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Toys

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) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @06:00PM (#2408622)
    A CAD type app that had erector qualities would be neat.
  • Ah, Erector... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Old Man Kensey (5209) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @06:05PM (#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.

  • by CamelTrader (311519) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @06:43PM (#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.
  • FischerTechnik (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zauber (321909) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @06:54PM (#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.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @06:56PM (#2408735)
    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...
  • by tjgrant (108530) <{gro.eihcalegiarc} {ta} {gjt}> on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @07:30PM (#2408824) Homepage

    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).

  • Re:FischerTechnik (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @08:17PM (#2408927)
    Wow, FischerTechnik!

    Yup! I had Start 200 (you'll know what I'm on about), the motor and Statik kits. I eventually got hold of the Pneumatik and Elektromechanik sets. Still have them today... and all the scratches and marks trying to slide those damn small fish connectors apart! :)

    Favourite components? The worm gears and pneumatic compressor, which both appeared way before their Lego counterparts and were a lot more serious.

    Coolest thing I built? A pneumatically operated cat-flap that could recognise the colour of my cat.

    Fantastic stuff!

  • ???Plans??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wowbagger (69688) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @08:36PM (#2408963) Homepage Journal
    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) on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @10:18PM (#2409211) Homepage

    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.

  • A. C. Gilbert (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 09, 2001 @11:59PM (#2409493)
    Boy is there a lot of misinformation here, starting with Popular Science.
    ERECTOR was originated by A. C. Gilbert in Connecticut much less than 100 years ago.
    It is a matter of conjecture whether A. C.
    copied Frank Hornby's Meccano or not.
    Many, myself included, think that Gilbert was
    influenced by the Meccano, but that he did a complete redesign to make it more akin to the actual mechanical engineering of bridges and like structures of the day.

    As a preteen I inherited my older brothers pre-WWII green metal 'suitcase' set with electric motor that was a miniature of 'traction-motors' of it's day.

    Then, around 1950, I got the number 8 1/2 for a Xmas present - it would build a Ferris Wheel that was nearly two feet tall, plus just about anything I could dream-up.

    To the best of my knowledge, plastics tolled the death-knell for ERECTOR, and at A. C. Gilbert's death, both the ERECTOR and the S-guage electric trains which were also produced by him went KAput.

    I think that both were actually sold, but that the buyer introduced a much cut-down version of ERECTOR that included plastic parts.

    ERECTOR and Meccano were not the same company. I believe that Meccano may have acquired the ERECTOR 'name' and patents in these much later years, but the day of the realistic, rugged metal construction toys seems to have passed. Both company's remains are now held by an Italian company.

    I wish them luck. As an old fart, I equate ERECTOR (and Meccano) to the Ford Model 'A'.
    It ran until you actually beat it to death, then resurfaced as a home-rigged truck, farm tractor, or log skidder.
    The early plastic'y' legos I equate with the Ford Pinto. A car which ran for quite a while, then just melted as if it had deplasticized.
  • FischerTechnik (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mj6798 (514047) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @12:33AM (#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 david.given (6740) <`dg' `at' `cowlark.com'> on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:38AM (#2409974) Homepage Journal
    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.)

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