Building an Empire: Looking Back At Lego


One of the most popular children’s toys of the 20th century, Lego formed both the literal and figurative building blocks of many a childhood, including my own. But these simple plastic bricks brought hours of fun to me and my friends as they have almost every child that’s come into contact with them in their current form, which was remained largely unchanged since 1958.

duplo lego

Beginning as a wooden toy company in in the village of Billund, Denmark in 1932 by master carpenter and joiner, Ole Kirk Kristiansen, the name Lego was formally adopted by the company in 1934, and comes from the Danish phrase “leg godt”, meaning “play well”, although they later discovered it also means “I put together” in Latin. Handy, eh?

The First Foundations

Lego Duplo was first launched internationally for children under five back in 1969, and the bricks came in four colours: yellow, blue, white and red. Designed for children from 18 months to six years, Duplo bricks were the larger, more toddler friendly version of their older sibling. Twice the height, width and length of standard Lego, they were much easier to use and also made for a handy missile to throw at friends, family or the babysitter when the opportunity arose. Duplo became a product brand in 1975, and has been renamed twice, to Lego Preschool in 1977 and Explore in 2002.

Let’s Get Complicated

But after the simplicity of Duplo, and the adventures of Lego Space and Pirates had worn off, there was Lego Technic which soon became the ultimate big (geek) boy’s toy. Created in 1977, and originally known as a Technical Set, or Expert Builder Sets, Lego Technic was comprised of traditional studded construction of previous Lego sets, but also had a number of new parts which were designed to reproduce realistic technical functions. Axels, plates, wheels, tyres, and gears were just some of the special parts that allowed these sets to move. Launching with just four sets, which included a tractor, helicopter and a forklift, Technic has evolved into a sophisticated motorised toy phenomenon, with fans of all ages from all over the world completing to produce new products in the monthly Lego Technic challenge.


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