[Photograph of Neil Fraser]

Neil Fraser

For the past decade I've been a software engineer at Google in California.  In my spare time I've created a mélange of open-source software.  I've also built some rather unusual hardware.  On rare occasions I've even been known to write something interesting.

Play Well Saturday, 9 January 2021

Here are the first few steps for a model alligator from Lego set #10696 (circa 2015).

The instructions continue like this.

It is interesting to compare these instructions with those from a generation earlier. Here's a bulldozer from one of my childhood sets, Lego set #912 (circa 1976).

There's a lot more problem solving that's expected in these older instructions. For example, note the yellow piece in step 4 that I've highlighted with a blue arrow. It's up to the child to figure out that it is a 4x6 plate. A certain amount of thinking is required, not everything is spoon-fed.

It is even more interesting to compare these instructions with those from two generations ago. Here's a drill press from one of my father's sets, Meccano outfit 2 (circa 1956).

In addition to problem solving, it also involves reading! The horror! Can you imagine what would happen if you tried to give a Meccano set from the 1950s to today's kids? Well, you don't have to imagine, James May did so on his program Toy Stories.

It is an objective fact that construction toys from each generation are simpler and easier to play with. Each generation is challenged less and expected to think less. I shudder to think what the next generation's construction toys will look like; will they be self-assembling or something?


And at the risk of combining Lego and current events, here's something I put together (from this source). My 4-yo daughter recognized him instantly.


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