Year: 2009

Nerdy, nostalgic Lego model – now as a kit!

Hey, did you see those images of a miniature Nintendo Entertainment System built from Legos that made the rounds of all the nerd blogs a few weeks back? If not, it looks like this:

Arkov's Original Design

The model was built by a flickr user who goes by ‘Arkov.’ His photostream is here – there’s lots of other great Lego stuff going on there.

Everyone knows you can’t click three links on the internet without landing on some nerdy LEGO project, so it’s hard to put my finger on why I became so obsessed with this one. I think it has a lot to do with the scale (Low brick count, easy to build, reproducable) and the simplicity of the abstraction (visually it just seems to translate perfectly). Also the hinged cartridge door: perfect. Obviously, I had to build one, and so I did:

My approximation of Arkov's design

I’ve also made it slightly easier for other people to build one. I discovered that if you build a custom model using Lego’s Digital Designer software and upload it for ordering, you can share the link with friends so they can order your model too.

All the specifics are below – it’ll cost you about twenty bucks total to build one. I should be clear in saying that none of this money goes to me.

  • You can buy a reasonable approximation of Arkov’s model in kit form here ($14.90). Note that this kit does not come with assembly directions! You’ll have to grab them from the links below. Looks like custom builds expire from the store after about a month. You’ll have to download the NES model below and place the order through the Lego Digital Designer software. Also note: this is not an exact copy of Arkov’s model – but a version adapted to only use parts currently available from Lego.
  • The strings both Arkov and I used to connect the controllers are not currently offered by Lego. You can usually track them down on eBay for a couple bucks. This search should turn up several pair (I used 31L – or 31 stud length strings).
  • You can download Mac or PC versions of the Lego Digital Designer (Which is used to generate nice animated directions) here, and the NES Digital Designer Model here.
  • If you don’t feel like going the fancy route on the directions, you can download a copy of the HTML directions their program spits out here (Not as good!). Also helpful: the instructions Arkov generated for his model are here.
  • If you build one of these, you can (and should!) donate five bucks to the guy who designed this model here. I’ve been in touch with him, and he clearly doesn’t think anyone would ever do such a thing, so help me prove him wrong.

Two random thoughts that this process generated in my brain:

  • The Digital Designer software that Lego provides is insanely powerful – this was my first exposure to it. You can construct a model from a library of all extant Lego parts, and once you’ve tweaked it to completion, you can order the pieces with the click of a button. It also does animated, 360 degree rotatable build directions. All for free. Crazy. (Disclaimer: I had a few minor gripes with certain parts not connecting as they should, and the workaround for one of these bugs made it into the model, but trust me, this method of ordering the parts is WAY less painful than one by one via Pick a Brick. Lego – if you’re reading this: Digital Designer won’t let 1×1 circular plates connect sideways into technic bricks, like so.)
  • I can totally see this “Custom LEGO models available as boxed kits” thing turning into a cottage industry for someone at urban craft shows, etc. I wonder if the 3 per person limit on these kits is some sort of preliminary effort by Lego to avoid that?