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Lego Technic 1995

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The Pneumatic Crane Truck

1995 EU Technic catalog

9 new sets, including several vehicles, a helicopter, and several pieces of construction equipment, representing virtually all of the typical Technic subjects. were released. Starting in 1995 Lego changed their set numbering, Technic sets were assigned new 82xx or 84xx set numbers. The smaller sets were given 8200 numbers and marketed under the term "Tech Play" and the larger "Tech Build" sets were given 8400 series numbers.

Several new elements were introduced, included the knob, axle sleeve, the first of the compound cross axles, a new beveled gear design and 2 new gearbox assemblies.

US patent 5,890,943

The gear box:
Perhaps as a reaction to the increasing complexity of Technic sets, Lego designers developed a simplified gearbox that would allow children to more easily create gear assemblies. The result, shown the 1995 patent application, was 2 different gearbox casings. The casings had guide grooves that would allow various pinion, worm or bevel gears to be simply dropped in place. These gears were then held in position with cross axles placed through holes on their sides. This allowed for easy construction of rather compact gear assemblies.

These gear boxes were used in most medium and large 1995 sets and would be widely used in later sets. variants of the basic design would form the basis of the late 1990's robots.

8460 Pneumatic Crane Truck:
The 3rd and perhaps definitive Technic crane. The Pneumatic Crane Truck was the most complex Technic crane to date. It featured a rotatable boom and superstructure on a technic turntable. The boom could be raised or lowered via 2 opposed pneumatic cylinders and could be extended by a rack mechanism. The model also had 4 outriggers controlled via a gear assembly as well as front wheel steering. The overall design, including the cab, boom and superstructure came remarkably close to the appearance of the prototype.

This model was so highly regarded that Lego rereleased it in 2002.

8485 Control Center II

8485 Control Center II:
The 2nd Control Center set. This set included an updated Control Center that had a provision for a 9V adaptor. The set included instructions for 3 models, most notably a helicopter landing pad and a mechanical dinosaur. Both of these models were rather complex and utilized the 3-motor programmability of the Control Center much better than the original set. This signaled the beginning of many new electronic elements that would appear over the next 5 years.

1995 sets:
8210 Nitro Bike GTX
8225 Road Rally V
8235 Front End Loader
8280 Fire Engine
8412 Nighthawk
8422 Circuit Shock Racer
8440 Formula Flash
8460 Pneumatic Crane Truck
8485 Control Center II

By Isodomus

Lego 9398

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by Super User

Lego 8448

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by Super User

Lego 8070

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by Super User

Lego 8258

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by Super User

Lego Technic 1996

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The Space Shuttle

1996 EU Technic catalog

10 new sets, the most ever for the theme, were released. These included several small sets, such as the 8207 Dune Duster, as well as several rather large sets, including the 8283 3-in-1 Car, the 1300 piece Space Shuttle.

As was typical in the mid 90's a number of new elements were released, including several fiber optic elements, transmission elements, and perhaps most importantly the studless beam.

The Modul system

The Modul System:
In an effort to increase the playability of Technic sets Lego introduced the Modul system. This allowed children to build simple modules that snapped together using 2 x 4 blocks with connectors and technic beams to create the finished model. For example the 8244 Convertibles included instructions for 9 different modules that could then be combined into a series of vehicles and aircraft. Over the next several years this construction method would become increasingly common. It was one of the first attempts to change the focus of the theme from construction to play.

US patent D374,465

The rounded beam:
The rounded, studless beam, was designed as an alternative to the traditional Technic beam. It consisted of a square body with connector holes and cross axle holes at either end. In many ways this was a radical departure from existing Lego elements. It had no studs, so other elements had to be attached with connectors or cross axles. It also had a different aspect ratio, 1:1 rather than the standard 6:5.

Initially it was used with traditional Technic beams in Technic models, but over the next several years it would become increasingly used on it own, resulting in a completely new system, and the next generation of model construction.

US patent 5,733,167

Fiber Optics:
The fiber optic system, an addition to the 9V electrics, was designed to simulate the flow of energy, such as the wires of an engine. The patent shows a light unit consisting of a housing with slits, containing a rotatable disc with an LED on one side and metallic conductor segments on the other. When the disc was spun, collector shoes would contact the conductors and alternately light the LED when it passed by the slits. Transparent fiber optic cables could be connected to the slits and would light up in sequence. Although mostly decorative, the fiber optic system was nevertheless an interesting idea and even found use in several non-Technic sets of the late 90's.

8480 Space Shuttle

8480 Space Shuttle:
The 8480 Space Shuttle is perhaps the only set as complicated as the 8880 Super Car and may be even more difficult to construct. The set consisted of 4 different motorized functions all controlled through an ingenious application of the Technic transmission. A single motor could open the cargo bay doors, allow 2-axis control of the Canadian arm and light the fiber optics of the rear engine. Additionally a small satellite had panels that retract/expand by use of a micromotor. Additionally the ailerons were controlled via a gear mechanism and the landing gear was controlled through a novel mechanism using a shock absorber to lock the wheels in place. In addition to the use of hinges the model used quite a few sloped bricks to model the nose, creating a highly realistic set.

This model had as much playability as any Technic set to date, but. like the Super Car, it was probably too difficult for children to assemble. It would be the last Technic set of this complexity, and, along with the 8880 Super Car, stands as the high point of Technic set design.

1996 sets:

8207 Dune Duster
8223 Hydrofoil 7
8230 Coastal Cop Buggy
8244 Convert-ables
8286 3-in-1 Car
8408 Desert Ranger
8425 Black Hawk
8443 Pneumatic Log Loader
8456 Fiber Optic Multi Set
8480 Space Shuttle

By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1997

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

Code Pilot

1997 EU Technic catalog

15 new sets were released. These included several small sets, such as the 8205 Bungee Blaster and 8215 Gyrocopter, several medium sets, such as the 8250 Search Sub, and the large Bar Code Truck.

There were quite a few new elements released, including additions to older systems, such as a slip gear, a pneumatic air tank and new high torque 9V motor, as well as many elements designed for new systems, such as the angle connectors and bar code reader.

2 different Technics:
The sets of 1997 also mark the beginning of Technic into 2 different concepts. Small, easy to build and highly modular sets with high play value but limited functionality, and large, realistic and increasingly electronically controlled sets. This division would greatly widen over the next few years.

US patent D384,986, et al

The angle connectors:
The angle connectors, a modification of the earlier axle extender, were sleeves with cross axle holes in one or both ends and a connector peg hole in the center. The series, numbered 1-6, allowed 2 cross axles to be connected at any angle from 90 to 180 deg in 22.5 deg increments. The result was a functional replacement for the old toothed connectors and plates, albeit much stronger and more widely useful. Although one early design patent shows a 4-way connector, this element was never produced.

These new element marked the end of the toothed elements and over the next few years many of them would be replaced with non-toothed equivalents.

US patent 5,962,839

Code Pilot:
The bar code reader, marketed as the Code Pilot, was the first of many highly integrated microprocessor controlled systems that would be introduced over the next few years. The device consisted of a housing with an LED reader, several buttons, a speaker and 2 9V electrical connections, one serving as an input and another as a output. Inside was a battery holder and PCB with a Zilog 2998 microprocessor, The device could read and store bar codes which could then be executed by the reader, causing it to perform various actions.

The Code Pilot could accept input 2 ways: by using the LED to read a barcode or timing wheel, or by using a sensor, such as a touch sensor, attached to the input port. It also had 2 ways to output: by tones from the speaker or by electrical output to the output port. additionally, a number of programs, tones and synthesized sounds were stored in ROM.

The Code Pilot represented a major technological jump from the Control Center, but was still rather limited. Almost as soon as it was released it was seen as a stop gap device before the release of the RCX. It was only available in the 8479 Bar Code Multi Set.

8205 Bungee Blaster

8205 Bungee Blaster:
The 8205 Bungee Blaster was the smallest set to date and a good indicator of the new, small sets designed with play value as the primary goal. The set built a small dragster that included an elastic cord that was wound on a spool connected by pinion gears to the rear axle. By pulling the model backwards the cord would wind on the spool, then unwind when let go. A Technic version of the rubber band car. The same set was also marketed in red as the promotional 2129, allowing children to buy both and race them. Overall, a surprisingly fun, well designed small set.

1997 sets:

2129 Bungee Blaster (red)
8205 Bungee Blaster (yellow)
8215 Gyro Copter
8216 Turbo 1
8222 VTOL
8229 Tread Trekker
8232 Chopper Force
8250 Search Sub (8299 Search Sub)
8277 Giant Model Set
8299 Search Sub (8250 Search Sub)
8414 Mountain Rambler
8437 Future Car
8459 Pneumatic Front-end Loader
8479 Bar Code Multi Set
8735 Technic Motor

By Isodomus


Lego Technic 1998

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen


1998 EU Technic catalog

No less than 25 new sets were released. These included quite a few small sets including a Shell promotional set and a series of 6 "micro" sets that were available only in Europe, several medium sets, such as the 8417 Mag Wheel Master and large, electronic sets such as the 8483 Cybermaster and 9719 Mindstorms set.

There were quite a few new elements released, including the corrugated tubes, new low profile tires, the spring loaded cannon and projectile, as well as the Cybermaster and Mindstorms electronics.

Cyber Slam

Cyber Slam:
A new theme, marketed as Cyber Slam in North America or Competition in Europe, was the first Technic theme since the Arctic Action Sets more than a decade ago. The new theme involved robot-like models that could fight each other, typically with spring loaded projectiles that would strike an opposing target and cause an action figure to spring off the model. The initial series consisted of 4 sets with 2 more released in 1999. The theme is an example of the move away from construction based to activity based sets.

Mindstorms RIS 1.0

1998 also saw the release of Mindstorms, the first fully programmable Lego sets. The history of Mindstorms begins in 1989 when Lego began to fund a chair for learning research at the MIT Media Lab. One of these projects was a programmable interface for Lego robots - the Programmable Brick. Lego took much of this technology and developed a commercial product, the RCX.

The 9719 Robotic Invention System, the first Mindstorms set, was released in the Fall of 1998, Although they were clearly Technic sets, Mindstorms was marketed as a separate product line and given 97xx series set numbers. The RIS was soon followed by 2 expansion sets. Lego underestimated demand and the initial 80,000 sets were sold out well before Christmas.

US patent 6,461,215

The corrugated tube:
The corrugated tube was a flexible tube molded out of soft plastic with a uniformly grooved cross section and perpendicularly cut ends. The inside diameter of the tube allowed a connector peg, cross axle or Lego stud or similarly shaped element to snugly fit by friction. This allowed the tube to be connected at both ends and assume various shapes, including curves. Also because the tubes were uniform it was relatively easy to cut them to the desired length.

This element is a good example of the new decorative elements and, along with the flexible cross axles released in 1999, represent a new class of elements that could mimic the outline of a curve. They would both be widely used in Technic construction.

The RCX in situ

The RCX:
The programmable interface, marketed as the RCX, was easily the most complicated device that Lego had ever produced. It consisted of a housing with an LCD panel, several buttons, a speaker and 6 9V electrical connections, 3 serving as inputs and 3 serving as outputs. Inside was a battery holder and PCB with an Hitachi H8 microprocessor and 32K of RAM, The device could accept information from sensors attached to the inputs and execute programs created by the user, causing it to perform various actions.

The programming for the RCX was done on a computer using an updated graphical version of Lego's Logo programming language. These programs were then downloaded to the RCX by an IR transmitter and stored in RAM on the RCX.

The RCX put Lego in the unusual position of being a computer hardware and software developer, so when the hobbyists reverse engineered the electronics and published software tools, Lego wisely released the SDK's. It was this step, perhaps more than any other, that resulted in a successful product line

9719 Robotic Invention System:
The first of the Mindstorms sets, the 9719 Robotic Invention System v1.0, included the RCX, the IR transmitter, 2 motors, 2 touch sensors, a light sensor as well as a number of conducting leads, even a PC serial interface cable. The manual, called a 'Constructopedia' included typical construction techniques and the software included several simple projects.

In many ways the RIS was a return to the Universal sets of the 1970's, rather then present elaborate models the set offered only partial models and suggestions. It was up to the user to design and build their own models.

1998 sets

2544 Micro Bike
2854 Bungee Chopper (magenta)
3038 Spider Slayers (8266 Spider Slayers)
3054 Motorcycle
8202 Bungee Chopper (teal)
8203 Rover Discovery
8204 Sky Flier 1
8208 Custom Cruiser
8209 Future F1
8213 Spy Runner
8217 The Wasp
8218 Trike Tourer
8219 Go-Cart
8226 Mud Masher
8233 Blue thunder vs the Stinger (8239 Cyber Challenge)
8248 Forklift
8245 Robots revenge
8257 Cyber Strikers
8266 Spider Slayers (3038 Spider Slayers)
8417 Mag Wheel Master
8428 Turbo Command
8462 Tow Truck
8483 Cybermaster
9719 Mindstorms Robotic Invention System
9730 RoboSports Expansion Set
9732 Extreme Creatures Expansion Set

By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1999

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by aefferen

The Rise of the Robots

1999 NA Technic catalog

29 new sets were released, a number only exceeded in 2000. The new assortment included several small promotional sets, 9 Throwbot sets, 3 Mindstorm sets as well as several traditional Technic sets, including a new auto chassis, the 8480 Super Street Sensation. The theme received a new, more modern logo and box design starting in the middle of the year.

In addition to a completely new series of Throwbot elements other new pieces included the flexible cross axles, fairing panels, a new pneumatic cylinder as well as several new Mindstorms electronics. For the most part the new elements tended to be either decorative or electronic, mirroring the widening division in the theme.

The Throwbots:
The Throwbots, called Slizer in Europe, represent not only a completely new type of construction as but a new philosophy by Lego as well. The small sets, typically containing 30-50 pieces, were simple to build and had only 2 functions: To throw a spinning disc from a flexible arm and fold up via a series of gears. The sets contained only a few traditional Technic elements, such as cross axles and pinion gears, most of the model was constructed using new, decorative elements.

The sets were the first attempt by Lego to create a true action figure where play, not construction, was the key to the toy. The sets were also marketed with randomly packaged discs, encouraging children to collect all of them. Clearly a response to the popularity of toys such as Nintendo's Pokêmon. The Throwbots represent the most extreme example of the growing division in Technic.

Lego Star Wars

The Lucasfilm License:
In yet another philosophical leap, Lego entered into it's first ever license agreement. This agreement with Lucasfilm for the rights to market construction toys based on the Star Wars movies would last until 2007 and reportedly cost Lego upward of 20 million USD. Lego began producing sets that ran across all of their current product offerings. In 1999 the first Star Wars Mindstorms set, the 9748 Droid Development Kit, was released. This would be followed by many more Technic sets in the coming years.

US patent D423,061

The Throwbot arm:
There was an entirely new class of elements designed for the Throwbots. These elements were highly detailed but also highly figural and less generic than elements to date. The result was an element designed for a specific function.

The Throwbot arm is a good representation of this new design. The arm consisted of a 3-flanged end that could hold a disc and on end and a new large ball joint connector at the other. A molded spring in the center allowed the arm to flex and when sprung back to its original position, release the disc by inertia. The amount of detail molded into the element made it difficult to use for any other purpose.

These new figural elements would form the basis of future robot type figures such as the Roboriders and, finally, Bionicle.

1999 EU catalog

8448 Super Street Sensation:
The 5th auto chassis. Although not a technically complex as its predecessor, the 8448, nevertheless included 4 wheel independent suspension, front wheel rack and pinion steering, a 5-speed transmission with a reverse gear and an 8 cylinder engine that could be mounted either in front or back. Several different body styles could be built with one featuring pneumatically dampened gull wing doors.

What the 8448 really represented was a styling exercise. Lego sponsored a design project at Coventry University and used those ideas in creating the model. They used rounded beams and new fairing panels to suggest body panels and the new flexible cross axles and corrugated tubes to create a curves that were simply not possible with older construction techniques. The result was by far the most realistic looking of the auto chassis.

This use of rounded beams, fairing panels and flexible elements for the superstructure would become typical for 4th generation models. The designs, however, were never quite as successful as they were with the 8448.

1999 sets:

1257 Tricycle (3000 Trike Buggy)
1258 Buggy (3001 Propeller Buggy)
1259 Motorbike (1268 Bike Blaster, 3003 Motorbike)
1260 Car (3005 Piston Car)
8246 Hydro Racer
8247 Road Rebel
8251 Sonic Cycle
8252 Beach Buster
8253 Fire Helicopter
8255 Rescue Motorbike
8268 Scorpion Attack
8269 Cyber Stinger
8444 Air Enforcer
8445 Indy Storm
8446 Crane Truck
8448 Super Street Sensation
8450 Cybermaster Mission
8500 Torch
8501 Ski
8502 Turbo
8503 Scuba
8504 Jet
8505 Amazon
8506 Granite
8507 Electro
8520 Millennia
9735 Robotics Discovery Set
9747 Mindstorms Robotics Invention System v1.5
9748 Droid Development Kit

By Isodomus

Lego Technic 1978

On 01 Jan 1970   Written by Super User

In Europe, 2 new models, a small go-cart and a large crane, as well as a new supplementary set were released. The theme was finally released in the US under the name "Expert Builder" and were given 900 series set numbers. The initial release included 4 models, the motor set and a supplementary set. This difference between US and European availability has become standard Lego marketing practice, in fact there has never been a year with a common retail Technic assortment.

In addition to the new 16t gear, chain links and gear reducing blocks were introduced in set 872. The blocks connected to the 4.5 V motor and allowed for a 1:20 gear reduction in a much smaller space than would be required with Technic gears.

1978 US ad