One of the most recognisable toys in the world, the 2×4 Lego brick, officially turned 60 yesterday.
Lego, which was founded back in 1932, actually didn’t produce its patented plastic bricks until 28 January 1958 – the toy maker initially produced toys made from wood, until there was a wood shortage in the wake of WWII.
“Lego founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen launched the first bricks called Automatic Binding Bricks in 1949. Four years later the name was changed to Lego Mursten (Danish for Lego bricks) and they came in five colours: white, red, yellow, blue and green,” Lego wrote in a press release.
“The original bricks were hollow, so they had limited clutch power. Children could build models, but they could fall apart if moved, or if the structures tipped over. While children played with tubeless bricks, the work to improve the clutch power intensified, lasting until 1958 when the current Lego brick design was perfected.”
In 1962, Lego invented the ‘wheel’, so to speak, which combined materials such as metal, rubber and plastic and meant that the bricks were no longer static.
The following year in 1963, as the models became more intricate, the first building guides were produced, but kids had to wait until 1978 for the mini-figurines and small Lego men/women to be made.
In 1998, Lego moved into the digital age with the programmable Lego Mindstorm, and the next step is to create a sustainable form of plastic to make the bricks from. The company hopes to have something in place by 2030.
“We need to find something that is neutral in terms of environmental impact, but at the same time gives a really good brick,” Jette Orduna, the head of Lego’s historical department, told DR Nyheder.
The bastion of Billund
Lego has grown to the point that it now has close to 20,000 employees across the world, though its headquarters remains in Billund, a town that has benefited immensely from Lego’s exploits.
With Denmark’s second-largest airport, a railway and a motorway on the horizon, Egon Noe, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), is in little doubt what Billund would be without Lego.
“It would probably not be much more than a little rural town,” Noe told DR Nyheder.
“Clearly, if Lego disappeared and Legoland went bust, it would be a massive disaster for an area like Billund.”