Originally Published: 21 April 2011
I don’t think that, back in 1932, a carpenter by the name of Ole Kirk Christiansen realised what he’d be setting in motion as he was busy making little wooden toys. When 1934 came around his toys were so popular that he thought he’d better come up with a name for his little venture. Using a bit of word play, he messed around with the Danish for “Play Well” — leg godt — and the Lego company was born.
Shortly after the second World War, the Lego company moved from wooden toys into the world of plastic and the first interlocking plastic blocks rolled off the production line in 1949. There were already, in Britain at least, plastic building blocks but they required herculean efforts to separate. The Lego blocks were easier to pull apart, thanks to their unique studded top and hollow bottom design.
At 1.58pm on January 28th, 1958 the patent was passed for the modern Lego brick and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, there’s barely a man, woman or child alive who wouldn’t know what you wanted if you said you needed a square four-studded block, or a 16-hole piece of Lego Technic. James May, TV’s Captain Slow – a fan of the simpler toys of a bygone era — wondered if it was possible to build a house completely from Lego. It took a lot of bricks — a hell of a lot of bricks — but it was done. A house made entirely from Lego. It would seem that the possibilities really are endless.
Back in June 2008, I wrote a piece about the Lego games. Since then, they’ve gone from strength to strength, with improvements being made with each subsequent title. Gone are the days of one player unwittingly dragging another to their death while they were off looking for hidden secrets. Lego Star Wars III, the latest brick-based blockbuster, is amazing to play. It works brilliantly and is, I think, my favourite Lego game to date. Lego Pirates of the Caribbean is set to grace consoles in May, just in time for the fourth instalment of the film franchise.
There’s an episode of Doctor Who in which Matt Smith’s Doctor meets Vincent Van Gogh and, with his arm firmly twisted by Amy, brings him to the present to show him how much his work is appreciated. Written by Richard Curtis, it’s one of the most moving Doctor Who episodes of recent times and brilliantly played out. I’d like to be able to do something similar to Ole Kirk Christiansen. I’d like to be able to tell him how his simple idea has spread to be a worldwide phenomenon – I think he’d be pleased with that. I’d like to be able to show him that, using modern technology, his simple building blocks have become much more than that — that they’ve fashioned universes and brought a tongue-in-cheek charm to well-known stories.
It’s probably more than he could have ever imagined, but I don’t think he’d be disappointed.
You can build a time machine out of Lego, right?