7.09.2004

U, ROBOT

Let me begin this post by declaring the single best toy line in the history of the world: it's Danish for "play well" - LEGO®. No other toy has inspired the same creative spark through so many years.

LEGO® sets are 100% modular, and while they've begun manufacturing specialized pieces for individual sets, those pieces can yet be re-used for other building projects. No other toy company has been as successful at bringing established franchises to the toy market (see Star Wars, Harry Potter), all the while declining to dictate the terms of the story like so many dolls and sets that "play so you don't have to." LEGO® sets require you to provide action, characters, a story.

The new sets have, as I already mentioned, introduced new pieces that seem highly specialized for a specific function: chunks of walls for castles, sails for pirate ships, and components for their "Bionicle" product line. Some folks have complained about these new kinds of pieces, but the truth of the matter is that they still interface with all the other systems. And I've been exploring Brickshelf, arguably the definitive unofficial LEGO® site, and it's made me re-evaluate my position on these special pieces.

Brickshelf is an online archive of pretty much anything LEGO®-related. When I recently acquired several LEGO® sets from a garage sale that had no assembly instructions, voila! - Brickshelf had them archived. I've been able to find scans of old catalogs I had as a kid and find the part numbers to LEGO® sets I've wanted to acquire. Now I can search eBay for "LEGO 6990" and find the Monorail Moon Station, should it be for sale.

One of my favorite parts of the site is My Own Creation, where folks submit photos of what they've built out of LEGO® blocks. One of the more interesting subcategories is the Mecha section, robots folks have built out of various pieces. Some of the detail there is incredible, like this hand, where the digits are constructed of LEGO® mini-figurine arms. Clever, huh?

Anyway, I've decided to investigate the LEGO® catalog and start acquiring the accessory packs, plain ol' bags of pieces. My sister and brother-in-law gave me this unbearably cool Super Battle Droid for my birthday (I know it doesn't look like much in the pictures, but believe me, it's a ridiculously clever construction), and now I've got many pieces that will provide a good foundation for an original robot of my own. All I need to do is keep acquiring joints and braces and other weird little pieces that can be used in completely non-intuitive ways.

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