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Quality Engineering

Along with the finest Scandinavian plastics and die makers, the engineers at Lego work long and hard ensuring that the products that leave the door can withstand their own weight when assembled—don't laugh, some imitations won't.

Whether software, building sets, or board games, Lego means quality.

Take the case of the MindStorm robots. Originally designed for very specific tasks with a limited vocabulary for the control language. Of course, as soon as a limited electronic anything is released, a subculture of hackers and respected scientists begin to investigate what exactly provides the limitations—and what can be done about it.

In this case, the limitation basically involved the operating system, LegoOS. It was quite adept at performing the tasks for which it was designed, but made little provision for an expanded instruction set. Before long, an embedded Linux kernel was available. I don't know if there are any Lego Star Wars AT-AT walkers with IP addresses, but it would not surprise me.

The point is, there are numerous solutions for coordination of sensors and actuators that wouldn't have allowed for any modifications at all, but instead the designers at Lego turned out the ultimate robotic design toolkit. Nothing less would have sold as well.

Getting back to the basics for a moment, every set of Legos purchased—whether promotional items from a gas station or the moon base, complete with monorail—uses an elegant set of pieces to produce a structurally sound result. No matter how far the product line branches, they never forget that the core products are building blocks.

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