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20th Anniversary of the Online LEGO Community!

davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 804
I just realized the other day that 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the online LEGO community! Back in January of 1993, the newsgroup (ATL) was established. If memory serves, it was created along with a smattering of other brand-specific toys. To my knowledge, this represents the first time that a dedicated area on the public internet was established for discussion of LEGO!

More history:

Towards the end of 1993, people realized that the "alt" hierarchy of usenet wasn't very well propagated (many dial-up ISP's didn't subscribe to it), and the suggestion was made that many groups under "alt" be migrated to "rec". Thus, in early 1994, (RTL) began, with a much wider distribution. ATL continued to exist (to avoid breaking things), but it mostly was left abandoned.

As the years went on, discussion traffic increased on RTL, and it became increasingly busy. Many auctions and sales were held there (this was before eBay was popular or even available!), with frequent manual posts of auction updates, making the newsgroup difficult to read for those uninterested in the marketplace.

In September of 1998, a solution was launched: LUGNET. It was created on a hierarchy of newsgroups solely dedicated to LEGO, with separate areas for marketplace, building, CAD, and other areas. Additionally, it hosted a way to post using "the web" and via email (a pretty novel idea back then!). Very quickly, LUGNET became the central hub of the community.

Around the same time, local LEGO clubs started forming, as the population of AFOLs online started exploding (since internet access was becoming increasingly available). Soon, people were able to meet a variety of others in their local areas, providing enough AFOLs to actually form groups.

LEGO itself reached out publicly to hobbyists in late 1999, with the foundation of LEGO Direct-- a move that would eventually steer the course of AFOL-targeted offerings and programs like the Modular Town buildings, the LEGO Ambassador program, and LUGBULK. For the first time (albeit VERY slowly at the time!), LEGO began having a two-way conversation with hobbyists.

In 2000, the first LEGO convention for hobbyists was held: BrickFest, in Washington DC. About 60 AFOLs attended-- peanuts by today's standards-- but also a very close-knit group considering the size and communication options of the time.

Over the next few years, the community began to expand and become increasingly diverse. Many websites with communities started appearing, and fan-held LEGO conventions are now common to many areas around the world.

Happy 20 years, LEGO community!



  • coachiecoachie South WalesMember Posts: 476
    edited July 2013
    Excellent memories there, like this one from 2002. Some of the names still kicking around, some vanished.!topic/
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 804
    Anyone that wants to walk down memory lane of the community, check out the AFOL History Project:

    And if you find stuff that I'm missing, submit entries!

  • BrickarmorBrickarmor USAMember Posts: 1,257
    ^ A belated happy 13th birthday! I hope this doesn't mean that whenever we're looking for you now you'll be sulking in your room listening to awful music way too loud. ;-)
  • indigoboxindigobox Member Posts: 470
    @DaveE interesting information listed and compiled on your page. It's nice to know a little bit more history about LEGO, the online communities and how it has evolved.

    @Huw brilliant work and efforts on this site. Congratulations on 13 years. Here is to another 13 :)
  • flowerpotgirlflowerpotgirl ScotlandMember Posts: 147
    I second @indigobox.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,082
    Wow.... I just came across this...  what a blast from the past.... I vaguely remember RTL, because I joined up in that newfangled thing called the internet in 1998... and Lugnet was just getting started.... I barely remember RTL... but I believe I did post there for a short while....

    Then I remember so many old timers (who must now really be old).... Larry P., Todd, Mike Stanley, Suzanne, Dave E. (of course), Rob Farver... John Neal... Abner Finley... Roy Gal... and the list goes on....

    For all the rest of you "newbies"... :)   this was a time when the known LEGO universe was very small indeed.  And I remember the Auczilla auctions.... where you could actually get "spare parts"... a rare thing back then.

    Although it was bound to happen... the "Tower of Babel" effect overtook LUGNET, and a lot of groups went off on their own, as well as new groups were formed.   But that was a time when AFOLs only numbered into the hundreds.... not the hundreds of thousands as they have today....

    And the first known AFOL building contest... the R.T.L. Ancient Building Contest... it still exists out in Cyberspace.... from 1998....

    Oh how the times have changed.  Sadly, although LUGNET is still here... it is but a shell of its' former self... almost a relic of the distant past of AFOLs.

    P.S.  I see that we haven't had a "Cool LEGO Website of the Week" since 2003!!   :o

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