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Toys

Battle Over Blocks 165

RoscoHead writes: "S'pose you've already seen this over at Fast Company - a follow-up to their previous article by Charles Fishman. The follow-up includes comments from three different "users" of Lego - including Hemos, alias Jeff Bates, Slashdot's esteemed Lego guru..."
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Battle Over Blocks

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  • Interesting (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 14, 2001 @08:10PM (#2428772)
    I think this story has the building blocks of a good story. All it needs is some relevance, and a point.

    Keep up the good work!
  • I have watched,with some admusement,the stories involving Lego blocks.Keeps a smile on my face.(Since I am stuck in a hospital bed,rigging a dial-up using a old Pent. Laptop thru the hospital phone system.)
    It just goes to show what can be done with a little though and maybe a touch of insanity.
    ;)
  • Lego User (Score:5, Funny)

    by webword ( 82711 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @08:21PM (#2428811) Homepage
    CmdrTaco confession at rehab Clinic: "Yeah man, I, uh, frequently use Lego blocks. No, man, no, I am not addicted. Just, ah, just give me one more. Just one more block. Yeah, yeah. Yes. No. I, ahh, mean it. I need one more block. Look at this Linux box I almost built! One more block will do it. If I don't close that hole, they'll get root! Pleeeaze. I need one more block. Fine. Uh, fine. You've got me by the balls. One more block and I promise I won't post any more Katz...."
  • Legos obsolete (Score:3, Interesting)

    by perdida ( 251676 ) <thethreatproject AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday October 14, 2001 @08:29PM (#2428844) Homepage Journal
    Legos, as they were originally designed, are obsolete.

    Hence, the Lego company, attempting to make money, made the Lego platform into a complex robot related thing and Web phenomenon.

    This got them money from rich geeks, but made the product even less pleasant and fun for average, non-technological kids.

    Kids who want to build with blocks was the original Lego audience. Legos were blocks that wouldnt fall down at the slightest touch from one's sister or dog.

    Now, they are a boutique item.

    A similar thing happened with Etch a Sketch.

    Most of the Lego kids grow up fragging on computers anyway, so it's not a big deal.

    • Re:Legos obsolete (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sllort ( 442574 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @08:47PM (#2428893) Homepage Journal
      This got them money from rich geeks, but made the product even less pleasant and fun for average, non-technological kids.

      Legos are hardly the place for taking pot-shots in the Class Warfare struggle in America. For every nine year old child building remote controlled cars [nd.edu] out of legos, there are working class children too, building oil rigs [chipwork.com], monster trucks [kicktheghost.com], and freight trains [baylug.org], powerful symbols of blue collar existence. The extensive flexibility introduced by the newer legos do not extend new possibilities just to upper middle class science-fiction fans, but to children everywhere with a solid engineering background and about a hundred dollars.

      Pure left wing nonsense!
    • Re:Legos obsolete (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Apotome ( 528379 )
      Saying that the original LEGO bricks are obsolete is akin to saying that in architecture the cantilevered beam is now obsolete because we have new composite materials. It's o.k. to move ahead, and the LEGO company needs to do this. But it's also imperative to know where you've been and what worked in the past. The LEGO company can't seem to come to grips with it's own past successes.
    • My kids still prefer building free-form objects with legos over the kits (my son will build the kit, then after it begins to fall apart - they PLAY with it, after all - use the "special" pieces to make more interesting things himself).

      One of the BIG advantages of Legos is they require less manual dexterity than traditional models, while allowing greater creativity. Kids gravitate to that. OK, marketeers and the toy store buyers who decide what goes on the shelves DON'T. That doesn't make LEGO themselves "obsolete", Just harder to get into the stores.
    • Yeah, but we even adults play with blocks. Take construction, or network administration. Both have to do with building something to a greater end. And that end is having someone else (i.e. people who use dynamite as a living or the end user on a network) destroy it, hence the dog or sister thing. LEGO was just onto something there, and we are all greatful *1..

      1. Except for the little sister and the dog. They both wanted to knock down my blocks, but I wouldn't let them. I had my LEGO'S!

  • by john@iastate.edu ( 113202 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @08:29PM (#2428845) Homepage
    Again, I see yet another adult decrying that the new (more than just rectangles) sets are the death of creativity for kids.

    As the parent of an eight year old boy who has spent virtually every dime of allowance he has ever received on Logos, I just don't see it.

    Sure, roughly 4 nanoseconds after getting it home (only because we banned doing it in the backseat) he has it open and is building it according to the directions -- BUT in a couple of hours he'll have it apart and he'll NEVER build it that way again.

    • Legos are truly the greatest toy you can get for the little geek in your life. My younger cousins are all clamouring for the new Harry Potter set. The new sets just keep them interested, I can't imagine how anyone would find them to be the "death of imagination".
      • by Spy Hunter ( 317220 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @09:02PM (#2428929) Journal
        The reason so many people hate the new sets is the proliferation of "special pieces." It used to be that lots of Lego sets came with special pieces such as hinges, turntables, and such, but they could always be used in your own models, and most of the pieces were still good old vanilla lego bricks. Now it seems that it is impossible to buy a set without over half of its pieces being large, oddly shaped pieces that can hardly be used in any way other than to build the set in the instructions. Regular lego blocks make up fewer and fewer of the actual pieces. It hinders the creativity aspect when you can only build one thing from your lego pieces. Its sort of missing the point. Legos just become some sort of model kit like a model airplane, which isn't what Legos should be.
        • <I>"He and I have very different ideas about Legos," says Ethan's mom, Lisa Gates, a dean at Wesleyan University, who is in Orlando on vacation. "I prefer the free-form bricks, where he can make his own universe. Ethan is most drawn to the theme-based scenarios. He has an Egyptian-pyramid-dig set and some Star Wars sets. He's fixated on the directions -- when he builds it, he wants it to look exactly like it looks on the box. That introduces a note of anxiety into playing with Legos -- did I do it right?"</I>

          Look, the new Legos have been dumbed down to death. They're just models with cute figurines included. No creativity necessary---and don't even get me started on the Jack Stone series!!!

          The first writer pointed out how stupid and muddled their current catalogue is. They are trying desperately to hit on something, anything, that can compete with Pokemon. They should just forget about appealing to modern kids raised on a glut of information, play-dates, and micro-managed lives...and do what they can do to appeal to the AFOL's.
        • I haven't acutally _seen_ any of these newfangled sets, but hey.. fuck it. Kids are kids, and they'll find ways to use the new oddly-shaped pieces for random creations of their imaginations. As long as you have a good store of plain vanillas, you're ok.
        • Ok...How about a ,lego playing, girl's perseptive on this? I will admit that I grew up with the lego sets. My favorite was the castles. I would build them to the exact specifications on the included sheet of paper. Does this make me a person without any imagination or creativity? Sure you can build the castle right out of the box, but what about the world around it? To go with this wonderful castle I had to build a garden, cottages, a treehouse for the princess(Heck I had to make the princess!) and of course I had to make the hidden grottos and secret meeting places for the evil knights that would, at any moment, steal the princess from her peaceful garden. I even fliped over my brothers car mat and colored a meadow on the edge of a lake for the castle to sit on. Does this show lack of imagination? I think the key to getting the full potental out of these sets to provide a huge ass box of miscellaneous lego to go with it. The kids will do the rest. Lego does make boxes of regular building sets..some do come with special pieces. I suppose if you are anal you can throw them away. Or better yet go to lego's web page and order all the boxes of 4X6 ,white, blocks you can dream of. As for that castle? It sits upstairs in a box...still put together. I can't wait to see what worlds my future kids build around it.
          • I think the key to getting the full potental out of these sets to provide a huge ass box of miscellaneous lego to go with it.

            Hear, hear! Amen!

            My brother and I grew up on the transition from vanilla Lego bricks to the newfangled one time pieces (OTPs), so most of our enormous collection (about twenty-five cubic feet of plasticky goodness) is vanilla bricks, but there is a substantial minority of weird non-brick pieces (WNBPs) and just a few OTPs. Our older step siblings did not grow up on Legos at all. Come Christmas and birthday time, my neices and nephews get the bulk packages of vanilla bricks from me and my brother, and sets from their parents. Together, they make a wonderful compliment to each other.
    • Sure, and I did the same thing when I got my first set in '75. At the same time, I got ticked off at lego when their sets started getting too focused on "part does this and just this." Heck, I had the old set where you built the boat hull out of parts, now they are prebuilt.

      It's not so much that creativity will die, as that by being directed with specialized parts, the end results are more limited. This is my biggest argument with most software. Most users need a small set of generalizable tools rather than a bunch of "one shot" tools. My work in tech support would have been so much more straightforward if less effort was wasted on chrome 'features' and instead focused on basic tools. If you have mastered your toolset, you can find a way to describe new items. Otherwise you need to use the supplied 'solution' and hope it works just right.

      And can someone tell me why HTML is not the default file storage format of wordprocessing docs? HTML can handle images, text, and layout and, being text, is readable on any platform I have used.

      • I had the old set where you built the boat hull out of parts, now they are prebuilt

        I have to admit that the preformed hulls worked great. As a kid facinated with water, boats, and just generally anything that's wet,the single piece hull was a god-send. You could make your own hull out of plates and bricks, but after more than about a half an hour, the water would just flood right through (admittedly this worked much beter when the goal was to sink one of them by running two or more boats into each other, or capsula creations) but the ability to build models that could stand up to repeated soaking for a long duration was a ton of fun. The best part was the ability to have your legos interacting with other things in a new medium.

        The truly best part about being a geek, was having a couple different things to throw together; thousands of hours of time was spent combining LEGO, Construx, Starcom (yeah I know it was themed, but I just loved the guys with the magnets in their feet.. nothing like a war on the fridge), and good old fashioned wooden blocks.

        While I think that there is a certain nostalgia about building everything from the 1x2 blocks, the new pieces do draw in a different market; kids are still going to tear everything apart when they get bored and do something new with it (if you claim you didn't do this, ask your parents, I am sure I am not the only one who took apart the phone).
        -OctaneZ
        • For lego boats, if you didn't have the preformed hull pieces (the sets sorta sucked apart from the hull pieces, and were really expensive), my solution was always to build a double hull, with plastic sandwich bag material or tape lining the area in between the two. of course, an overlooked aspect of the boat sets was the splendid weight piece they provided. tough to do with plain old bricks... the plastic-bag idea worked well for swimming pools, too.

          glad to hear i wasn't the only person who thought starcom was cool, too...
    • I grew up on LEGO sets that took an hour or two to assemble for the first time. I have fond and lasting memories of the company and their products.

      What will your son feel when he grows up and his memories are of a toy that never challenged him for more than a few minutes?

      The damage to the company is being done now. The products they offer may be selling well (though many are not) but at great cost to their reputation and their future adult fans. They are in desparate need of getting in touch with their 'core values'. They know it, they are just reluctant to do it.

      • Perhaps, but as an avid Lego fan (65,000 blocks), I can say that there have been some good sets out recently.

        The Bungee Blaster is one of the best designed sets I have ever seen. Everyone on Slashdot should go out and purchase this set. It is simple, inexpensive, and will have you playing with it for hours.

        See this Usenet post [google.com] and related threads.
      • What will your son feel when he grows up and his memories are of a toy that never challenged him for more than a few minutes?

        A toy can be challenging in many ways. As a parent (yes I am a parent of two lego maniacs, a 9 year old son and a 3 year old daughter), giving my children a set of lego blocks is a part of the challenge. They can build by the instructions (at their respective levels), but that is only the start. There are other things that can be done to present a challenge to them.
        1) lose the instructions after they have been built once or twice. You might file them away somewhere so that they can be retrieved at a later time if necessary. But save the box, haven't you noticed that on the back of the box are other models which can be built with those blocks? No instructions, just a picture. I know that this still isn't using the imagination, but other skills are being learned. Just as following instructions is also a good skill to learn.
        2) come up with your own games. Yes it takes a little work on your (and your childs part) but it can be a lot of fun. We play lego yard wars (our own version of Junk Yard Wars (on The Learning Channel). My son and I will decide on something to build and how to test it, and then we will go build it from lego blocks. We have built bridges that had to support a certain amount of weight and vehicles that had to travel a predetermined path, machines which could walk, and many others. But we did it together and with only our imaginations .
        3) start early. Even my 3 year old builds with blocks, she uses duplo blocks which are more her size. She build walls and towers and even sometimes builds with her brother using duplo and lego blocks together, learning to cooperate and share.
        4) give your child an assignment. Make it very broad and tell them that using instructions is not allowed. Start simple with stuff like a wall. Get more specific and complex as they start to use their imagination. Remember an imagination like any other skill must be developed, it doesn't just happen.
        5) join in! Do your part as a parent, just providing isn't enough. Yes, I have trouble with time myself sometimes, but when I sit on the floor and dump all those bricks out and start building, nothing else matters.
    • by Peter H.S. ( 38077 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @10:24PM (#2429114) Homepage
      Again, I see yet another adult decrying that the new (more than just rectangles) sets are the death of creativity for kids.

      I remember the same complaints in the late 70's. And, I am ashamed to admit, I too, was once complaining about that.

      I guess that ones own "golden Lego moments" are frozen with the sets and bricks available at the time. What comes after, seems like follies, and crass commercialism.

      I do think that Lego is expensive, especially because the rule about "quantity is a quality in itself", is so true about Lego. Lots of bricks is lots of fun. There is also a certain "critical mass of bricks" needed for many continouse hours of zen-like Lego constuction and play time.

      On the other hand, I also think that stuff like Lego are really great toys, far superior to so much else. If for nothing else, because Lego pieces tend to very tough (oh, all the "glittering" plastic trash toys I used to own, who could not withstand even a low intensity afternoon war in my bedroom;)

      Sure, roughly 4 nanoseconds after getting it home (only because we banned doing it in the backseat) he has it open and is building it according to the directions -- BUT in a couple of hours he'll have it apart and he'll NEVER build it that way again.

      He, he, the frantic art of backseat assembly of Lego sets.

      A woman in the one of the articles, is worried because her son only assembles the kits and never take them apart. She blames ready made sets for destroying creativity. But in my childhood (early to mid 70's) when Lego sets were much more simple (and therefore "better"), I knew kids, who would _glue_ the assembled sets together; The horror!
      So I think that the "build once, then atomize" or "neatly build, then display" strategies, has much more to do, with the childs basic personality (and age), than with what kinds of sets Lego offers.
    • ...decrying that the new (more than just rectangles) sets are the death of creativity...

      When I was 9 and my brother was 7, we built a huge layout using the castle themed stuff. The scene was a river flowing from a small lake through a valley with big mountains all around. On one of the mountains, there was a castle at the top. From that same mountain, there was a waterfall into the lake. In the lake there was another castle, with a rope bridge to the mountain, where a road went up to the other castle. Next to the lake, on the same side of the river as the two castles was a village, and there was a small bridge, wide enough for one cart, across the river. There were two armies in this scene. One, with the falcon crest, was defending the two castles and the bridge and consisted of a lot of archers. The other, with the lion crest, was a legion approaching from the narrow plain on the other side of the river, mostly spear, pike, and sword bearing infantry with few mounted soldiers. In all, the layout was about ten square feet and the valley was about three feet from floor to summit.

      My brother and I titled this scene "The First Battle of the Rhine" and sent a photo in to the Lego Maniacs magazine (or whatever it was called, we were subscribers at the time) to be featured in the next issue. Our photo never materialized in print, and I know that this is entirely circumstantial, but over the next two years we saw Lego produce the following sets: a castle in a lake, 2 different a castle/fortress thingies on mountains (and pitiful two and a half inch mountains at that), and a river scene featuring a rope bridge piece over a river plate. At the tender ages of ten and eight, it was quite upsetting to see the apparent wholesale theft of my brother's and my ingenuity. Even more disconcerting, even at that age, was the idea that other kids wouldn't have to, and therefore wouldn't try to be as clever. The waterfall was just about the only unique idea we never saw in the Lego catalogues, which is odd, because I engineered the flashing lights from the monorail into the base of it behind some transparent bricks... it was possibly the most marketable part.

      Of course, it never stopped us from buying more Legos... including all four of the aforementioned rip off sets.
  • by Digitalia ( 127982 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @08:35PM (#2428860) Homepage
    My favorite game in childhood was a true geek's game. We built stuff using Legos and then flung 1" diameter ball barings from siege-engines. You haven't played with legos until you've spent the afternoon building the Ice Planet Deep Freeze Defender and promptly watched it crumble to pieces as the slug of metal hit it. It's even more fun re-designing it to be more structurally sound.
    • My childhood lego game was similar, though instead of ball bearings, each team was given a set amount of bricks (usually ~12 2x4) to build a "bomb" out of, which was then lobbed in a high arc at the opposing teams' structure/ship/fort.

      Thus you got the two designs of making one part sound, and the other part to make the other guy's unsound.
    • I remember Lego wars very fondly unfortunately I don't think I won a single battle with my older brother. We did not employee the 1" diameter ball baring instead we would each get one of those large green bricks and build a thing. I say thing b/c they rarely looked like much looking back. However, throwing our creations at each others during battle we would have our final stress tests. Before this my older brother, younger and myself would throw them off the roof, deck into walls you name it was tried.... Then you'd try and figure out what angle it landed on and try and re-build your design to enhance the strength of the impact. Through this process I learned to test, test and then test some more. When you couldn't think of a new test that looked at something you could come up with throw the damn thing off a roof and see what happens. I learned a lot of skills I use in programming and working with my computer from my early lego years. For every block that you fix, your bound to find another that is broken. Its an endless struggle to fix and then break the blocks....
  • Lego's are cool, but I would guess most of the older types would prefer technic, just because there's so much more to do with them. Any toy with a universal joint piece is OK in my book!

  • I mean, almost everybody builded the sets at least one time according to the 'cookbook'. As a (young) kid it took you a lot of time to figure out the directions, which also yielded some new insigths about 2D to 3D mapping.

    BUT, after a few days it fell off the table or your brother or sister smashed it and that was the start of the real fun...

    So the only thing I'm a bit worried about is all those special purpose blocks...

    Marijn
  • Lego and Thought (Score:4, Insightful)

    by under_score ( 65824 ) <{moc.gietreb} {ta} {todhsals-nikhsim}> on Sunday October 14, 2001 @09:14PM (#2428965) Homepage

    Lego is one of the best educational toys possible. I grew up with Lego. My father bought me one of the very old technic sets with the yellow, blue and red gears. Wow!

    I have played primarily with space sets and technic sets. I have Mindstorms. I build gross huge disgusting complicated stuff. Backhoe loader with 6 degrees of freedom using pnumatics, four digit trinary counter power distribution system, spaceships over a meter long (3') etc.

    Oh. And I'm thirty, I have a three-year-old kid, and we play together now :-)

    So, Lego is great. But why? Because it does what no other toy I know of does: it challenges the mind in details, in abstractions, in planning, in three-dimensional visualization, in imagination, in story creation, in beauty, in symetry, in working with constraints, in memory (ever had something break and rebuild it from memory?).

    Is there any other toy that comes even close?

    Buy the sets you think are best. Don't buy the ones you don't think are good. Lego Inc. will get the hint.

    • All well and good. I've seen alot of comments about how terrific Lego and other building blocks are but I haven't seen anyone talk much about other perhaps more useful things kids can do with their time - rather than try and build mechanical or organic simulations where the starting point is a set of geometrically correct yet naturally abhorrant shapes(there are alot of comments here so it could simply be because I haven't read them all).


      I have a three year-old as well.


      But my view can be summed up as "legos shmegos."


      Show me a kid that can walk into a piece of open land, pick up a few items and build a fire without a match and I'll be impressed. It can be done. The materials to build a bow drill can be found and constructed without the use of any tools.


      Or how about a kid who can identify all of the edible and poisonous plants in his part of the world?


      At one time, these were skills of value. Because they are not, and because things like legos and lincoln logs are considered "educational", the "shoppers" will be rendered completely helpless in the event of a major catastrophe.


      And those who chose to forego legos and instead walked outside and looked around, will then simply and naturally walk into the woods and survive comfortably while the "technologically advanced" people will start killing each other to obtain resources because their great technological systems will have failed them.

      • Dammit! You're right! When I got my LEGO set, it totally switched off the part of my brain responsible for outdoor survival! It's obvious that the LEGO company wants us all to be mindless automatons after the coming holocaust, so that they can sell us the new LEGO Survival Sam kits!

        Your contention that these two types of knowledge and fun are mutually exclusive is ridiculous. I know how to build a bow drill, and I know how to play with LEGO. What's wrong with having both?
      • I've known a number of people that hung out outside all the time and STILL can't survive worth a hoot. I on the other hand spent a great deal of time playing lego. I also learned how to survive in the outdoors. There is much to be said about balance. All lego is certainly not good, but all outdoors doesn't complete you as a person either.

        Maybe its just where I was raised but I have a little bit of knowledge of a whole bunch of things and some expertise in a couple of areas. I would totally recommend lego as a toy for any child today. I would also recommend that the parents get right down there and spend some time with the children playing with the lego, they might learn something, they might have a "moment", but basically it will all be good. I just with the price of the "cool" sets would go down so I could buy more of them (I'm 23 and have spent far too much on lego on the last year).

    • Is there any other toy that comes even close?

      Construx (a plastic girder-and-connector systme). Unfortunately, they stopped making them in 1997. Building with Construx was like building a (steel/wood) frame structured building, instead of building with bricks.

      Of course, we developed ad-hoc interfaces for Lego-Construx combined works; but we really preferred the Construx around my house.
  • by mj6798 ( 514047 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @09:30PM (#2428994)
    For "engineering" applications (building things that do things), Lego always seemed to limited to me. And purely for shape and sculpting, it had all the charm of an Etch-a-Sketch: you spent most of the time trying to get around its oddball rectangular limitations.

    If you must use a construction set, there seem to be better ones around than Lego: systems like ErectorSet, FischerTechnik, and others, are a lot more flexible and have a lot more interesting mechanical components in them.

    But what is wrong with wooden blocks, woodworking, metal working, clay, real electronic parts, solder, or paint? Why learn something as limited, expensive, and plasticky as Lego when you could learn real skills with the real thing? Start off with clay and paint, move on to cardboard and paper, then to light wood, then, well, you get the point. And if parents actually get involved with their children, they can start supervised woodworking and metal work very early.

    • There's nothing at all wrong with any of those other materials and systems that you mentioned.

      But one of the things that gives traditional LEGO bricks their charm is, in fact, their retangular limitations. By adding some restrictions you sometimes force more creative thinking within those boundaries.

      Censorship has the same effect on literature.

      Sometimes having an unlimited palate and/or supplies and/or range of motion leads to aimless and timid designs.

    • But what is wrong with wooden blocks, woodworking, metal working, clay, real electronic parts, solder, or paint?
      For some reason my parents wouldn't let me do any woodworking, metal working, soldering or painting when I was 6.
    • But what is wrong with wooden blocks, woodworking, metal working, clay, real electronic parts, solder, or paint? Why learn something as limited, expensive, and plasticky as Lego when you could learn real skills with the real thing?

      I like your thinking, but which of these can be done in short time segments, like the 15-30 minutes between when I got home from school and when the first adult got home from work?

      Which of these can be enjoyed and cleaned up again, with your work in process safely saved as well, between 5:00PM and dinner time on a weeknight?

      Legos were never a complete substitute for other projects in my youth. Instead, they kept my interest in creating things during the intervals when there wasn't time or space to create by other means. Yes, they did take some time from other projects I might have accomplished, but their pure convenience factor made me much more creative as a whole.

      And they cost more as well, but since when was such convenience cheap?
    • Lego is fun because you can constantly change, build, destroy, and improve upon ideas without taking much time (clay: drying; wood: takes longer, requires tools). There's not really anything I know of that's much cooler than a really well-thought-out Lego spaceship - When I was young I spent a week straight working on a missile launcher that would retract into the belly of my best ship; with any other material, it would have been incredibly difficult to take it apart and re-assemble it as many times as I did to make it work; Also, Lego doesn't force you to stick with any single plan or idea - if you think of something absolutely awesome halfway through a project, you simply pop a piece or two away and put in a new fixture for your rocket launcher or longer catapult arm.
    • Why learn something as limited, expensive, and plasticky as Lego when you could learn real skills with the real thing?

      Because you don't typically build a soap box derby car, then take it apart and build a tree fort, then take that apart and build a dog house. Legos are all about reusability. I had two big castle sets that I then made probably 20 different castles with. That doesn't typically happen with wood/metal. And furthermore, my mom wouldn't let me play with a hammer and drill when I was 5 (good call :).

      --trb
  • somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, in the confining spaces of a sailboat 32 feet long and 10 feet wide, there was a 3-year-old red-headed girl. This little girl had to herself a bed approximately 2 feet wide and 5.5 feet long. At the foot of the bed was a bookcase whcih contained all the children's books in the knwn universe and from them she learned a love of reading.

    But a little red-headed girl does not live by books alone... she needed toys. Toys to make houses, cabins, cottages, kitchens, bedrooms, villages, cars, motorcycles, boats (not many boats, actually), flying machines of unimaginable proportions, castles, dungeons... in short, everything. Where oh where would this little red-headed girl find the room to take along so many toys on such a small sailboat for such a long journey?

    Well boys and girls, behind the pillow where her head rested every night was a door; and behind that door was a tiny cupboard; and in that cupboard, resting in the dark where no one else could see (and only she could find it) was the only toy a 3-year-old red-headed girl needed for a 5-year-long journey around the Pacific Ocean on a 32-foot sailboat.

    Legos.

    And she lived happily ever after.
    • I thought I should add... the reason the little red-head girl didn't build many lego boats is because she couldn't get the damm hull to look right. Of couse it would have been nice if her parents would have given her one of those sets that had the new one peice hulls. (Like her friends on that other sail-boat had) So she instead stuck with building cottages with nice flowers on the table. Ahhh... to think of all the potential boats that could have been invented.
  • Fear this: (Score:2, Funny)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
    I must confess that I believe in certain absolutes when it comes to raising children. Kids should be taught to sit still, so they can make it through a piano recital without disrupting the entire event. They should eat what's put in front of them at dinnertime without complaint.

    I wonder if the last name Gates can be scientifically linked to expecting people to shut up and eat what you put in front of them.

    • Re:Fear this: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by pedro ( 1613 )
      Just wait until YOU have kids, buck-o.
      You'll be ASTOUNDED at how much you will find yourself agreeing with her, and damning yourself for making the *severe* mistake of empowering _any_ offspring under the age of 18.
      Just wait.. oh yeah.. you'll see how moronic what you just wrote truly is.
      Prepare for a life of pain, pal.

  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <gorkon.gmail@com> on Sunday October 14, 2001 @10:35PM (#2429136)
    I was in the store Saturday and we walked past the Lego's after picking out a hot wheel for my son (two year old....I know, they are 3 and up but he doesn't put them in his mouth and he KNOWS what they are! :) ) and I was amazed. I saw a Lego set that looked more like K'nex then Lego. You could combine it's pieces with Lego blocks (it had four Lego dots on some pieces, while others only had one). It looked nothing like Lego. Lego can do the special pieces, but then make them WORK for other things. I remember getting wedge shaped pieces that had computer panels on them and I loved those! When I did not have enough of those, I came up with the idea of using regular wedge shaped pieces as computer terminals.....every spaceship I built had many seats with a computer terminal at each seat. I remember building my own warp drive on some with the engine pieces. I remember building engines out of blocks when I didn't have enough. I remember when you used to be able to buy figures by themselves and they had multiple handheld acessories for them to carry.....every accesory had a lego dot on it somewhere, and I have been known to use the handheld devices in strange places.

    Now, with these frickin HUGE pieces everywhere, how are we supposed to be creative? I remember when the cockpit windows were all some sort of cool looking wedge shape derived from the roof tiles. Now they have these huge bubble butt windows that can't be used for anything BUT cockpit windows. With the wedged shaped ones, I can use those to create a dome on my space station and things like that. You can't do that with these huge pieces!
    • Legos these days (Score:2, Insightful)

      by spacefem ( 443435 )
      Oh settle down, it's all about using the technology. When I was a kid I had most of the outer space collection, weird peices are great because they're that much more challenging to use in different ways. No peice is made so it can't be anything but cockpit windows... if that's all you see, you're not thinking outside the, um, block.
      • You're right. We have to embrace the technology; allow ourselves to be open to change. Part of what makes LEGO so challenging is how it presents obstacles and forces us to find new routes; new solutions.

        The basic square bricks themselves present a tremendous problem in creating anything that doesn't have right a right angle in it. However, for years, LEGO builders have found creative and clever solutions to that problem.

        But...

        Cockpit windows are unique.

        They both suck and blow.

  • I must admit as kid building the kits and sometimes being creative
    enough to make up my own designs was cool. I grew up and like many
    people I put my Legos away except on special occasions. I do look now with
    a great deal of envy toward peaple like Eric [ericharshbarger.org]. I see him making
    a living doing this sometimes on a grand scale. God I hate him. I work
    in hell and he gets to play with legos all day.
  • Heh, judging by the comments one thing seems true: Legos are a product that never go out of style.

    Consider the Erector set story posted earlier, and the "bringing it back".

    I mean boys, girls, the engineers and the artists of the future probably have all played with legos.

    If you ever want to know the true power of a product go to a doctors office or place of business with the "Lego Table". The table top is the connector portion of the legos..."I wish we had those when I was a kid" I've said.

    Kids of all kinds gather there...even the "big" kids. And it keeps me... err, them quiet for hours.

    Even the "special" legos can be use with the other stuff. My son has made some pretty interesting ones with the Starwars ship (forget which one it is) and 3 he got from Mickey D's (originally a boat and 2 prop planes).

    Fun stuff, but as a parent we need "Nerf Legos" so when I/we step on them the don't hurt so damn much!

    Moose.

    Time to clean up your...OW...room.
  • Anyone ever have the Lego Candy?

    That stuff was tasty. But probably took out a few of my teeth.
  • by Migelikor1 ( 308578 ) on Sunday October 14, 2001 @11:05PM (#2429206) Homepage
    go to http://www.lego.com/eng/bionicle/frontpage.asp

    Click on Toa, and then see all the sets on the submenu....their pieces are totally specialized, and they look like action figures.

    Click on Turaga, and again click the little submenu tabs. These guys are tiny bits of leftover Technic pieces. There are no gears involved though, just joints and rods, but at least the parts can be interchanged.

    Makuta seems to offer the most promise, click the pictures at the bottom. The kits build large technic animals. These, unlike the other two subgroups, could be quite fun to smash apart and build a super thingy out of.

    I have to say, I don't see a single raised circle for attaching blocks on any of these sets...oh well. That's modern business, taking things that rock and making them suck.
  • Lego (Score:1, Redundant)

    by geomcbay ( 263540 )
    Lego are a wonderful creativity tool for kids and adults alike, but they are way too god-damn expensive, at least here in the US.
    • by Lish ( 95509 )
      Absolutely. Every Christmas, I decide to get Legos for one of my brothers. And every year I end up getting something else cuz they're just too expensive. Anything in my price range has like, a dozen pieces and half of them are the fancy specific pieces. Bleah.

      The mom in the story said her son is "saving his allowance" to buy one of the Bionicles(sp?). How much allowance does this kid get?

      If legos were cheaper, I'd buy them all the time for myself. They're still fun. As it is, though, anything worth having is too expensive.
  • About an hour ago, I officially turned 22. I know I'm by no means "old", but I started reminiscing about all the hours that I spent playing with my legos when I was a kid. People complain about all the new fancy pieces in today's legos saying it won't allow kids to have an imagination.

    Remember the castle (the one that split apart in the back) with the gray wall pieces that had such weird shapes? Once I had played with it for a few days, I took it apart and started building other stuff with it. All those crazy pieces took a serious imagination to build them into other creations, but that was the fun part. Why is it that people keep saying that all these fancy new pieces will take away a kid's imagination? If anything it will make them be more creative, and have more fun in the process. I know I loved it whenever I got a new set of legos, it made building other things that much more fun.
  • All that stuff in there about their corporate culture sounds nice, and I'm sure they love kids, but compare the prices in the article: $79 for the 600+ piece Dino set and $19 for the 1,200 piece bucket of bricks.

    Don't get me wrong, I love legos (yes, I use an 's'). In fact, I can't imagine my childhood without them.

    -S
  • Didn't anyone else choose sets based on the pieces they contained? I use to spend weeks analysing the pictures on the boxes and in the pamphlets, trying to figure out exactly what pieces a particular set contained.

    My friends and I eventually pooled our sets for greater variety. The core was an old (first space line?) spaceship, about two and a half feet long, all transpearant-blue and opaque-white pieces. It broke into two small fighter ships, a chasis, and a lab. Anyone remember that one?

    -S
    • I'm sure that my brother and I had this one back many years ago.

      We've not played with our Lego in a long time as mum and dad claimed them for when we supply then with some grandchildren, so there's fun things for us all to play with.

      We used to have most of the early space kits, in a huge draw string bag that mum made, that could be spread out as a big play/construction area. Made cleaning up really easy, just pull the string.

      We never got into the Technic sets or others much outside of space as they came along when we were older than the recommended ages. Seeing as we're both space sci-fi nuts the space kits were all we really needed.

      There were never enough computer terminals, or aerials as it's amazing how complex a weapons system you can make with them, especially the red ones, they were the most powerful ones, good for strafing the planet below.

      Ian.

  • Solutions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by osolemirnix ( 107029 )
    I still have a big box of legos (mostly from the Space series). No instructions however, but I don't remember that spoiling any fun. We would build the sets according to the instructions maybe once, to learn what could be done with the parts. Now the instruction booklets are all lost, but Lego still is fun.

    If you get a kick out of creating your own and don't like the price or the fact that the new sets contain less "generic" parts, try flea markets and garage sales. You can get bags full of old-style blocks really cheap!

    I think part of what kills Legos sales is that their "toy" lasts so long and doesn't really go out of style. So they think they have to invent all this new stuff, tricky situation for them. On the other hand: one can never have enough parts, really (I built my own StarWars ships after I saw the movies as a kid, and my parts were just enough for an X-Wing and the Falcon, the latter had a diameter of about 30 cm. If I'd had enough bricks, I certainly would have built that 3 meter long Star Destroyer...).

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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