what my life would have been like had i been given an erector set. but, alas, i was left with only lincoln logs and legos, and eventually computers, circuit boards, and soldering irons. sniff. oh well. personally, i think that many kids outgrow lincoln logs mighty quickly, as there's only so much you can build. as for lego...they need to sell specific color blocks. i always wanted just black ones and blue ones. down with red and yellow! such is life, it goes on, and now i build cool shit.
  • I used to LOVE these things. I went looking for them a while back and found they don't make them any more. I'd be thrilled to have them come out again.
  • I remember my first erector set. It was a rusty, moldy, parts-missing-aplenty kit that I found in my closet from my brothers' years. I didn't like them, actually. Legos were much, much better. You couldn't die from cutting yourself while playing with legos, unless you were just stupid.
  • by CamelTrader (311519) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:43PM (#2408700) Homepage
    It's capsella, not capsula, though I guess they could both be right..

    I sure loved my capsella sets. The only place I could find them in town was the local independant-slightly-more-expensive-yet-educationa lly-oriented toy store, where they sold all sorts of educational gidgets and gadgets. Erector sets were among the construction toys they had, but no legos. Without putting legos down, I always felt that my capsella and construx sets allowed me more creative flexibility. Especially if I wanted to make things that "did things". A search for construx on google produced some neat pages, as did capsella. I may go to ebay right now and buy all those wonderful toys from my past! (Until I see them selling for 300 bucks, that is.)

    I have to say though, I loved ZOIDS best. They weren't multifunction like construction sets, but they were unbelievably cool. I had some of the very small originals, but I remember being amazed at the huge (and expensive!) zoids at the toy store.
    • I think capsela, with one 'l' and an 'e,' but I'm no more sure than most other people. I still have all my stuff from capsel(l)a, and it all works except for the battery holder that comes with it. I've had to take another standard type battery kit and just manually connect the red and blue wires. Other than that, it still works and does neat stuff.

      What are zoids? I may have seen them, but what I'm thinking of is more of a geometrical set, with different shapes and lengths of plastic rods.
  • by sparcv9 (253182) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:45PM (#2408706)
    My ranking is Capsula > Erector > Tinker Toys > Lincoln Logs > Lego.
    Are you sure your angles are facing the right direction there, Timothy? I had four of the five of those as a kid (no Erector set, but I had something that was essentially plastic Erector that used rubber pop-rivets to hold the pieces together -- It was called Rivetron.) Also, the Tinker Toys I had weren't the little wooden ones. They were the HUGE ones you could build jungle gyms and cars and swingsets out of. I was always awestruck by some of the creations [zetnet.co.uk] people were able to make with their Erecto/Meccano sets, and would definietly drop a ton of cash on them if they were re-released in the US.

    Just for the record, here's my ranking of the construction toys I had:
    1. Rivetron
    2. Construx
    3. Lego
    4. Robotix (a little limited in what you could make because of the lack of variation in structural parts. The motors, claws and jaws kicked ass, though.)
    5. Giant Tinker Toys
    6. Capsela (way too limited in what you could make, and they were always bulbous contraptions. The floats for making watercraft were nice, though.)
    7. Lincoln Logs (Oh, look! I made another log cabin!)
    • Lincoln Logs > Lego

      This bothers me deeply. Just as sparcv9 said:
      Lincoln Logs (Oh, look! I made another log cabin!)
      Have you never played with/seen LEGO Technic or Mindstorms??? They beat Lincoln Logs in my book any day.

    • Rivetron rules (Score:2, Informative)

      by kallisti (20737)
      Too bad some stupid kid choked to death on the Rivetron rivets and they had a recall. When my Mom got the recall letter, she refused to send it back since she knew it was on of our favorites.

      I'm concerned about the general demise of building toys, they're mostly what I had as a kid: Lego, Brix Blox (a cheap Lego knockoff), Girder and Panel (bridges and buildings), Tinkertoy, Erector (newer plastic version), Erector (MUCH cooler 1940's version with metal pieces and a 120V AC motor!, found at an auction for a steal), Micronauts (a bit of a stretch, but the city expansion definitely qualifies), Lincoln Logs (what's so bad about cabins?), probably others. Now, almost all of these are gone...

    • 7. Lincoln Logs (Oh, look! I made another log cabin!)

      Well what else do you expect the army men to use as their base!

      Armymen + Lincoln Logs + Fire crackers = FUN!
  • Looks really great for building Mini BattleBots. The problem with most of you is that you cannot imagine the hackability of this new set. Legos totally suck, they fall apart. Build it with erector and it will stay together. Linux and erector, what a beautiful team.
  • here's a link (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745) <(dadinportland) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:51PM (#2408719) Homepage Journal
    meccano [meccano.fr]

    you have to view the french pages, al other under contrustion, but you can see some pretty nifty stuff.
    disclaimer:I hated erector sets as a kid. I prefered building radios.
  • Erectors in USSR (Score:4, Informative)

    by dvk (118711) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:51PM (#2408721) Homepage
    In USSR there were no Legos when I grew up (late 70s-80s), but Erector equivalents were VERY popular, and my favorites.

    Hmm... after seing comments (and reading an article a while ago about Engineering vs. Lego/Erector use by kids in England) I feel that this theory has some confirming data in fUSSR - the popularity of such toys might be among the factor explaining the fact that many more people chose engineering/technical specialties, and that many fUSSR immigrants in USA easily find themselves a career in programming even if they had no previous education/experience in any related field.

    All I can say is - my future kid(s) will definitely get to play with Erector set equivalents, be they boys or girls (ok, gotta post quick while wife is not watching - she'd rather see a daughter playing with dolls :)))

    Cheers, Daniel

  • <rant>
    Right, I just have to make a quick complaint here, from the article: The Lego people seem unruffled by Sir Harry's criticism. "Lego bricks are about more than engineering," says Lego spokesman Michael McNally. "They're about creativity." This guy obviously knows nothing about engineering or he'd know that creativity is half of engineering. You gotta be creative to overcome many of the problems faced by engineers every day.
    </rant>

    Anyway, now that's out of the way, I have to agree with the majority of the comments here and post up a healthy "ME TOO" comment. We had a whole plethora of those sorts of toys in our familiy (along with a museum full of ancient computers, and my dad was a lawyer) and in some ways I feel sorry that those sorts of things are found less in the shops around here. Those multi electronic kits were great too.
  • I had one back in the late 80s, I had lots of fun, but my parents did not like how much the sets cost, so they got me lots and lots of legos instead.
  • FischerTechnik (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zauber (321909) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:54PM (#2408733) Journal

    What??? Sorry, but Erector Sets really didn't do it for me. Great for static stuff, but not really there for things that actually move. How can anyone who likes programming not enjoy the modularity of a Lego set? And the pneumatic kits kicked some serious butt.

    However, my first love was FischerTechnik [fischertechnik.com]. They hurt your fingers, they went together in only the most illogical configurations, but they came with enough gears and actuators to keep a young soul busy for years. The frustration of trying to assemble/disassemble the stuff was just part of the fun. So, sell your car immediately and use the proceeds to buy a kit or two!

    Thusly: FT > Lego > Capsela (with an E!) > Clay> Dirt> Erector Set.

    • Now sure you can architect non-objected Meccano (Erector in US-speak), but no-one forces you to. You can also attach wheels, pulleys and bits from dot-matrix printers.

      1. Meccano (erector) == C?
      2. Lego Technic == C++?
      3. Capsela == ???

      Anyone else want to comment on the system architectures of other geek toys?

      For the record, I coveted Capsula and Meccano, but had to make do with having the run if dad's workshop (bench grinders, drills etc. etc.). My best Xmas was when I got the Lego Techni car (when I was already in junior college I think)

      Xix.
        1. Erector : C ::
        2. Lego Technic : C++ ::
        3. Capsela : Visual Basic ::
        4. Tinkertoys : Javascript

        Lincoln Logs are not Turing complete and are therefore not listed.

        Ultimately I prefer a mill, lathe, drill press, and some aluminum stock.

        Fully stocked machine shop > Lego Technic > Erector > Capsela > Tinkertoys > Lincoln Logs. (if I wanted to deal with erector, i'd be just at well off machining things from scratch. However, I find Lego Technics are quite good for prototyping mechanisms.)

  • Awwww come on.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    How come no one's mentioning Fischer Technik? A German company which made (makes?) kits of nylon parts with interlocking knobs... Neat stuff with motors, etc... Think my uncle got it for me at Marshall Fields - expensive stuff but super cool

    I used to have all their kits when I was about 8 or 9... think I built a working elevator model...

    Also had the erector, capsela, lego, and lincoln logs at one time or another...

    After you're past 5, the lincoln logs are kinda lame until you turn 15 and discover that they can be fired out of a mini propane cannon with a 3/4" PVC launch tube :->

    Capsela floated nicely - didn't do too well in the burning pit of gasoline ;- Although the erector survived quite nicely...
  • Remember Loc-blocs (sp?)...?

    They were dumb, but I liked their size... I wish there were really big lego type things...Anyone know of any?

    • how about the duplo blocks for toddlers? they're big.
    • I remember when I was 11, Mom and I and my brothers went to the store shopping for toys. ** I ** (get the message?) wanted Legos. Mom made me buy a Loc-Block Magic Kingdom Castle ("You've got too many legos already--try something else."). I tried everything I could do with those things and they NEVER stayed together. Never. They fall apart like an Afghani compound before a cruise missile.

      Viva Legos! If you really feel compelled to get big blocks, take the advice of the other responder, and get Duplo. :)
  • Robotix was my personal favorite of the construction toys, although it was fun to build a boat with those strange looking yellow floaters on capsela. I really liked the big walker legs on robotix, and the fact that all of the motors were independantly controlled. Although I used to build a robotic arm with it, with that counter weight on the arm, those tiny motors sure didnt sound like they could handle it.
  • As far as I can tell, they've never gone away. I got a couple sets when I was younger (late 80s, early 90s). Thye came with the normal stuff of the older kits, according to my Dad. In addition, they had some fancy add-ons, like a battery powered wrench/misc. tool that is basically a lot like a child-size version of the cordless drills that are available today. I still have my kit in the closet, and I get it out and tinker once in a while. It's in a bright red and yellow plastic suitcase type box, that has holes for all the different types. I wonder what the real meaning of Brio's reintroduction is. Is it merely a more intensive advertising campaign, to make them more popular?
  • Harrumph. (Score:1, Troll)

    by daeley (126313)
    Erector, schmarector.

    LEGO rocks. Always has. Always will.
  • My ranking is Capsula > Erector > Tinker Toys > Lincoln Logs > Lego

    Where the hell are Construx in that list!? Those things beat the hell out of Lincoln Logs, thats for goddamned sure!
  • I have a few Erector sets, but I never got too many as gifts when I was younger because of how expensive they always were. And although I made some pretty cool stuff with my Erector sets (mostly stuff to launch my Hot Wheels through the air at my siblings!), my dream was to own the gigantic set from the movie "The Sandlot."

    If you've never seen it, the boy in it has a gigantic set that launches a marble out of a catapult. Probably would have cost about $2000 to get enough Erector parts to build it!
  • Robotix (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrdisco99 (113602) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @08:20PM (#2408799)

    My ranking is Capsula > Erector > Tinker Toys > Lincoln Logs > Lego.

    You forgot Robotix!

    Unique features: slotted connectors for cable management, dinosaur jaws, astronaut action figure, weighted piece for adjusting center of gravity, rough terrain wheels
  • You'll find this hard to believe, but though I had an Erector set as a child, I've never actually seen a "Lego".
  • by 575 (195442)
    Legos still abound
    Erector sets will return
    What about Construx [ebay.com]?
  • Lincoln logs were probably my favorite. If you aimed just right you could destroy your creations (or for much more fun, your friends creations) with the great projectile toys of the 80's, such as He-Man's Battle Tank. :)
    I remember having great fun racing with friends to destroy the other guys building first. We would have needed MUCH more powerful projectiles to destroy a lego or erector set building! hehe.

    • "Crossbows and Catapults" for a legitimate version of this, ie. the purpose of the game was to cause destruction and mayhem! Uprate the weeny elastic bands, and you can get some real distance with those little plastic poker-chips.

      Grab.
      • I also had a G.I. Joe toy that had rubber and styrophoam projectiles on a base (base as in fort, although base as in foundation applies as well). The base had cardboard pieces setting on a mouse trap type deal. There were two of them and the purpose was to shot your missles and destroy the other guys base. It was a pretty fun game, but we usually just ended up using the launchers for attacks on Lincoln Log houses. It's much more fun when it isn't "legitimate"! :)
  • by w1kL3f (316139)
    If you think Legos aren't up to your level of creativity, just check out Eric Harshbarger's Lego Grandfather Clock, which includes working mechanics: http://www.ericharshbarger.org/lego/clock.html I got to play with leftover Erector sets given up by older kids. I liked them, but they were going out by the time I was old enough to get that creative. The original Legos, though...you could really get creative with those. I hate the new kits, what's the point of having 25 pieces in a box with a figure? No fun there...someone at Lego said they were for little kids, but why not just make 'em pre-formed? Plus, they have pieces small enough for tykes to swallow, and that's a big P.C. no-no.
  • My brother has zillions of them. They work pretty good for building large structural components. Bridges come to mind first. Along with towers.

    They are about the closest thing that I can think of that comes to the erecter sets.

    Every once in a while I still find a rusty erecter set piece in the basement or on the garage floor. Plus, I think half of the nuts and bolts I have came from old erecter sets.
  • When I grew up to be a very old Boy Scout, I joined an Engineering Explorer Post. We had a number of very creative souls there...and some very odd ones. The previous year they had designed and built a hovercraft out of fibreglass and various RC parts.

    Anyhow, the year I joined, it was decided to do something completely different. Probably the neatest use of Capsella I've ever seen, it used all of a half dozen Capsella pieces.

    You see, we designed and built a blimp. Yes, I said blimp. We pulled two engine capsules, connectors, and propellers (with mounts) out of the Capsella box. Then we grabbed the plexiglass, some "make your own circuit" copper/board, a little plywood, and the RC parts from the aforementioned hovercraft, and built the gondola for the blimp. The Capsella units were attached to a wooden dowell so they could rotate up and down to raise and lower the to-be blimp.

    Now, a gondola by itself is rather useless, so we acquired a 12' rubberized adverrtising baloon (yellow with red fins), filled it with helium, and attached the gondola. As long as the dew point and temperature were low, the thing flew around quite nicely....

    Bet your Capsella never did that....
  • by rebelcool (247749) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @09:19PM (#2408935)
    they sold them at the local toys r us. I had several sets.

    I didnt like them as much as my legos though... the nuts frequently came loose and the contraptions just didnt seem as sturdy as legos.

    I was one of the kids who liked building things with legos, then knocking them apart and then rebuilding.

    Capsela was okay...got bored with them quickly. I still have a capsela hexagonal piece tied to the end of the light string in my old closet.

  • by Tim Doran (910) <timmydoran.rogers@com> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @09:22PM (#2408941)
    It was sold as Meccano in Canada too. My set included an electric motor and - best Xmas ever - I got a *working* steam engine!

    It was amazing. Had a little boiler that held about 150cc's of water with heat supplied by burning rubbing alcohol in a tray under the boiler. Steam pumped out to a little piston that would *really* fly under pressure.

    Damn that thing was dangerous! They'd never make a toy like that today! It was really quite powerful, there was always the danger of steam burns and the rubbing alcohol was almost invisible when it burned.

    I'm gonna have to find that thing now that I have sons of my own ;)
  • My ranking is Capsula > Erector > Tinker Toys > Lincoln Logs > Lego.

    I was partial to the 7400 series [elexp.com] myself.

    -- MarkusQ

  • I modified a network rack using standard erector set pieces from my childhood to include my linksys switch and a desktop PC. If I wasn't under the influence of a controlled substance I get off my butt and take a picture , but too much effort now sorry.
  • Since were all talking about our childhood toys, can ANYONE remeber a toy like this:

    It was a red vs blue team 'game. YOu were given blocks, which you used to construct a castle - anything you like - your aim was to build something that would withstand, and protect your set of 'targets' - from your opponent who would use a small catapult to attack you. It was like a game of siege with two players.

    Anyone remember this one?

    As for Mechano, forget it, Lego was it - more modular, more variety, less direction dictated by the toy itself, you really could build any model with Lego.

    • There were 2 variants of this.

      the one you're talking about was crossbows and catapults. It had blocks, and disks you fired using a crossbow and catapult(duh)

      The other competing/more recent one was weapons and warriors. Less blocks, more coherent plastic castle, and it had a cannon and catapult that fired red plastic balls.

      You can still find weapons and warriors at kaybee and other closeout stores.. Dunno bout crossbows and catapults.
  • by broken (1648)
    Erector + Viagra = Metal Gear Solid?
  • I've never had dealings with these people and therefore can't vouch for their reasonableness, but it's good to see that at least Erector sets are being sold again:
    http://www.iqkids.net/erectorsets.html [iqkids.net]
  • I had the Maxx Steele erector set as a kid. For someone who was a whiz at Lego, I never did complete building of that Maxx Steele robot. I had difficulty with the instructions of which piece(since some were remarkably similar in size) whent where, and just gave up.

    Now, I spend my time trying to design Lego car transmissions and I'm 25 years old. I have no life.
  • I amazingly never had an Erector set when I was a kid, but I still have all of my Lego stuff. Also had a ton of Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Bristle Blocks, and Ringamajigs, which looked a lot like the thing they stick into the middle of your pizza so the box doesn't get crushed down into the cheese, except the circular part was (obviously) a ring instead of a solid circle. There were 4 nubs on top of the ring, 90 degrees apart from each other, and the rings sat on legs about an inch or so high that had hollows in the bottom that the nubs snapped into. They were kind of limited, but made for some pretty colorful structures. A quick Google search uncovered the rather impressive resume of their inventor [yourhomenow.com].

    ~Philly
  • Meccano vs. Erector (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @12:37AM (#2409430) Homepage
    Meccano and Erector weren't the same thing. Erector sets [pandys.com] came from A. C. Gilbert, had stamped and punched beams that looked like trusses, and were scaled in English units. Meccano came from England, had flat punched beams with holes and had nonstandard sizes. (To this day, Meccano has nonstandard bolts.)

    Both A.C. Gilbert and Meccano of England are defunct, but a company in France bought both names and sells Meccano under both names. The Erector system is dead, except as a collectable.

    • To this day, Meccano has nonstandard bolts.)

      11/32 inch BSW (British Standard Whitworth)

      http://www.boltscience.com/pages/screw4.htm

      • Whitworth threads? It's been a long, long time since I heard those mentioned. It makes sense, though; Meccano (not Erector) is a century old, and Witworth threads were common in the late 19th century.

        Of course, they probably retain them so you have to buy their special fasteners.

    • by david.given (6740)
      Yep. I have a 30-year old set of Meccano, and it's impossible to find any new trusses for it that will fit. (I have a set of trusses that *nearly* fit --- which is about as useful as having *nearly* all four wheels on your car.)

      But damn, that Meccano was good. I had Lego as well, and the clockwork motors for both. The Lego motor was plastic and broke within six months. The Meccano motor was steel, sandwiched between two slabs of 1mm steel, had a forward/neutral/reverse integral gearbox, and was completely indestructible.

      BTW, yes, the nuts tended to come loose on parts that vibrated a lot. Simple solution --- use locknuts. (Two nuts on each bolt.)
  • If you owned an erector set you've built a crane. Which inevitably gets a wrecking ball. Which is pretty useless unless you have a nicely crafted log cabin your little sister built to knock over.

  • FischerTechnik (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mj6798 (514047) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @01:33AM (#2409582)
    May I put in another plug for a German engineering toy, Fischer Technik (US distributor) [fischertechnik.com] and Fischer Technik (parent company) [fischertechnik.de]? No, I don't own their stock or get any kind of bonus, I just think it's a great system that deserves to be more widely known. The picture you see on the US distributor's site is pretty typical of what kids used to build with it: highly functional designs that don't try to imitate looks. It's the ultimate geek toy for the budding engineer.
  • by Old Wolf (56093)
    I hope I can still get an Erector when I'm 100..

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths

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