A Life in a Year – 28th January, Lego, the Toy Of The Century

1960 saw the introduction to Britain of two new must have toys.  The first was the Etch-a-Sketch, which was a big bag of aluminium dust behind a plastic screen that you scraped doodles into, like you would on the window of a steamed-up car.  But rather than use your finger you had to demonstrate enormous amounts of persistence and agility and twiddle two knobs which was an action that required almost impossibly high levels of eye to hand co-ordination.

Etch-a-Sketch was invented by a man by the name of Arthur Granjean who developed what he called ‘L’Ecran Magique’, or ‘The Magic Screen’, in his garage.  After several years of being ignored as a load of magnetic nonsense L’Ecran Magique was eventually bought up by an American toy firm and renamed Etch-a-Sketch.

Actually Etch-a-Sketch was really hopeless and it was impossible to draw anything really creative.  The box suggested all sorts of drawing possibilities but in reality although it was alright for houses or anything else with straight lines beyond that it was excruciatingly frustrating to draw anything that anyone would be able to meaningfully identify.

Much more important than Etch-a-Sketch was the introduction of the construction toy Lego which was seen at the Brighton Toy Fair for the first time in 1960.

Lego is a Danish company and the name comes from the Danish words ‘LEg GOdt’ meaning play well.  Now this just has to be one of the best toys ever and when it was first introduced the brightly coloured bricks sold by the bucketful.  Pre-Lego I had a construction set called Bayko, which was a set of bakerlite bricks and metal wires that could be used to construct different styles of houses but nothing more exciting than that.  Lego changed everything and the only restrictions on creativity thereafter were the number of bricks in the toy box and a child’s (or an adult’s) imagination!

Others agree with me about the importance of Lego and the British Association of Toy Retailers has named Lego the toy of the century.


5 responses to “A Life in a Year – 28th January, Lego, the Toy Of The Century

  1. I have to agree that LEGO was an important toy, perhaps even toy of the century, but for most of the middle third of that century LEGO didn’t exist in the UK whereas BAYKO did. I have spoken to dozens of people at exhibitions and via various net media who attribute their lifetime as an architect or civil engineer to a childhood as a BAYKO Boy or, equally important, as a BAYKO Girl – BAYKO was always marketed as a unisex toy, even if the word hadn’t been invented then.

  2. I thoroughly agree. My grand kids played and played with them. I used to get carried away with them too. The only problems was the skidding and tripping over them. 😀 😀 😀

  3. Etch-a-Sketch was one of my favourite toys! I would painstakingly move both knobs for hours in order to create scenes with curved and straight lines. It was a true heartache when one of my brothers would come racing past and whack the box by accident, or if I wasn’t paying attention and dropped it off the edge of the table. I never had Legos, but rather I constructed with Tinker Toys, and Lincoln Logs, both of which were made of wood.

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