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Issue 21.2


Lessons From Legos

Retro Programming Tips from the Physical World

Issue: 21.2 (March/April 2023)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Author Bio: Marc taught himself programming in high school when he bought his first computer but had no money for software. He's had fun learning ever since.
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 19,766
Starting Page Number: 18
Article Number: 21203
Related Link(s): None

Excerpt of article text...

I was a huge Lego fan as a kid, spending countless hours building all sorts of buildings and contraptions. Back then they didn't have all the speciality kits of today, so I had to improvise. For instance, I'd take the rubber tires off of wheels and loop rubber bands between two sets to create gears to generate movement.

Maybe my designs weren't that polished, but Legos did inspire me to think, plan, and create, and I consider that a major aspect in my mental development. In the decades since, Legos have become a metaphor for all sorts of things, including programming. Who hasn't described Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) as similar to assembling Lego blocks?

Recently I've become a fan of the Legomasters TV show, which has revived my interest in my childhood toy. My 12-year-old mind would have been blown if I could have seen what those geniuses create today! I itched to get back into Legos, but I wasn't sure where to begin. The general-purpose kits I bought as a kid seem to have been replaced by specialty creations, where you can build a Star Wars spaceship or whatever. That didn't really interest me.

Then I saw it. While reading an article online about Legos, I came across something dear to a writer's heart: a classic manual typewriter created from Legos. I looked it up on Amazon and was staggered by the cost. It seemed absurd to spend so much money on a toy, let alone such a single-purpose Lego creation.

But over the holidays, I kept coming back to it. (My mistake for adding it to my "Saved for Later" Amazon list.) I contemplated it half a dozen times and even added it to my shopping cart once. I read reviews and studied how the thing worked: it does everything but actually put ink on paper. Apparently the keys depress and move the platen over as you "type" and you can even feed paper through the machine. It sounded amazing, but I was still hesitant.

Then I saw that it would deliver January 3rd, which was the day I intended to publish xDev 21.1. Since I was worried that getting the kit would be a distraction from my work, what better timing could there be? It had to be a sign, didn't it? I clicked the buy button.

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