History Repeats itself…

December 20th, 2007 by andylockran Leave a reply »

I just watched “James May’s Top Toys” on the BBC iPlayer. It’s quite a good little program, and he’s just given a group of 13 year olds some 1954 Meccano instructions, with the original parts. Norman Foster and Richard Rogers (two famous architects) are both reputed to have played with Meccano in their youth. I did too.

So how is history repeating itself?

Well, the sadistic thing about Meccano is that they deliberately sabotaged the instructions so that it would be up to the childs intuition to get it to work – therefore not only encouraging the child’s engineering ability – but allowing the child to create ‘new’ solutions.

It’s a bit like Open Source Software really. Sometimes you can’t get the whole instructions (well, you can, but they change with versions and sometimes continuity can suffer) so you have to use your brain and fix it. It’s a good example.

James May’s paradigm is that nowadays, Meccano and Lego both have lots of ‘bespoke’ parts – rather than lots of generic parts that involved ‘vision’ to put together. It discourages vision and creativity – just a banal set of instructions and a very ‘generic’ final piece. Let’s break back into History and be a bit more adventurous, encouraging and motivated. Why use a ‘generic’ model, when through vision and hard work – you can make your own individually fantastic piece.

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