For all that I love construction toys, and harbor the belief that if civilization is to survive at all it will be due to things like them, I don't actually have many of them. Now that I'm gearing up for a second childhood, I should perhaps remedy this.
There are several quite good construction systems available today, including Lego®, of which I have fond memories. In their contemporary presentations, though, they all seem a bit too "themed" for my taste - designed as much to introduce their user to licensed media "properties" (in the marketing sense of the term) as to the properties of mechanics.
It is a bit sad that in trying to research most older systems one is swamped by auction sites. The 21st century perspective is that this is dead technology; the detritus of the past re-sold for antiquarian chic. (The exception seems to be Meccano®, which has a splendid international user community (but which is rather hard to find in the U.S.)) So here, instead, are a few resources...
To some extent, and in an active but exceedingly disorganized way, the homebrew "3-D printing" (stereolithography) movement is filling the void created by the lack of good construction toys. Unless you use a 3-D printer as "merely" a parts-creator, however, the process of building in this mode remains resolutely on-the-screen, not in-the-hands. This is a basic limitation which is difficult to overcome. See, e.g.:
The extracts here from the 1925 Meccano Instructions Book No. 1 are the public domain in Great Britain. Its initial term of copyright (50 years for a corporate anonymous work) expired at the end of 1975. On 1996-01-01 British copyright was extended retroactively to 70 years, but for this work its 70 year copyright would have expired the day before, at the end of 1995. In the US, this work is and has always been in the public domain. From 1925 through 1995 it was in the public domain due to failure to comply with US copyright formalities as then required. From 1996-01-01 it remained in the public domain as it was in the public domain in Great Britain on that day (when retroactive US copyright was imposed on all foreign works in copyright in their home countries on that day). The source from which I obtained these images, http://www.meccanopedia.com/ has imposed no new copyright on them.
All portions of this document not noted otherwise are Copyright © 2012 by David M. MacMillan and Rollande Krandall.
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