Please don’t get me wrong with the title here: I can find stickers to be as irritating as the next person. However, after looking at Stephanie’s House last week, I came to realise that some LEGO elements are used in a recurring fashion, but that the final appearance and effect is dependent on the labels used.
On this occasion, I am specifically thinking of the humble laptop computer. Design number 18659. This piece is currently available in two colours: black and medium lilac. It appeared in black in 2010, and medium lilac in 2016.
It appears simple enough: Slightly less than 3×4 studs in area when open, there are no clear system connections. No studs, no tubes, no clear handle. However, when closed, there is an indentation in the upper and lower parts of the laptop that accepts a clip type attacment such as a minifigure hand. Actually, when open, a lip along the bottom section allows a clip connection there as well.
Now, these laptops appear simple enough. But they are a little plain. I can see the benefit of only having one part, without printing it. From the manufacturing point of view: every new element – a part in a new colour – needs a new bin in the warehouse for storage. Once you go the next step, and print on that part, each printed design has a new element ID, and therefore requires a new place to store it too. For the MOC Builder, the role of this element is not locked in: It’s a little hard to pretend that a part printed with decorative bows is, in fact, a vital tool in the war against crime!The medium lilac laptop (Element ID 6141902) appears in three distinct sets, all in the Friends theme: 41314 Stephanie’s House, as discussed already; 41115 Emma’s Creative Workshop and 41116 Olivia’s Exploration Car. Each set has a new sticker added to the sheet, which can (if you wish) be attached to the laptop present in the set, and allow you to give it an appearance of functionality.
Emma’s computer is focussed on different colours for clothing; Olivia is using her computer to help look into the night sky, and while this is going on, Stephanie is booking a holiday online. I love the way that the sticker acts like a snoop through the browser history in order to gain an insight into the mind of the computer’s owner…
But what about the black version(Element ID 6087083)? This was introduced in 2010, and has appeared in eleven sets. Have there been labels to provide screen content over this time?
Going back to 2015, Olivia had a black notebook, with different stellar images appearing on screen. It is so nice to see that she had the chance to upgrade since then: technology moves fast. This was included with the Heartlake Private Jet(41100), and another with the Heartlake Food Market (41108). But it has not just been limited to Friends! The laptop also featured in the Ultra Agents Mission HQ(70165), with some sensitive data ready to be stolen!
This black laptop also appears without a screen label, in the Heartlake Shopping Mall (41058), the Jungle Tree Sanctuary (41059), Heartlake High (41005), Andrea’s Bedroom (41009), CITY Airport VIP Service (60102) and several educational boxes of minifigures (9348, 45022).
An earlier version of the laptop (Design ID 62698) was produced in 2008. The differences between this and the later model are subtle, as you can see later. Appearing initially in black, it graced the Agents theme (Turbocar Chase 8634; Mobile Command Centre 8635), Alien Conquest (Eath Defence HQ 7066) and Power Miners (Crystal Sweeper 8961). Interestingly, when it appeared in 2012 (Emma’s Fashion Design Studio 3936 and the friends polybag ‘Desk’ 30102), there were no stickers used on the laptop. However, neither of these sets uses any stickers. A dark stone grey version of this laptop appeared with the series seven collectable minifigure ‘Computer Programmer.’ It remains a unique appearance to this day.
Without the label, the laptop is a nice generic laptop. Like our own computers, the appearance can be customised to suit its user, or uses!
As you can see, the use of stickers transforms the context of the computer from the world of Agents or Aliens to Heartlake City, for retail or personal use! If you are using this element in the context of a MOC, it is useful to not have your machine defined as a spy buster or retail management system. If you using these sets in theme based play, then the display on the screen can make a huge difference to the way in which it might be interpreted. Having the choice to use them as you wish is part of the play. I find this amount of choice, for this type of element appealing.
I do not want to come across as the adhesive label’s biggest fan. I do like small printed pieces. A lot. There are a couple of issues that I have with a lot of the stickers in use today: getting them straight is a major bug bear. Even with the use of tweezers and a toothpick, come of the larger stickers may be hard to set up straight. The other problem I have had in the past is with the changes in the stickers over time, after they have been applied. Some that we have that have been in place for around ten years are peeling and cracking: as if they have turned into water slide decals that have not been appropriately applied over this time. They peel up at the edges, and any attempt to make them fit back on the side part they are trying to escape from is rewarded by the stickers crubling into dust. I can only hope that this is an ongoing subject for research and revelopment at the LEGO Labs. We all look forward to the days when a sticker can be stuck down and remain stuck down, and looking good! Forever.