I found, neatly tucked between the green runway baseplates of my old 6392 Airport, the instruction booklet for the 1978 released 375 Castle – also known as the yellow castle. Apparently I kept the instructions in a binder once, as I have punched the requisite holes through it. This was not only my first castle, it was the first true LEGO Castle model ever (not counting the 1970 promotional 00-1 Weetabix Castle), and one of the oldest models in my own childhood LEGO collection. It was a thing of beauty, brick-built with both front and back entrances, opening up four-ways using eight hinges. I thought it might be interesting to compare this instruction booklet of the first LEGO castle to that of the latest big LEGO castle released in 2010, (my son’s) 7946 King’s Castle.
The differences are striking. While the original yellow castle was completely brick-built with a whopping 767 quite regular bricks (even the horses were brick-built), the new castle comprises of many large wall (and horse) pieces – although its detail and larger size means the brick count at 933 still exceeds the old version. One would perhaps expect that a large brick-built model would have a big manual, but no, the old yellow castle instruction booklet has only twenty pages – including the covers. Single pictures in the instructions literally indicate the places of dozens of bricks, so you have to really pay attention. I do remember the yellow castle being quite hard to build.
In comparison, the manual for the 7946 King’s Castle is huge. With only 22% more pieces, in total its (three) instruction booklets have 900% more pages: 200, to be exact. That amounts to only circa 5 bricks/page for the new castle and an immense 38 bricks/page for the old one. The new pages are physically larger too. Individual instruction steps are a lot shorter nowadays, thanks to advances in computer and printing technologies I’m sure. Not only that, the new castle (like many current LEGO models) comes divided into sub-models – eight in this case – that are separated into their own plastic bags for easier building. The old castle made no such concessions, all you got was a giant pile of bricks (bagged sure, but without any helpful order) and twenty pages of rough hints on what to do with them.
Not that we didn’t know it already, but clearly we who grew up in the 1980s were a smarter bunch than the kids of today. The yellow castle came with an age-recommendation of six years and up, while the new castle is significantly easier to build, yet is labelled 7-14…
P.S. For comparison, the target of my current LEGO project, the 1984 released 6080 King’s Castle had the least pieces of the three – 664 pieces (unlike the yellow castle, it used special wall pieces) – and the instruction booklet was 24 pages, so around 28 bricks/page.