Meccano Makes Good Programmers


When I was a kid I had a Meccano set. I had some Lego too, but at the time all you could make with that was houses and not very realistic vehicles. The Technical Lego and Mindstorms stuff was years away in those days, and besides Lego stuff was too easy to put together, and fell apart too quickly.

Meccano wasn’t like that. Getting the nuts and bolts together could be murder. It was especially unforgiving of mistakes. Picking up the wrong kind of part early in the build often meant you had to spend ages undoing your painstakingly constructed model. The instructions were good, but you often had to use a lot of deduction to work out which bit you needed to use, and how it really fitted. On the other hand, Meccano was tough. It even survived the day that I decided some Meccano roller skates would be a good idea.

I was reminded of all this when I got to play with some Meccano recently. Number one daughter got one first, and I just had to follow suit and get a little Meccano model of my own. And then spend a couple of happy hours putting it together.

When I think about it, this was very good preparation for a programming career. Programming languages and their libraries are not known for tolerating mistakes, and you often end up taking to bits what you have just built, because you get to the point where you discover it just won’t work that way. And with Meccano, as with programming, if it ends up wrong it is pretty much always your fault.  And, just like Meccano, every now and then you build something you really like.