Happy birthday, database!

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Today is something of a milestone: it's the database's 20th birthday! On this day back in 1997 I announced my first LEGO set guide in the usenet newsgroup rec.toys.lego.

The guide contained sets that appeared in UK catalogues in the 1970s, of which there was scant information available on the Internet at the time.

To mark the occasion I thought it would interesting to resurrect an old version of it, briefly discuss the early history of LEGO databases, and to find out what other LEGO fan sites looked like in 1997.


Huw's LEGO pages

At the time it was difficult and expensive to set up a web server and register a domain so it was hosted on my personal home page, an area of web space provided by my internet service provider. The Brickset name and domain didn't exist until until mid-2000.

The earliest version of the site that I have archived is from early 1998 and it's back online for your viewing pleasure at archive.brickset.com. As well as the 1970s set list, by that time I had added a lists of sets released in 1998 and also details of promotional sets that were available at the time, which quickly became the site's raison d'être.

Visit http://archive.brickset.com

The information went on to form the basis of the Brickset database that's still in use today.


The earliest LEGO listings

It could be said that I was late getting started. The first known online listing of LEGO sets was created by Jeffrey T. Crites who posted a list of Castle sets in the usenet newsgroup rec.toys.lego in 1994, which was way before most people had access to the Internet.

As far as I am aware the first websites to publish lists were Todd Lehman's Fibblesnork LEGO guide, which started out with Space and Aquazone sets in January 1996 before adding other themes later that year, and Lou Zucaro's Pause Magazine LEGO reference, also established in 1996, which had a wider coverage.

The two sites existed until 1998 when they were moved to LUGNET.com which came online that year. Later, in September 2000, Todd launched the LUGNET Guide to LEGO products, which inherited data from both sources. The final versions of the original sites are still online.

Visit http://www.lugnet.com/fibblesnork/lego/guide/

Visit http://www.lugnet.com/pause/


Other LEGO sites from 1997

So, what other LEGO sites were around in 1997? A good place to find out is at Fibblesnork's Cool LEGO Site of the Week list that highlighted an interesting site each week between 1996 to 2003, and which is now archived at LUGNET.com.

Visit http://www.lugnet.com/cool/

Like my own pages, the vast majority were personal home pages on ISP or university web servers so are no longer online, but I did find a couple that can still be reached:

Suzanne Rich's random minifig generator at Baseplate.com:

Visit http://www.baseplate.com/toys/minifig/

Rec.toys.lego LEGO set review archive:

Visit http://alumni.cse.ucsc.edu/~dulcaoin/reviews/

LEGO's online presence commenced in 1996 and in 1997 looked something like this:

Visit a 1997 version of lego.com at the Wayback machine

What about other popular LEGO sites? Most did not exist until the 21st century: Peeron.com was launched in 2000, BrickLink in 2000 (originally called Brickbay until 2002), Eurobricks in 2003 and Brothers Brick in 2006.


Were you using the internet and into LEGO in 1997? If so, I hope you enjoyed this brief trip down memory lane. What other sites do you remember from that time?

The early history of LEGO websites is a fascinating subject (to me, anyway) and I think it's worth researching it more thoroughly for a future article. If you're interested in getting involved, do let me know.

Thanks to Todd Lehman for information relating to Jeff Crites' list, the Fibblesnork LEGO Guide, LUGNET and Pause.


If you want to know more about Brickset's past, check out this article I wrote in 2014: Brickset through the ages.

76 comments on this article

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By in United States,

What a fun trip down memory lane. I was only born in 1988 but I my family was early to adapt to the internet and I used it for so much LEGO information gathering. Remember all those sites, and remember going in awe through the promotional set database all the time.

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By in United States,

Happy birthday brickset.com! And good job Huw for making this such a great online database!

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By in Sweden,

Awesome read. Thanks for all the great work and dedication Huw!

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By in Germany,

Awesome post. Thank you very much and happy birthday brickset.com.

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By in United Kingdom,

Happy birthday, Brickset! Excellent work so far, Huw, and good luck for the next 20 years!

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By in Germany,

Happy Birthday Brickset! Awesome articel too. Very interesting to see where this amazing website had it's roots!

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By in New Zealand,

Yay!

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By in United States,

Thank you to all of those who have created Lego webpages over the years! I remember looking through these sites as I came out of my first Dark Ages, and then getting motivated to buy Lego on Ebay.

It can't be said enough, but in the early days of the internet, there was a lot of creativity when it came to webpages: anyone and everyone could create a webpage about whatever personal interests that they had, for example, the Blacktron Alienator webpage - I mean, HOW cool is that!?! This was before the era of cheap digital cameras, when hard drives were still measured in MB and not GB, and those of us who were not students at a University were probably dialing in through a landline phone to access the internet (I know - this was the literal Dark Ages!!) It was a lot of work for people, but the passion and interest showed, and these sites started off as a place to really display this.

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By in United Kingdom,

Happy birthday to the Database.
Presumably born an Access DB did it grow into a mySQL one?
Takes me back to when I began designing sites in 98 (frames etc) aargh! And let's not forget how far we have come now that we have the separation of content/design.
Brickset is a fine site and a great example of the relationship between the data and content - because we can all relate to the database it brings it all forward. I look forward to some cool data visualisation for that is an excuse to make some wizardry if ever it was needed.
Congratulations.

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By in United States,

Echoing others happy birthday! It's remarkable how far y'all have come!

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By in Serbia,

Awesome article, Huw. Happy birthday to the database! :)

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By in Portugal,

Congratulations! What a blast from the past!

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By in United Kingdom,

I was impressed to see the Wanted List feature was up and running on the site so early - then I clicked on it and realised it was just your wanted list, Huw! :p

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By in Ireland,

Many sites in those days didn't have their own domain. I started `getting back into Lego in '99 and I think Dennis Bosman already had a website in those days. Eric Brok's Lego on my mind was another one of the early sites I remember.
I also remember Brickzilla - Organised by Todd Lehman (I think) it was an early way to get bulkish bricks. Sets were parted out and participants could buy lots.
Brickbay (after pressure from eBay better known as Bricklink) probably came shortly after as did Brickshelf.

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By in United Kingdom,

@PSD77, it's now on SQL Server. I cut my teeth on Microsoft technologies and still use them today.

IFrames were all the rage back then, weren't they! I wanted to link directly to the promotional set list in the archive but couldn't because of them :)

@A. Khan, it's easy to forget, isn't it, how far technology has come in 20 years. I first connected to the internet early in 1995 when it first became widely available in the UK to home users. I had used Compuserve and other systems for some years prior to that, and at the time it would have been at best at the dizzying speed of a 56k over a dial-up link.

@Duq, yes, the Brickzilla auctions were another of Todd's initiatives and looking back through the rec.toys.lego archives you can see how we traded LEGO across the Atlantic before the days of eBay and Brickbay (I'd forgotten it was called that originally.

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By in Australia,

Holy moly, look at that Lego.com front page.

It's basic as heck. Even a hamster with a keyboard, a Word Press subscription, and no legs could accidentally create something richer and better designed than that!

Both Brickset and Lego itself has grown its online presence over that time. It's a good thing to see.

Congrats to making it to this milestone.

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By in United States,

@Rare White Ape - I'd like to see you try to run Wordpress on HTML 1.0, with no Javascript, no PHP (for that matter, no browser-side scripting whatsoever), only /cgi/. Then tell me how much better you can do :)

Of course, visual and usability standards have vastly improved, but when I got onto the Internet in 1993/1994 you didn't really put many images on a page as it slowed everything down to a crawl. I recall the existence of a "Top 10 new pages on the Internet" page, which was still possible in those days......

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By in United States,

Hey, it's my mom's birthday too!

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By in United States,

Very cool!

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By in United Kingdom,

I'd forgotten about the Fibblesnork Lego Guide! :D

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By in United States,

sadly I was not able to sign your guest book :(

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By in United States,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Love everything you guys do keep it up!

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By in United States,

Happy birthday!

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By in United States,

I was there when it happened! Happy to still be a part of the online community.

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By in United Kingdom,

Happy birthday database! Thanks for the nostalgia trip back to the era of frames, webrings, and graphics designed in Paintbrush... :) Sadly the rise of accessible internet came just as I was entering my dark ages (1996/7) so I missed out on all these early Lego sites, I'm amazed that some are still up in their near-original form!

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By in United States,

Unfortunately I was born at the turn of the century so I didn't enjoy these Lego sites but I still enjoyed the post. Happy Birthday Brickset!

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By in United States,

Happy birthday, database! Great to see one of my favorite LEGO-sites celebrate a milestone :)

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By in United States,

Happy birthday, Brickset!

Love the screenshot of the old LEGO website from 1997. They won a lot of negative acclaim for their website (supposedly from professionals as well-- not just AFOLs complaining)

Nitpicks!

BrickLink (then BrickBay) was announced in May of 2000, but I don't think was open for business yet. They launched in June, and then changed their name to "BrickLink" in early 2002:
http://news.lugnet.com/announce/?n=598

The first attempt (that I know of) to compile a list of sets was in May of 1993 by Dik T. Winter:
https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en# !topic/alt.toys.lego/HoJ3leYjGnE

(also, it seems I can't edit a url with bizarre characters in it very well!)

DaveE

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By in France,

"The Blacktron Alienator, set 6876 is widely regarded as the best LEGO space set ever."

so that wasn't LL928, back then?

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By in Venezuela,

Happy Birthday, nice work!!!

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By in United States,

Happy birthday, Brickset database! I personally would love to see an article about the early history of Lego websites!

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By in United States,

Happy Birthday Brickset and good job Huw.

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By in United States,

This site has grown so much. Congrats on making it this far and thanks for helping us with everything we've needed to know.

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By in United States,

Congratulations! I had no idea this had been around so long, quite an achievement!

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By in United States,

Thanks for all the work you have put in throughout all of the years Huw!

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By in Sweden,

Wow! 20 years

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By in United Kingdom,

Congratulations Huw and happy birthday brickset.

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By in Puerto Rico,

Love this time travel.

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By in Sweden,

And don´t forget wonderful Peeron! It still exists but hasn´t been updated for quite a few years.
I think it started 1998...Inventory lists, part pictures - the lot. And very easy to use! (Add your sets, lose parts, take away lost parts and so on...)
Used to send lots of part pictures and inventories to them about 15 years ago.

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By in United States,

@ Huw, I love those AirRaiders sets! You should totally continue adding to the theme. Those visio 2d mocs where cool too. Will those be online for the foreseeable future, or is this a temporary thing?

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By in United States,

Happy Birthday! 1997 was during my LEGO dark ages, so unfortunately I didn't look for LEGO news online back then. Thanks for this look into the past, Huw!

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ The domain Peeron.com was registered in 2000 as far as I can tell, but I suspect like me, Dan and Jennifer Boger ran the site at another URL beforehand. However, I can find no reference to it in the Lugnet forums. Another thing to investigate for a future series of articles...

^^ I'll leave it online for the foreseeable future.

@davee123, nice find! I didn't know about that one. alt.toys.lego.was before my time! There's definitely enough material for a future article and I think you will be a useful resource :)

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By in United Kingdom,

Congratulations Huw. Quite a milestone and you should be very proud of what you've achieved since those early pioneering days. :-)

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By in Norway,

Happy birthday! I love Brickset, it makes Lego even more fun :)

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By in New Zealand,

Happy Birthday Brickset. This site is by-far the easiest LEGO website to navigate through. Well done Huw.

The whole idea of dial-up internet would test the patience of many people these days. There is probably a lot of people who don't know where 'dial' comes from.

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By in United States,

Brickset and I are the exact same age. Happy Birthday to us!

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By in France,

here's to another 20 years and then some. (Hopefully my wallet can survive that long as well..)

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By in United States,

I love doing the time warp! This is great information.

Thank you for sharing this!

Editing to add in a wonderful birthday wishes and 40048-1 for all!

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By in United States,

Congratulations! I do hope you change the part categories to how they were before, though.

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By in United States,

I first read the sentence as "find out what other LEGO fans looked like in 1997."

and I thought, well, I for one, have less hair.

;)

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By in United States,

YAY! Happy birthday! *singing* *crying with joy*
I love this site!

...ok, actually I was only here for the cake...

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By in United Kingdom,

Happy 20th birthday Brickset database!

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By in United States,

Happy B-day??! You make my love of Lego so much more exciting

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By in United States,

Huw: THANK YOU for all that you do at Brickset! This has been an amazing resource for me for the past few years since I came across this site.

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By in United States,

Happy Birthday Brickset! Thank you so much Brickset team for all you guys do! I visit this website everyday and it has made me even more passionate for my Lego addiction :D

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By in United States,

Happy birthday brickset, wow has it come a long way

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By in United States,

Do you still have as much love for Alienator and Blacktron 1?

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By in Australia,

Haha, this is well before my time...

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By in United States,

I started Adequate.com Lego Maniac's Guide in 1996. It's still running, but hasn't been updated in over a decade.
http://adequate.com/lego/

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By in Thailand,

Happy birthday ja...

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By in United States,

Happy Brick Day Brickset!!! Once you were just a single stud...now you're a Millenium Falcon UCS set mint in box! Congratulations to the best Lego website PERIOD!

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By in Poland,

Happy Birthday, my daily Lego fix ;-)

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By in United States,

Thank you for twenty years of providing the greatest reference service to the entire world's LEGO fan population, for free. I don't wear a hat, but I'll tip a part 4485 to ya.

I first got online on my own around 1992 and made my first ISP.com/~username homepage in '95, but didn't exit my first LEGO dark age until 2000 https://www.flickr.com/photos/thejang/3930883816/in/album-72157622277029299/ . Shortly after that, my second dark age began. My eyes weren't opened to Brickset until around 2011, but even in the brief time since then, SO much functionality has been added, it's humbling.

I've run a site dedicated to another hobby continually since 2000, myself, and I've been through the stresses of DDoS attacks, wild swings of user opinion, abrupt hosting service closureS, adversarial run-ins with vendors & manufacturers, hair-tearing technical glitches, the full gamut. My empathy is strong and respect for the perseverance & effort that's gone into Brickset is very, very high.

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By in United Kingdom,

(Join in.. you all know the tune):

Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday dear Brickset Database,
Happy Birthday to you!

Huw:
Thanks for all the work you do for us
- and after all these years, have you managed to complete your "wants list":
http://archive.brickset.com/wantslist.html

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By in United Kingdom,

Thank you everyone for your kind words. It's such feedback that has kept me going for 20 years: without appreciative users there'd be no point running it, after all...

^ I think my collecting priorities have changed since then!

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By in Australia,

Happy birthday Brickset! :D
It's really interesting being able to look back at the Lego world of 1997, a time when I wasn't even born yet!
Thanks for all the fun times and interesting information, and all the fantastic work you put in daily. Here's to another 20 years :)

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By in United States,

Happy Birthday Brickset! This was an awesome look at your beginnings. This site and the people that run it are truely awesome and this is by far the best Lego fan site ever!

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By in United States,

Happy birthday Brickset! Special thanks to Huw and thanks to all who have worked to make Brickset the best Lego fan website there is! Since I discovered this site my work days have pleasantly passed by much faster, my production is way down, but that's water under the bridge:)

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By in Denmark,

Congrats!

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By in France,

Joyeux anniversaire Brickset!!!!!!!
To Huw and all the contributors, don't change a thing (or only to make it better). An immense thankyou to you all.

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By in United States,

Fibblesnork--I used that for many years! As a Space fan, it had everything I needed. Well maybe it lacked some stuff I didn't realize I needed... ;)

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By in Canada,

The site, as is, is awesome, but it was a lot of fun to go back and see what it was like (just as I was entering my Dark Ages).

I even tried to sign the guest book. Too bad it doesn't link anywhere anymore.

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By in United States,

I'd be up for contributing to future articles on the early days. I was primarily a lurker back then, but it's a huge topic in my mind. Someone mentioned Eric Brok's LEGO On My Mind already - that one stands out to me as one where I learned some of the techniques I use fairly often. I've started digging around the Internet Archive for captures of Eric's site (seemingly no one capture has all the graphics, but most have a few...) with an eye on trying to reconstruct it some day. People take for granted that "the Internet is forever", but it's surprising how much simply isn't available anymore. Thanks for posting archive.brickset.com - I figure these sorts of reconstructed pages are the best way to appreciate the classic sites (it's certainly safer than relying on outside caches and archives to capture AFOL sites).

Another page that was a huge influence on me as a KFOL is Dan Jezek's Links Page. The earlier version I was most familiar with may be lost to history, but I've dug up a 2001 version: https://web.archive.org/web/20010204132300/www.aloha.net/~danjezek/lego_links_main.html

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By in United Kingdom,

I don't recall ever looking at that page back in the day but it's very interesting; thank you for posting.

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By in Venezuela,

This looked like a nice time to be a fan. Boring me only had non-member LEGO Universe for its last months. Then it was lego.com at full swing, with the MLN I never got past level 2, the Message Boards that I saw change, abandoned, then came back into after 3 years to find they were gone five days before, and the themes we'll never, ever, see again (old Batman, SpongeBob, that City/Racers/Agents crossover game, Alien Conquest, Monster Fighters...). Now what does my young brother have? Five games because Unity is dead, and a lot of pictures to look at...

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