Running with Code Like with scissors, only more dangerous


Software Development and LEGOs

I recently went to my cousin’s birthday party (he turned 6), and since he’s apparently become a huge Star Wars fan (read: played LEGO Star Wars and loves shooting off C-3PO’s leg), my parents decided to get him a couple small Star Wars LEGO toys that were designed for that age group.  They’re small – maybe 30 pieces or so – but they’re still pretty neat, and I can’t help but be amazed at how the pieces still come together to form the whole.  I was a LEGO and K’nex fanatic when I was younger, but I don’t think I really played around with them since I was 14 or so – ever since I left Illinois.  So when I was asked to help my cousin put them together, my first reaction was, "Hey, I don’t do that anymore."  But as I got started, I was drawn in – even on the little 30-piece landspeeder.

And so, I recently made one of the biggest entirely-vanity buys since I’ve moved into my new place:

The box

The "Ultimate Collector’s Edition" Imperial Star Destroyer.  I couldn’t bring myself to invest the full $500 in the Millenium Falcon, but I thought that the price wasn’t too insane, a paltry 3104 pieces wasn’t too daunting, and that I would have enough fun putting together the monstrous 37" set.  The instruction book is about the thickness of my high school year books, and I’m disappointed but not entirely surprised that they didn’t include the hyperdrive units as part of the set.  I guess I’m on my own for making it actually fly.

I took the pieces out and set them on my dining room table, and as I analyze the rather daunting task ahead, I realized that, really, it’s like my every day job.  And the first page of the book seemed to confirm it:

Page 1: The Phantom Frame

Everything is done in components.  We have a frame, then a wing, then another wing.  The bridge.  All of these go together with little regard for how the rest of the ship is built.  Just like we build software.  We try to solve a problem, but we try to make sure that our components can be used or adapted to solve another problem as well. 

So maybe all of my formative years building with those LEGO sets weren’t for nought.  Maybe they were setting the stage for software development even then, tuning my problem-solving skills, making me think of things as tasks to be decomposed until the smallest task can be approached.  Who’s to say?

Sadly, my software development experience doesn’t have a way for me to estimate time to build this bad boy.  But at least my motivation’s there!

On the dining room table

Update: Check out the building marathon!

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