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Everything is Awesome!

I’m going to take a moment, step just a little to the side of computing, and let my inner geek out. Not that I restrain him all that much anyway…

I recently watched The Lego Movie, and besides bringing back some memories, it actually reminded me of something I hadn’t thought about for a long time.

Not that everything is awesome … that’s something I feel pretty much every day.

No, this was more about how I got my start, and how my grandmother may have had a hand in that.

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I had Legos before Legos were cool

Back in the 1960’s, when I was growing up, Lego® wasn’t really a thing. I’m not sure they were even available in the United States at that time, and if so, availability was certainly very limited in comparison to today. Building and construction-type toys were the purview of things like Erector Sets and Lincoln Logs (back when they were real metal and wood, respectively).

Legos were, however, available in Europe.

Living in the U.S. with relatives in Holland, it became somewhat of a tradition to send packages of assorted gifts around the holidays. Besides traditional Dutch treats and other goodies, my grandmother almost always included a set of Legos, and over the years they accumulated.

An engineer is born

I often credit a T.V. repair man as setting in motion the events that would lead to my career, but in reality, the die was cast much earlier.

Besides the healthy dose of “engineer genes” I received from both of my parents, the toys I played with as a child also placed me firmly on that track. And I have to say that it probably all started with the Legos my grandmother sent me.

Ask Leo! in Lego And I still have ’em. The Legos in the picture you see here are 50 years old1.

I build things, and I always have. While my medium has changed from plastic bricks to computers and software, and even simply words, the underlying skills remain the same: a fundamental curiosity and wonder at how things can be put together, and what can be created when it’s done well.

I’m an engineer of the software variety.

Look for the awesome

So, why am I going on about children’s toys, engineering, and my own, perhaps somewhat pollyanna-ish approach to life? Everything is awesome? Really?

My take is that it’s way too easy to let the day-to-day frustrations of technology get in the way of seeing the awesomeness around us.

My trip down memory lane reminded me of this.

And it reminded me that I need to do a better job of reminding you just how awesome some of what we take for granted really is.

Those are just a few of the things that I call awesome – not in the “oh, that’s cool” watered-down definition, but to me, truly awe-inspiring.

I haven’t said it in a while, and I should say it more often: I love living in the future.

And I want you to love it too.

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Footnotes & references

1: Though, no, I didn’t write “Ask Leo!” in Lego 50 years ago. I had to play with my Legos for a bit before writing this article and taking that picture. :-)
2: While exercising on my elliptical, no less.

10 comments on “Everything is Awesome!”

  1. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It reminded me of my earlier childhood. I started out with Tinker Toys and later got some Lincoln Logs. My brother, being older than me, got an Erector Set (came in a metal briefcase). He later gave that to me, too. I spent a lot of time making various things. However, I was always more interested in modifying something than in creating something new – I’m a technician, not an engineer.

    What really got me started, though was long before that. General Mills used to have single-serve boxes of Cheerios, Kix and Wheaties in a 6-pack box. The main box looked like a train engine, and the individual boxes looked like train cars. I used buttons to make wheels for them (I tried empty thread spools, but they didn’t work very well). Rubber bands run through the ends of the boxes and held in place with toothpicks connected everything to form a train. This is what really started me thinking of how things work and seeing if I could modify it more to my liking.

    I remember there were two companies making building blocks – to compete with Lincoln Logs – before Lego came out in the US. They were aimed at making buildings, complete with windows, doors that opened, roofs, and such. It seems they tried to compete with Lego, but evidently weren’t versatile enough.

    Ah, kids of today just don’t know the joy of using common things in uncommon ways to make something else.

    We’ve come a long way since then, but I can’t help thinking of what we lost along the way.

  2. Sigh. Everything is NOT awesome here in PackerLand. A lot of us are still in shock.
    Good luck to your SeaHawks.

    Craig in Madison

    P.S. I also enjoy your local brew pub postings from FaceBook.

  3. I was born in 1937 and was given a Lego set in the late ’40’s or early 50’s. I’m pretty sure my mother found in in NYC, but the store could have imported it. My kids got plenty of Legos which they threw around casually. (Hurts like hell to step on one in the dark when you go to check on a kid.) My grandson was given a Lego base which fastened on the underside of a table, so all the building was done upside down. Cool! Everybody loved them.

  4. I received my first Lego kit when I was probably 6-7 (~1971-1972). No idea where my mom found it (probably the bay area, CA). All I know is I was hooked! Sets would follow for birthdays, holidays, or for special reasons. My favorite was a HUGE expert builder set that made a car (Huge wheels, engine, tranny and would seat four, no fancy body work or differential). Though I may not be an engineer, or tech right now, I think it was a huge help in my understanding things in our mechanical world, which in turn has helped in many jobs I have held. Legos let me explore and create for hours; and the only other thing I spent hours on were my model trains, which did allow me to learn a lot about electronics. Yes, its cool to live in the future; but I hope we have kids that can appreciate the past and combine that fun into the future. I hope they can discover a value in the creative ‘play’. Hobbies that allow great creativity are one of the best learning tools for kids in my opinion. They really can provide a good start to kids, and Legos are no exception. I still collect Legos; though my sets are more like president business’s… I like them as models, but I have some I still have fun with with my kids. It is also a fun stress reliever building a new set. Yah, I grew up with Pong, and Atari, Apple 11e’s, and early computers. I have seen some changes in my short almost 50 yrs. Sometimes I wonder how we ever survived without, but sometimes miss the ‘old’ days because they were simpler. Somebody was inspired some where, some how; and it is awesome what we can enjoy today. Thanks for a fun read! …( had an Erector set, and Lincoln logs too)…

  5. When Gak (spelling?) was made (Nicolodeon doesn’t make it anymore), I loved it. I loved how it was so squishy and stretchy! My favorite smell was the apple pie one.

    Speaking of awesome, I love spider webs! They have a soft, delightful, sticky strength I can’t explain. And they kind of remind me of the Internet because of their design and interconnected threads.


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