The Indomitable Brick

January 29, 2008

Lego Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Lego brick. This brings a warm feeling of whimsy and satisfaction, as Lego was such an integral part of my childhood. Many hours were spent constructing and deconstructing, fashioning tiny simulations of complex machines, buildings and living things.

Its core activity can be described as quantizing reality into discrete plastic pieces—a tidy analogue to the digital medium, substituting pixels and vectors for bricks. Unlike pixels, and in the absence of unlimited funding for new bricks, it is also a microcosm of reality: resources are limited. Scarcity is the mother of invention, and to create something new, something must first be destroyed.

Where other toys were quickly forgotten (oh how I wish I’d saved those first-edition Star Wars figurines from the early 80s), and a discovery of computers, software and writing games—I’d never abandon completely the little plastic atoms, occasionally pulling out the bags of bricks, dusting them off and tinkering again.