Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Retro Shanghai: Scofflaw Pop Culture Nano Blocks

Mario-HLINWe've written about Nano Blocks before. A Lego clone of sorts, but at a fraction of the size. Nano Blocks aren't compatible with Lego, and theyr'e really not meant to be. These sets are intended less for the toy aisle, and more for collector and hobby shops. Their tiny size means you can get greater detail in a smaller space. Also the bricks are very plain - no specialized giant single bricks here... just the simple elements so you can build your blocky dreams.

Ohio Art (that's right... the Etch-A-Sketch people) have been importing Nano Blocks for a few years now, concentrating mostly on architecture sets or miniature models of animals and musical instruments. I knew that Nano Blocks are a big deal in Japan and China, but until I found these sets in Shanghai I had no idea how many more models are out there. NanoBlocks+laptopI discovered these models in the bin of a street vendor and from several other sellers in an open market. These pop culture icons in brick form are very cool... very, very cool. They are also far from licensed. The Loz Diamond Blocks I found are identical to Nano Blocks, and clearly without fear of reprisal from Hasbro, Nintendo, Apple (yes there was a Steve Jobs model), and many more intellectual property owners. Misc-nano-blocksBecause the bricks are so tiny, they are a bit tough to handle. Also the creators of the instruction leaflets could do with a few more sessions looking at how Lego does it. When I built Mario, several steps assumed that we weren't living in a physical world. I had to hold parts in mid air until 2 steps later when the connecting pieces finally came into play.

These really aren't for kids as the pieces don't snap together like Lego (I suspect you'd never get them apart again). They're models to put on a shelf rather than toys for play. I had a lot of fun putting these models together, even though it was a bit fiddly dealing with these microscopic pieces. Too bad that the American distributors can't offer these pop culture sets here in the states. Though I'm sure the links below can help you find what you're looking for... (whistling to myself...)

Help Retro Thing when you pick up pop culture Nano Blocks


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