Thursday, December 4, 2008

Alfred Carlton Gilbert

Today we honor Alfred Carlton Gilbert - a magician, doctor, Olympic gold medalist, inventor, and toy manufacturer. We celebrate all of his accomplishments, but today we focus on just one - the Erector Set.

The Erector Set is a building toy that allows children (and adults) to bring their architectural visions to fruition. Introduced in 1913, the original Erector Set - then known as the "Mysto Erector Structural Steel Builder" - consisted of miniature versions of actual construction materials such as steel beams, bolts, screws, pulleys, and gears. The toy was an instant success. The following excerpt from an article published by the MIT school of engineering explains:

"The Erector set quickly became one of the most popular toys of all time: living rooms across the country were transformed into miniature metropoles, filled with skyscrapers, bridges and railways. Those kids who already owned a set would beg Santa annually for an upgrade, aiming for the elusive "No. 12 1/2" deluxe kit that came with blueprints for the 'Mysterious Walking Giant' robot."

Today the Erector Set family extends beyond skyscrapers and walking robots to include sets for all ages. Young children may construct an entire miniature plastic city; older children may do the same with metal parts or endeavor to build a remote controlled vehicle from the ground up. Spykee, one of the latest additions to the Erector Set collection, is a product aimed at young adults and home- or business-owners. The Spykee robot is a wireless, mobile, audio/video surveillance "toy" that can be controlled via WiFi connection from anywhere in the world.

Today the Erector set is owned and produced by Meccano Toys Ltd. - Gilbert's original competitor.

Alfred Gilbert deserves praise, not only for his contribution to the toy industry, but for the inspiration of his grandest invention. One has to wonder how many of today's entrepreneurs, industrialists, architects, builders, etc. across the globe first realized their ambition and potential with the pieces of Gilbert's creation.

Erector Set at:
MIT-inventor of the week archive

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