I posted last year about my rekindled love of Lego, and since then it has gone slightly nuts. My desk at work is now covered in minifigures and small Star Wars sets, and I recently completed The Simpsons series of minifigures. After seeing The Lego Movie (which is my favourite movie of the year so far), I couldn't help myself but get Benny's Spaceship from Amazon (super excite), and am now waiting for the Super Secret Police Dropship to be released here in Australia.
A few weeks ago I retrieved most of my childhood Lego from my parents' place. After cleaning the pieces by putting them through the washing machine in a laundry bag (yes, it's a great way to do it!*), I went to rebuild my biggest childhood set. Only a few steps in I discovered a missing piece, so the rest of that day involved doing a stocktake on all the old sets, and then doing an order on BrickLink (like eBay, but just for Lego).
This weekend I rebuilt all those sets (pictured). It was (and is) a blast from the past. I didn't have the original instructions, so thanks to the marvelous internet I was able to download a digital version of them.
It's interesting to compare present-day Lego sets with those from my early-90s childhood.
The technical writer in me is fascinated to see how much more refined the instructions are now. The older sets' instructions aren't nearly as friendly, relying mostly on 'spot-the-difference' to complete the steps. Often, you would miss placing a piece because of only a slight difference.
The newer instructions mostly eliminates those types of errors by specifying exactly which pieces are used in that step, so it forces you to use them all before continuing on to the next step. This, along with breaking up larger sets' pieces into numbered bags, makes for much more friendly instructions and overall a less error-prone build. Although I'm sure there are some hardcore AFoLs (Adult Fans of Lego) who would have found this progression blasphemous because of too much hand-holding, I think it's a great usability improvement.
The differences in the sets themselves is also very noticeable. Generally for 1990s sets, there are absolutely no stickers: all the required graphics are actually printed on the bricks. Nowadays, sets contain stickers for most brick decorations. I've read this was mostly a cost-saving measure when the Lego company was in financial trouble in the early 2000s, so I understand the reasoning, but I really despise the stickers. I can never apply them on straight, then they peel, etc.
Soon Despina will also get into Lego, and my grand plan will be complete... (she's already a masterful Lego photographer!)
* Except for printed, transparent, or stickered pieces.