Closed Source -- and Minds -- Pried Open

From Chapter 8 -- "Sometimes You Just Have to Lego"

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In my previous Chapter 8 post, I wrote about the Lego robot kits aimed at bringiing the toy-brick company into the digital age.

Mindstorms launched in August 1998. "A few days after the launch," recalls Steven Canvin, business development manager, "the product was taken apart, an inventory of all the hardware components compiled and the [software] code was revealed."

Boys much upper than 12 had immediately reversed engineered the kit and were sending all the specs hither and yon across the internet.

"The lawyers freaked out," Canvin says, "because that was an infringement of our rights. They were afraid we were being trespassed upon.." The lawyers of course, weren't wrong. This was not meant to be an open-source line of products. The information suddenly in wide circulation was clearly proprietary.

But wait. Winging its way across the internet? Lego? Was it possible that Ole Christiansen's little workshop was creating buzz? Yes, it was. And there is value, incalculable value, to buzz.

"It migrated into the adult community,"Canvin says. "We heard so many times, 'This re-created Lego for me.'"
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