Today The LEGO Group celebrates its 80’s anniversary. On this day the ReBrick team would like to tribute the adult and teenage fan community by highlighting creations from fans since the early ages of internet.
The LEGO Groups Tormod Askildsen, Sr Director, and Yun Mi Antorini, Community Strategist, at Community Engagement and Communications, take a look back at the history of the AFOL Community:
"Before the internet being an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) could be a lonely affair. It was very difficult to find other fans. As one AFOL described in an interview, it was like “finding a needle in a haystack”.
But with the internet, in the early-mid 90’s, came the opportunity to connect. Back then it was only very tech-savvy AFOLs who could find each other through this new digital space. Communication was text-based (English) and centered on the joy of having found likeminded others who liked LEGO products.
Image: Anybody Here? One of the Danish pioneers Jacob Sparre Andersen calls out to Danish fans on LUGNET in 1998.
The early users, many of whom were also hackers (a hacker, in its true and original sense, is “an enthusiast, an artist, a tinkerer, a problem solver, an expert”), embedded in the AFOL community their love of creativity, problem solving tinkering, and sense of detail. Till this day, these values continue to define the AFOL culture.
As the Internet began to mainstream (beginning 2000s) many AFOLs “came out of the closet” (AFOL expression) and found their way to the fan sites. Compared to today, however, it was very rare to find adults who openly confessed to being LEGO users.
The large scale privately owned fan forum LUGNET (LEGO Users Group Network) “the friendliest place on the Internet” became a home to many. With its, at the time, many new and more efficient user functionalities, several sub-interest communities (like Classic Space and the International LEGO Train Community) as well as LEGO User Groups (LUGs) and LEGO Mindstorms User Groups (MUGs) emerged. Many of these communities formed their own independent online domains and offline activities of different kinds."
Thank you Tormod and Yum Mi for sharing this information.
Brickshelf, that was developed by Kevin Loch in 1998, and Todd Lehman's “Cool LEGO Site of the Week” met a rising demand in the AFOL community: to share the creations that the LEGO fans built themselves from their own imagination. The same year Sean Kenney started displaying his own creations on seankenney.com and later opened MOCpages, a community where everyone can upload and discuss their own creations.
The first fan creation that was launched as a product by the LEGO Group was Daniel Siskind’s Blacksmith Shop released in 2002. Tim Courtney, Community Manager at the LEGO Group and LEGO fan, remembers the set as the very first custom kit sold by a fan.
Image: LEGO Set 3739 Blacksmiths shop created by AFOL Dan Siskind. Sold exclusively online from 2002.
Suzanne Eaton is one of the pioneers in the online adult fan community. She reflects on the tools and skills of the community from back then and how it has evolved up until today.
“It is interesting to notice how much "the bar has risen" in regards to the quality of models - thanks to availability of individual pieces and also the ease of communication between fans. There are now MORE fans, with MORE pieces, showing MORE models. And we are constantly challenging each other. So it is more difficult than ever to impress our fellow AFOLs. Thanks to websites like ReBrick and The Brothers Brick, we are being "wow'd" on a daily basis (or, even on an hourly basis!) by bigger and better things.”
The ReBrick Team want to thank Suz for helping us digging up some of the creations that were shared online from very early on. If you want to share a great piece on memorabilia in connection to the LEGO Groups 80th Anniversary please submit the link to ReBrick and tell your story.