The name "LEGO" is originally, according to the offical story, derived from the Danish words leg godt" (play well). It turned out that the word in Latin can be interpreted as "I collect" (also "I choose" or "I read") as well.
(This seems a bit artifical though. The unofficial story therefore goes that the name "LEGO" is derived from the names of the sons of Ole Kirk: Ole and Godfredt. This sound more plausible, and possibly afterwards the official story complemented this and became leading.)
Ole Kirk Christiansen started his company in the Danish city Billund in 1916. During the first years he mainly produced furniture, but later on specialized in wooden toys in 1932. In 1934 the name "LEGO" came into use.
After World War II the use of synthetic became more popular and Christiansen started using this material too for his toys. In 1949 the company started producing plastic building bricks, based on a licence from England: bricks with on top round studs and hollow on underside, that allowed the bricks to interlock. In 1957 LEGO patented an important improvement: tubes on the underside of the bricks, that allowed multiple ways to interlock the bricks. This became the LEGO brick as we know it now. However back then a lesser quality plastic, cellulose acetaat (CA), was used.
LEGO got a bad name due the the bad quality of the bricks en business got worse. In 1958 Ole Kirk Christianson died and his son Godtfred continued the company. The quality of the the synthetic bricks improved slowly and business got better. After the burning of a warehouse in 1960, it was decided to quit the wooden toys and make the synthetic bricks to "core business".
During the following years the assortment was extended with wheel, which allowed for much more possibilities. In 1963 a better quality plastic became used, the stable acrylonitril butadieen styreen (ABS), the material used until today.
In 1966 one of the most succesvul LEGO-series was released; the LEGO trainsystem. With a 4.5 volt motor (later 12 volt) selfbuilt trains could ride the tracks. Then in 1969 a new system, specifically for young children, was released: DUPLO. The DUPLO bricks were larger than usual LEGO-bricks and did not contain small parts (swallow hazard).
Starting 1970 LEGO knew a major grow. Worldwide multiple factories were built and the assortment became larger. "Space LEGO" could be used to build for spaceships, rockets and moonvehicles. "FABULAND" was aimed particularly at young children to build their own fantasyworld and in 1977 the "Technic" series was released. With "Technic" detailed vehicles could be build and the possibilities were almost endless. In 1987 the "Technic" series was extended with "Pneumatic".
One the the latest extensions on synthetic bricks are the LEGO Mindstorms "Robotic Invention Systems". It allows to build robots that can react on their environment by sensors. Different kinds of programmingelement exist, the older ones "preprogrammed", the newest kinds RCX and NXT can be programmed freely. With these system the robots can be "awakened". Multiply programming languages are available.
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