- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 57
The 9V Electric System 1990 EU Technic catalog7 new sets were released, including no less than 3 sets featuring the new 9V electric system. The 8064 Motorized set replaced the 8054 set after only 1 year. 3 of the new model sets featured the new engine elements and were categorized, at least in some of the catalogs, as the 'Rally' sub-theme.The 9V electrics:The new 9V electric system represented the first change in Lego's electric elements since the introduction of the 4.5V system in 1966 or the 12V train system in 1969. The system replaced every previous electric element with a new design. Although originally released in the Technic theme, Lego soon standardized their entire product range to this new 9V system. US patent 4,743,202The conducting plate:For some time Lego had been working on a building element that could be attached in the typical fashion and still conduct current, yet not be easily short-circuited. Several patents from this time described a typical Lego plate with 2 isolated metal inserts that were exposed underneath as well as on top through cutouts in the sides of the studs. The exposed metal on the studs was arranged in a mirror image on either side of the plate so that when 2 plates were attached they could conduct current but could not be short-circuited. In production the plates had a simplified metal insert that allowed easier connections. US patent D314,993The engine cylinder: A series of new highly-specialized engine elements was also released in 1990. This new system included a cylinder block, pistons, piston rods and crankshaft elements. The result was much more realistic and properly scaled engines and represented another addition to a now rapidly growing collection of highly specific vehicle elements. US patent 4,461,116The friction connector: Lego would often change the design of elements and the new friction connector was a prominent example. The new connector had slits in the middle and at both ends, making it easier to remove than the original. The patent shows an elastic cylindrical plug with an annular central collar. When the connector was inserted into a beam hole the center slit would compress and the ends of the connector would expand, causing a relatively permanent connection. It is interesting to note that the new friction connector was produced 8 years after the original patent was filed in 1982. The Control Center 8094 Control Center: Dacta, the educational division of Lego, had been marketing several computer-controlled devices since the mid 1980s, but the 8094 Control Center was the first retail computerized Lego set.
The Control Center had 3 9V outputs for 3 motors. 1 motor was directly controlled by 2 buttons that ran the it foreword or backward. The other 2 motors were controlled simultaneously by a 4-position Control pad that had 8 different combinations, resulting in 2-axis control. 2 separate series of keystroke sequences could be recorded then played back as a 'program'.
The 8094 set included instructions for several models, including a programmable plotter and 3-axis robotic arm.
Some major innovations were introduced to the Technic line in 1990 contained within the 6 new sets. A small helicopter set was released, one of the smallest sets to date, featuring rotating main and tail rotors. A new universal set contained the new 9V motor system and built 4 different motorized models. The Control Center was a totally new kind of universal set. Rather than a standard battery box, the Control Center system was used which could control up to 3 motors simultaneously (the set came with 2 motors). It could also record and play back commands. The 4 models constructed from this set are different than anything else in Technic before or since. Finally, there were 3 sets in a new "Rally" series. A small 6 wheeled car featured 4 wheel steering. A buggy featured the new engine system and rear suspension. The large truck featured rack and pinion steering and a V-6 engine.
The Control Center and the 9V motor system were major upgrades. While the motor has changed a few times over the years, the battery box stayed in circulation for over a decade. The new engine system is still in use today. It contains cylinder blocks, pistons, connecting rods, and crankshaft elements.
9V Electric System
1990 saw the release of a brand new motor system. The old 4.5V motor and battery box were replaced with new 9V versions.
- The new battery box held 6 AA (LR6) size batteries (1.5V) in series and was 4x14 studs in area. There was a single electrical output connection. A rocker switch controlled polarity to run the motor either forwards of backwards. This is a very sturdy motor box although if you ever get corrosion inside from the batteries it will take you a very long time to rebuild it.
- The new 9V motor was 4x5 studs in area with a single axle output. Typically a small toothed bushing was used as a pulley on this output. This is a high speed motor which requires significant gear reduction to be used for any useful function.
- A new blue belt was typically used as the main drive system from the motor. Use of a belt allowed the motor to slip rather than stall if too much torque was applied. Unlike the old rubber bands, this belt was not made from rubber but some other type of elastomer which does not degrade over time when installed under tension. There was also a smaller white belt.
- The new electrical wires (not shown) used a 2x2 plate with 4 contacts. This connector was specifically designed to make sure that it could never be shorted. The polarity of the motor could be reversed by rotating the connector 90 degrees.
Modified Friction Pin
The new black friction pin looked very similar to the old. The major difference is that a longitudinal slot was added which makes the pin compress slightly when installed. This makes it much easier to remove than the old variety. This part would become a staple of Technic construction up to the present day. There are probably more of this part in Technic sets than any other.
A new turntable was introduced as a vast improvement over the old 4x4 circular variety. It was a large diameter and featured both an internal (24 tooth) and external (56 tooth) ring gear so it could be driven by gear systems on the model. The internal ring gear was attached to the lower half of the turntable, and the external ring gear to the upper. The internal ring gear was the same size as a 24 tooth spur which fit perfectly inside. With 6 pin holes on the top and the bottom, it could support significant weight. It was used on many of the larger sets for many years.
While the old reciprocating engines had a unique 2x2 piston part, the rest of the engine was made with standard parts. That changed in 1990 with the introduction of a whole new engine system comprised of parts designed to work together. This system would be used on a wide variety of sets for decades.
- A 2x2 cylinder block featured a round bore and simulated cooling fins on the exterior Two pin holes on either end were used to mount it.
- A round piston fit snugly inside the bore of the cylinder and had a spherical ball receptacle on the lower end.
- The connecting rod has a ball joint at the top and a hole at the bottom. The rod was offset 1/2 stud width so that opposing pistons could be aligned in the same plane, something which was not possible with the old engines.
- A crankshaft end piece had an axle on one end and an axle recess offset 1/2 stud on the other end. This allowed a crankshaft to be constructed with a 1 stud stroke.
- A central crankshaft piece had an axle recess on either end offset one stud with. It was used for engines with more than two cylinders requiring a longer crankshaft.
A new 20x30 solid foam balloon tire was introduced which fit on the existing 20x30 wheel.
- 8064 - Universal Motor Set 9V
- 8094 - Control Center
- 8720 - Motor Set 9 V
- 8825 - Night Chopper
- 8830 - Rally 6-Wheeler
- 8840 - Rally Shock & Roll Racer
- 8850 - Rally Support Truck
By Isodomus and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 57
The Flex System
1991 EU Technic catalog
6 new sets, including the 8838 Shock Cycle and 8856 Whirlwind Rescue, as well as a new Idea Book were released. Lego also included an extra instruction book with the 8024, 8815 and 8820 to build a meta set from these parts. Although this had been done in other themes before, it was the first in the Technic theme.
There were several new parts released, including new motorcycle wheels and large shock absorbers as well as an entirely new system of flexible cables and cardan joints.
US patent 5,733,168
The Flex System: The new Flex System consisted of thin, flexible rod-shaped cables with coupling heads, larger flexible sheaths and connectors that could be attached with axles or ball joints. When used together with the flex tubing the flex cable allowed for the transmission of force much like a Bowden cable. The small size and flexibility allowed it to be used where traditional gears and cross axles would be too bulky or impractical.
The original patent application also made a claim for using the flex cables as a means of stiffening static constructions, however this was never fully realized in any Technic models. The use as a Bowden cable, however, was utilized in a number of models, most notably as a helicopter or airplane control mechanism. The system remains one of the more elegant Technic construction methods and has always been underutilized by Lego.
US patent 5,360,364
The Cardan Joint: The cardan joint consisted of a spherical ball with axial grooves, a loose-fitting ring with ball attachments as well as a guide ring with carrier pins. The pins of the guide ring meshed with the grooves of the cardan ball, allowing the transmission of torque but also allowing the guide ring to pivot about the sphere. The loose fit of the ball attachments allowed them to remain static as the rest of the assembly spun and be controlled by a flex cable. Not only did this allow for 3-axis control of a helicopter rotor but also formed the basis of a constant-velocity joint. Another example of the increasingly sophisticated specialized elements Lego was now developing.
8838 Shock Cycle:The Shock Cycle featured both front and rear wheel suspension, accurate steering and a 2-cylinder chain drive, The new shock absorbers and hollow rubber tires, along with the new engine elements resulted in a quite realistic model. As Lego continued to release new, highly specialized elements the designers were beginning to create very realistic models, both in terms of function and form. The Shock Cycle would serve as the basis of a number of motorcycle models over the next decade.
8074 Universal Set w/ Flex System8810 Cafe Racer8815 Speedway Bandit8820 Mountain Rambler8838 Shock Cycle8856 Whirlwind Rescue8891 Designers Idea Bookmeta Racer (8024+8815+8820)
Six new models were released in 1991, many of which incorporated fairly complex new systems of parts. There were two motorcycles, both of which used the new head tube to achieve a realistic rake on the fork. The larger motorcycle also had a chain driven V-2 engine and both front and rear suspension using the new shock absorbers. A small go-cart featured a one cylinder engine and rack and pinion steering. A small Jeep-like truck had rear suspension and steering. A large universal set showcased the new flex system with 4 complex models. Finally, a large helicopter, the largest to date, was packed with features including the flex system and a new cyclic system for the main rotor. As if this wasn't good enough, the helicopter also had a deployable winch and retractable tricycle landing gear.
Chief among the new features was the flex system. It included flexible cables of various lengths along with ends which could be snapped on and would attach to either an axle or a ball joint. Additionally, there were sleeves for the cables which allowed them to be routed through structure and used as a push-pull cable (Bowden cable). When combined with a new ball gear similar to a Constant Velocity Joint, this system made for a fairly realistic cyclic motion on the large helicopter. The flex system is a fascinating concept which was rarely really used to its fullest potential. It was only ever included in 15 sets, many of which used it for the same type of rotor motion as the 8856. One reason for the lack of use might be the fragility of the cables. The cables are made of a different type of plastic which, while flexible up to a point, can easily end up with brittle fracture if bent too far. This is especially a problem when removing the ends. Tugging too hard can easily shatter the cable and repairing them is not easy (but possible; I broke and repaired one while writing this year's section). Later, different ends were introduced which made it easier to attach and remove them.
Also new this year were several motorcycle components including a wheel and tire, a head tube, and a larger set of shock absorbers. Combined with the reciprocating engine and a drive chain, this made for a motorcycle which was quite functionally realistic. The wheel was only ever used on motorcycles, and only came with 4 sets as of 2008.
A new flexible push-pull cable system (Bowden cable) was introduced. It could be used as a standard link, for transmitting force around corners, or simply as a diagonal brace in a truss.
- The central item is a flexible plastic cable with a small neck on either end used for clamping. The cable has been available in a variety of lengths over the years from 3 studs long all the wy to 33. They are fragile and easily broken, so finding a replacement can be pretty difficult. Be careful with them. They were almost always light gray.
- The other item is a hollow cylindrical tube which is also flexible but not brittle like the cable. This served as a sheath for the cable, guiding it through the structure and preventing buckling under compression loading. This tube was later also used as an extension and connector for pneumatic tubing. They were almost always dark gray.
- The end connector has an axle hole and a slot for the cable. The slot has a tab which grabs the necked portion of the cable. The cable snaps into place when inserted from the side if done with care. There is a second end connector which has a slightly different hole to snap onto ball joints. The regular end is dark gray and the ball end is black. Both were later replaced with different versions which were easier to install.
The new shock absorber has a much longer stroke than the old one (which remained in production). Over the years, it was mainly used on motorcycles, but also found its way onto a couple of the very large vehicles as well.
The motorcycle head tube has a 2x2 brick on one end and a yoke on the other end which allows for a fork rake of approximately 25 degrees. This part was only ever used once in a set for a purpose other than as a motorcycle head tube.
The somewhat misleadingly named triangle is a 1/2 thickness link which is 5 studs wide at the bottom, 1 stud wide at the top, and 3 studs high. 5 of the holes are round while the two lower corners are slotted to lock axles. This part has become pretty standard in most Technic sets from this point forward.
Motorcycle Wheel and Tire
A new large motorcycle wheel and tire were introduced. The wheel has 6 spokes and a cruciform hub. It only ever came in white in 4 Technic sets.
A brand new rotor system was introduced which allowed the rotor to mimic the motion of a cyclic.
- The heart of the system is a spherical ball gear with 8 teeth and an axle slot running along the central axis. The part was rarely used except in a couple of helicopters and once as a CV joint.
- The 4 blade rotor has a central recess to allow insertion of the ball gear. There are 4 small pins evenly spaced around the inside of the recess which lock onto the gear, forcing the rotor to rotate with the gear, and therefore with the driving axle. Since the gear is spherical, the rotor can pivot freely on the other two axes (torsional constraint only).
- The final part of the rotor system is what I will call the swashplate. It has 4 equally spaced ball joints and a hollow center which snaps around the rotor sleeve. The idea is for the rotor to spin within this, but for the swashplate to remain stationary. It accomplishes this by grounding itself to the structure using one or more of the ball joints. One or more of the remaining ball joints can be coupled to a cyclic control to allow the rotor to tip both side-to-side and forward-back. This isn't quite how a real helicopter cyclic works with each blade changing pitch as it rotates, but it certainly gives the Technic helicopters a realistic feel. It was only included in 2 sets, both of them sweet.
- 8856 - Whirlwind Rescue
- 8838 - Shock Cycle
- 8810 - Alpha Racer
- 8815 - Speedway Bandit
- 8820 - Mountain Rambler
- 8074 - Universal Set with Flex System
By Isodomus and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 47
The Air Tech Claw Rig
1992 EU Technic catalog
5 new sets, including 2 pneumatic sets, were released. The sets ranged from the 98 piece ATX Sport Cycle to the 957 piece Air Tech Claw Rig. This retail assortment of small, medium and large sets would continue as the typical Lego marketing practice for the rest of the decade.
There were several new parts released including a new toggle joint, 2 new propeller designs and the compressor pump and small pneumatic cylinder. These last 2 allowed for electric operation of pneumatics.
8838 Supply Ship: The red, black and white 8839 Supply ship was the only full-sized Technic boat model ever released. The model featured an interesting steering mechanism with wheels set under the hull. When the rear wheel was turned via a flex cable linkage the 2 rear propellers would turn as well. The supply hoist both moved up and down as well as rotated on a technic turntable. The curved shape of the hull was achieved through the use of hinged plates, a technique that was becoming more common in 3rd generation construction.
8868 Air Claw Tech Rig: Another large construction vehicle, the Air Tech Claw Rig featured virtually every Technic construction system available and was easily the most complex Technic set to date. The major feature was a 3 cylinder pneumatic grabber arm on a turntable. The pneumatic circuit was pressurized by a 9V motor and compressor pump. The model also featured a 6-cylinder engine, front wheel steering via a knob on top of the cabin and 6 large tires. Surprisingly, this was the only set ever to feature the 9V compressor.
There were 6 new models in 1992, 3 of which were very large, 2 medium, and one small. The flex system was continued and expanded, as was the double acting pneumatic system. The small ATV features a unique form of steering. A wheeled loader has a lifting and dumping bucket. A wheeled excavator uses the pneumatic system and one of the new small cylinders. An airplane features ailerons, rear suspension, and a 2 cylinder engine. A fishing/supply ship represents the only Technic boat and features steering via hidden wheels and vectoring props, and a lifting and slewing loading arm. Finally, the crown jewel, the Air Tech Claw Rig. This remains the only set to ever include a pneumatic compressor, and ranks as one of the most complex pneumatic sets ever released. It also has 2 differentials, a V-6 engine, and a loader which pneumatically slews, lifts, and grasps.
By this time models were getting complex enough that their features were not immediately obvious and their construction required considerable skill. This trend would continue over the next couple of years, eventually resulting in models which were arguably too difficult for children to construct. For adults, this was a glorious time.
The number of new parts in 1992 was minimal but important. After a two year absence, double acting pneumatics made a return, with a vengeance. There was a smaller pneumatic cylinder as well as a compressor. Unfortunately, neither was widely used for some inexplicable reason. But the pneumatics of 1992 were glorious and complex.
Two new black buckets were introduced. With dimensions of 10x8 and 4x4x9, they were almost (but not quite) direct replacements for the older 14x8 and 6x8 yellow buckets. While the older buckets seem to be made of the same ABS plastic as standard LEGO® bricks, the new black buckets are made of something softer and somewhat more flexible.
Pneumatic Cylinder and Pump
A pair of new pneumatic items were introduced. The double acting cylinder is functionally the same as its larger cousin, but at only 1 unit in diameter, fits in considerably less space. Because the pressure area is quadratic, it also produces 4 times less output force, so its application has been limited.
The compressor pump has the same basic body and piston as the actuator, but has only a single port at the head end with a relief valve. Unlike an actuator which is driven by air, the compressor is made to be driven by the piston. When compressing the unit pushes air out through the port, but when extending it draws in air from the atmosphere. When the pressure in the system exceeds a certain value, the relief valve allows any remaining pressure to vent. This fantastic system was used only once, a tragedy which has no logical explanation.
There were two new propellers, a large twin blade and a small three blade, both with cruciform centers.
The venerable toothed connector was modified slightly. It has slots on the sides which makes it easier to remove, but unfortunately also makes it much more prone to cracking.
- 8826 - ATX Sport Cycle
- 8828 - Front End Loader
- 8836 - Sky Ranger
- 8837 - Pneumatic Excavator
- 8839 - Supply Ship
- 8868 - Air Tech Claw Rig
By Isodomus and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 51
The 4th Universal Series
1993 EU Technic catalog
8 new sets, including 3 new fourth generation Universal sets. were released. The new 80x2 series included a new pneumatic and electric set.
1993 US Technic catalog
There were a number new parts released including a new electric switch, a micromotor, the cross block and catch, as well as new, large rubber tires.
US patent D344,769
The cross block: The cross block is an element that allows a cross axle to be attached at a 90 deg angle to a connector. The result was much more compact than the previous use of stacked beams or toggle joints, for example. This element, and the closely related catch, have proved to be remarkably useful in a wide variety of Technic constructions and over the years Lego would develop many variants.
US patent 5,596,181
The polarity switch: The polarity switch consisted of a plate with metal contacts terminating in a series of leaf springs and a grooved rotatable shaft with axial notches. The leaf spring fit into the groove and when the round shaft was turned the notch would press down on the spring, creating an electrical connection. Because of the arrangement of leaf spring and notches, rotating the shaft would alternately create and break electrical connections, allowing the switch to be used as a pole reverser.8082 Multi Control Set: The 9V 8082 Multi Control Set was the first set to use these new 9V electric elements. It featured the now common 9V motor as well as the new 9V micromotor and polarity switch. This allowed for the construction of models that had multiple, separately-controlled, electric functions. The main model, for example, was a vehicle that used the motor to power the car and the micromotor to control the steering.
1993 was a transitional year for the LEGO® Technic line. Some pivotal new parts were introduced which did not get utilized to their fullest potential until subsequent years.
The 7 sets of 1993 varied widely in size from the smallest universal set of all to one of the largest Technic sets yet. There were 3 universal sets in total. The smallest was an introduction to Technic in coveted white. The second was a pneumatic set. Finally, the third was a motorized set which utilized a pair of the new pole reversers to allow remote control of the models, and also used one of the new micro motors. A small buggy had steering and a 1 cylinder engine. A hovercraft was introduced which was highly unique and contained parts never included in another Technic set before or since. A large tricycle motorcycle contained a 4 cylinder engine and some massive new wheels. Last (and biggest) of all, there was a large tractor/trailer truck transporting a forklift which was basically three sets in one.
There was also a supplemental set released this year which included 3 Technic figures. At this time the figure were still relatively rare and wouldn't become common until 1995.
The new parts for 1993 were varied and important. The huge wheels and idler gear were a foreshadowing of things to come. The micro motor and pole reversers expanded on the 9V electrical system and opened up a myriad of new possibilities. The axle joiner and long pin would become staples of standard Technic construction for decades into the future.
A second 16 tooth gear was introduced, this time dark grey instead of light gray. At first glance, it may appear identical to the old gear, and indeed it is the same size with the same tooth profile. However the critical difference is that the central hole is round instead of a cross. This allows the gear to spin freely on an axle but still transmit torque through the teeth. One side of the central hole has a set of small teeth which can mesh with one of the toothed bushings, thus allowing the gear to be locked to an axle if desired. To my knowledge, this feature was never actually used in a set. Finally, the rear side of the gear is open and has for evenly spaced dog stops. Whatever could these be for? We won't find out in 1993, but maybe the future will hold more clues.....
A new 3 spoked steering wheel was introduced which had a cruciform recess on the back.
A new tiny 9V motor was first seen this year and occupies roughly the space of a 2x2 brick. The motor has very low power but is also geared down to turn very slowly without external gearing. This motor, while quite useful, was only ever used in a handful of sets. Along with the motor there are a pair of brackets which allow it to be attached to standard studded construction. There's also a friction pulley which attaches to the motor with a tiny rubber band allowing it to spin like a built-in clutch after a certain torque is reached. This motor is always red.
The pole reverser is effectively a DC electric switch. The center axle can be rotated 360 degrees. At each 90 degree position, the switch is off (open). At each 45 degree position, the switch closes the circuit at a detent. Opposite directions reverse the polarity of the voltage, thus allowing the motor (or other attached electrical device) to reverse. The pole reverser can be turned either with an axle run through the center or with the new pole reverser handle. This handle fits into the top and stops at 45 degrees in either direction. One set of 2x2 studs serves as the input, while the opposite side is the output. It doesn't matter which is which since this unit simply opens and closes the circuit.
Axle and Pin Joiners
A pair of axle joiners were introduced which open up a new set of building possibilities. The perpendicular joiner allows a pin to be connected to an axle at right angles. The parallel connector acts as a butt joint to lengthen axles. The straight connector also has a set of longitudinal grooves and a set of circumferential rings. I wonder what these are for? Maybe that's something else we'll find out in the future.....
A new long friction pin was introduced. This pin is 3L long with a stop 1L from one end. This allows a longer series of beams or other elements to be joined along a single axis without the protruding ends generated when using an axle with bushings. This part became very common in the future.
Several new beams sizes were introduced.
- The 1x1 beam may seem like a logical extension of the other sizes, but it has a very important distinction. In a standard beam, the cross holes are offset from the studs. In the 1x1 beam, the cross hole is centered under the stud. Again, this may seem like a minor change, but future uses of some of this year's other new parts would make this 1/2 stud adjustment critical
- There were also a pair of 1x4 beams with protruding flanges. One is straight while the other is bent at 45 degrees. Both can be fit with a rubber bumper pad. Oddly, all 4 of these parts appeared in Technic sets only in 1993, then never again.
Wheel and Tire
And for the grand finale, a huge new wheel and tire set was introduced. The wheel has 6 spokes, each with a pin hole. The central axle hole is round (not cross) which means that the wheel can spin freely on an axle. The addition of a bushing on the axle's rotation locks the axle to the wheel through a pair of flanges. There's also another large set of slots on either side of the central axle hole. Again, what could this be for? There sure must be a lot of new things coming in 1994 to justify all of this....
This wheel and tire combination would only ever appear in two sets.
- 8022 - Starter Set
- 8042 - Pneumatic Set
- 8082 - Multi Control Set
- 8714 - Technic Team
- 8818 - Baja Blaster / Desert Racer
- 8824 - Hovercraft
- 8857 - Street Chopper
- 8872 - Forklift Transporter
By Isodomus and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 51
The Super Car
1994 EU Technic catalog
8 new sets, including 2 more Universal sets. were released. The 8062 was the first Technic set to be packaged in a plastic storage case. Again, the retail assortment ranged from very small (the 92 piece F1 Racer) to the very large (1300+ piece Super Car).
There were quite a few new elements, including many specialized vehicle elements such as steering wheels, 2 new sets of steering arms and a transmission assembly.
US patent 5,687.160
The transmission: Yet another highly-specialized vehicle mechanism, the transmission, was introduced. The patent shows 2 drive shafts, each with a cylindrical driving ring containing annular guide flanges and pointed claws at both ends. When the driving ring was slid to end of the shaft by a shifter that fit in the flanges the arrow-like claws would engage into hollow spur gears, acting as a claw clutch. The result was a compact system that allowed easy gear changes, even when the drive shafts were not rotating. In essence, a synchronized transmission.
Life-size Super Car: 660,000+ elements
8880 Super Car: The 4th auto chassis, the 8880 Super Car, can legitimately lay claim as the most complex Lego set ever produced. It took advantage of every specialized vehicle assembly available in Technic: 4 wheel independent suspension and steering using a modified cardan joint as well a no less than 3 differentials and eight large shock absorbers; 4 speed transmission using the new transmission assembly connected via chain to an 8 cylinder engine using the new engine elements. Other features included pop up headlights using a lever on the dashboard and an opening trunk. It was also the first auto chassis to attempt a complete body. again, as was now common, curves were simulated using hinged plates. in fact the model used no less than 52 hinges.
Unfortunately for Lego they were approaching a ceiling where these large sets were simply too complex for children to build. The Super Car, for example, had a dense 50-page instruction booklet, with additional correction pages, and could take an experienced builder 4+ hours up to 8 hours for a beginner to build.
1994 was a landmark year for the Technic line for many reasons. Some things were ended, some things were begun, and some things reached their pinnacle. Two venerable lines reached their end in 1994. The first was the 8000 series of Universal Sets, the last two of which were released this year. There would be a couple of other sets with multiple models in the future, but these were the last marketed as Universal Sets. The larger set (8062) is especially impressive and a great way to end the series. The other line which came to an end was the 8800 series. These always represented the "good stuff", the complex Technic models which most fans consider the greatest of Technic design. The set with the highest numerical set number, 8880, would end the series on a high note that would arguably never be matched. 1995 would see a new way of numbering and marketing sets. There were 8 sets released in 1994, as many as in any year to date. Unlike later years which would see a proliferation of "mini" models, all of these sets count as real Technic models in their own right. And then, of course, there is the mighty 8880. Many consider it to be the best Technic set ever and it is hard to argue with them. It's complexity, part count, and sheer awesomeness have seldom been rivaled. There were also many new parts for 1994. A number of parts made the synchronized manual transmission possible. Additionally, a number of parts released in previous years were finally used to their full potential in combination with these newer parts. There were also new balloon tires, a new suspension system, a new differential, and some parts unique to the 8880 set. Any way you add it up, 1994 changed everything and is a time around which most LEGO® fans agree the "Golden Age" is centered.
Wheels and Tires
A whole new series of rubber "balloon tires" was released in multiple sizes. These are air filled (but unpressurized) tires which are compressible and so feel and behave like real tires. They also have excellent traction on both hard and rough surfaces.
- 68.8 x 40: These are the largest wheels and tires and were used on 2 models this year.
- 43.2 x 28: These much smaller wheels and tires were used on 3 models this year including both universal sets.
- 20 x 30: These medium sized and tires look identical to the older variety, but they are now rubber instead of foam. The wheel now has a rim to lock on the tire instead of a smooth outer diameter like the old wheels on 8840.
A pair of parts were released to allow construction of a ball joint based suspension. There is an A-arm (pictured in blue) with a ball joint at the end and a special control arm which snaps onto two A-arm ball joints and contains another ball joint for a steering linkage connection. These parts were obviously designed to be used with a sprung, steerable axle.
To also function with the above parts, there's a new smaller steering rack (1x2) with ball joints at the end. This rare part was only ever used 3 times, and the next would be 7 years later.
A lovely cam was released with 4 separate axle holes to allow a variety of connections. The outer profile allows rotation about any axis to be eccentric. Oddly, this part have never been used as an actual cam like we would expect to see in an engine, for instance.
Ball Joint Pin
A new ball joint was introduced to supplement the existing axle pin with a ball joint at one end. In this case, the ball joint is attached to a friction pin.
A new differential gear was released which would be used for decades. It is smaller than the old model and has 24 teeth on the ring gear instead of 28 like the older one. The older one also used a crown tooth profile for the ring gear, but this one uses a spur gear. There are different ring gears at either end with 24 and 16 teeth allowing versatility in gear ratios. This part only ever came in dark gray.
Here's a magic little part. It slides over the ridged axle joiner which we first saw in 1993. Small tabs on the driving ring allow it to lock along these ridges, but still slide with some extra force. The driving ring grips the longitudinal grooves on the axle joiner causing them to rotate together. A circumferential groove in the middle of the ring allows it to be pushed along the axle joiner in either direction. A set of 4 driving dogs on either end then mate with a 16 tooth idler gear allowing the idler's rotation to be either synched with the axle or allowed to spin freely. This remains, to this day, one of the most mechanically clever parts in all of Technic and made the selectable transmission possible. This was used in the future both for changing gear ratios and for selecting among multiple functions.
In the image at the right, the driving ring is shown in red. The lower axles are joined with the gray axle joiner. The driving ring rotates with the axles. At first, the driving ring is disengaged so both the dark gray and green gears are not driven and slip on the axle. The driving ring then engages the green gear and thus drives the blue gear. Because the driving ring does not use gear teeth but rather uses four tapered driving dogs, there is considerable backlash between the driving ring and the gear. The allows the driving ring to be engaged even while it and the mating idler gear are turning at different speeds.
8880 Unique Components
There are also a number of parts which are unique to set 8880 - Super Car. These include a shifting gate, a shift lever, a steering hub, and a wheel bearing. These unique parts and their function are described on the page for 8880 - Super Car.
- 8032 - Universal Set
- 8062 - Universal Set with Storage Case
- 8808 - Formula One Racer
- 8812 - Aero Hawk II (Reissued in 2002 8429 - Helicopter)
- 8816 - Off-Road Rambler
- 8829 - Dune Blaster
- 8858 - Rebel Wrecker
- 8880 - Super Car
By Isodomus and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 52
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.
9 new models were released in 1995, the most in any year so far. These 9 models were not mere duplicates or enhancements of previous years. On the contrary, a number of new parts, building concepts, and marketing techniques were introduced. After the technological pinnacle of 8880, it is possible that LEGO® realized that some models were quite difficult for an average child to assemble and understand. The next few years would see a decline in the overall complexity of models, with a couple of notable exceptions.
The first obvious change of 1995 was the way sets were numbered and marketed. From 1980-1994, most sets had followed one of two numbering conventions. 8000 series sets were Universal Sets, and 8800 series sets were single models (with alternates). Both of these series ended in 1994. In 1995 both the 8200 series and 8400 series were introduced, which would remain in use for a decade.
The 8200 series was marketed under the moniker "Tech Play". These sets tended to be more play focused than technically focused. They tended to be smaller models with a limited number of features. Often considerable use of sticker sheets was made to enhance the look of the models. Additionally, a large percentage of Tech Play models came with Technic figures which had been quite rare prior to this time, appearing in only a handful of sets. 4 Tech Play models were released in 1995, 3 of them including Technic figures.
The 8400 series was marketed under the moniker "Tech Build". These sets tended to be more complicated, have a greater number of functions, and have a larger part count. They rarely contained figures or stickers, but often concentrated more on modeling realism and functionality. Some very exceptional models would come out of this line. 4 Tech Build models were released in 1995.
Finally, set 8485 is difficult to categorize. Like 8094, it used the Control Center as its hub. It was like a Universal Set in that it included full instructions for 3 full models, but was much more complicated than any other Universal Set, bore a different numbering scheme, and most importantly didn't actually say "Universal Set" anywhere on it. No matter what you call it, it was not only the best model of 1995 but one of the very best sets ever.
There were quite a number of new parts for 1995 including some new "on road" tires and some purpose built gearboxes. The gearboxes were used to make geared connections simpler to build, especially for the Tech Play models. There was also a new stopped axle, a new stronger bevel gear, a longer gear rack, a longer link, a liftarm, a pin connector, and a useful little handle that appeared only this year and then mysteriously disappeared.
Wheels and Tires
Two new sizes of wheels and tires were introduced which matched the general aspect ratio and tread pattern of the big 81.6 x 34 ZR from set 8880. The new mid sized tires are called 49.6 x 28 VR and the smallest are 30.4 x 14 VR. What is the difference between the title "VR" and "ZR"? I have no idea other than that this may be a speed rating.
The previous rack gear had been a 1x4 unit which attached to the top of a plate using studs. The new 1x8 rack gear pictured was something different. Beside being longer, it also had holes at the end to which ball joint or axles could be attached. Additionally, there were no stud tubes on the bottom. This meant that it could still sit over a plate, but could also slide along the studs on that plate. This part became very common for decades and was later released in other lengths.
This handy little part looks like a 3L axle, but has the additional feature of a stop collar and stud on one end. If inserted into the hole in a Technic beam, the stop collar drops into the counterbore on the beam and disappears. This leaves you with an exposed stud on one end and a rotatable axle which which will not pull out of the hole. This little part only existed in dark gray until 2010 and has been used many times in many models.
The old standard 14 tooth bevel gear was replaced this year with a 12 tooth bevel gear. Beside the obvious difference in tooth count, the other difference is that the new bevel gear has a solid web behind the teeth which gives it considerable extra strength.
A 16L link (tie rod) was introduced to Technic. This long two-force member was only used in a single Technic model, 8235.
Many original Technic sets used a large pulley as a crank in combination with a pin as a handle. Later, it became more common to use the smaller pulley with a half pin. The disadvantage to this is that the 1/2 pin does not rotate in the hole and therefore has to rotate in your fingers as you turn the crank. This was solved in 1995 with a little round handle that snapped over the pin and rotated allowing faster, easier cranking. For some reason, this part only existed in 1995 and was never used again. The disappearance of this part is a mystery since I see no obvious flaw in it, but it is quite rare as a result of its short life.
A round pin joiner was introduced. This part is the length of a pin and can lock a pin inserted from each end due to a circumferential groove in the center halfway along the length. It can either be used to extend the length of a pin or can be slid over an axle as a spacer or decorative element.
A 1x3 liftarm was introduced. This very important part was a significant harbinger of the future. 6 years earlier in 1989 the first liftarm was introduced (1x4). This 1x3 liftarm also has an axle slot at either end and a hole in the center. Unlike the earlier part, it is not 1 stud thick at one end but remains 1/2 stud thick along the entire length. Many, many more liftarms would be introduced in the future and in fact would eventually become the primary Technic construction part almost entirely replacing traditional beams.
Flex System End Connector
A new kind of flex system end connector was introduced. The previous connector had to be pushed onto the cable from the side. The bending stress from this often fractured the cable. With the new connector, the cable is inserted and then a flap is snapped closed over the cable ferrule which prevents it from pulling out. This improved method made the flex system much more durable. In addition to the standard new end connector, there was also an end to end connector which allowed two cables to be connected with an axle hole in the center.
There were also two new gearboxes introduced which made the assembly of certain gear combinations simpler for younger children. At least one of the two gearboxes were used in the majority of the Tech Play models.
The worm gearbox (shown in yellow in the animation) supported a 24 tooth spur gear and a worm gear along with their associated perpendicular axles. With the worm axle used as an input, this gearbox allowed a 24:1 reduction and could be integrated into models using the studs on top and bottom or the holes on the sides.
The bevel gearbox (shown in white in the animation) allowed a pair of perpendicular bevel gears to be mated in either a horizontal or vertical plane and provided support for the axles.
- 8210 - Nitro GTX Bike
- 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 and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 49
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 sported 10 models, the most of any year to date. They were divided evenly with 5 simple Tech Play models for beginners, and 5 Tech Build models for more advanced builders. The sets ranged from very small (82 parts) to the largest set to date (1368 parts) and everything in between. Across the whole range of models, appearance was targeted more closely by the design, and most models used the semi-rigid hoses from the now defunct flex system as decorative elements to great effect.
The Tech Play sets built on the theme of simple building with solid play features and Technic figures, but not surprisingly the 1996 models did not do anything very new or innovative.
The Tech Build sets, on the other hand, had quite a bit to offer. The pneumatic system made a comeback and the brand new fiber optic system was showcased in two models. You can read more about the fiber optic system below, but it can be summarized as innovative and short lived. The illuminated fiber optic elements offered simulated motion and were fun to watch. However, the element was doubtless very expensive to produce. My several copies all still work, but if any of the lights stop working it cannot be repaired. Perhaps it was for this reason that the system lasted only a single year and is a prized catch among collectors due to its rarity. Personally, I found it to be a great addition to the line, but I can understand why it wasn't usable across a wide range of models.
There were only a few new parts in 1996 other than the fiber optic system, but all of them were a sign of things to come. The transmission gates and changeover catch signaled the use of more transmissions in the future, and the 6x4 bent liftarm and 3/4 pin continued to herald the onset of the studless system for those who were paying attention. Every one of the new parts was used in the flagship set from 1996, the 8480 Space Shuttle. Every one of them was needed to make the shuttle work in the very special way that it does, and with the exception of the fiber optics, all of them were used for years to come.
Fiber Optic Element
The fiber optic element was truly innovative, but sadly only appeared in 1996 in two sets and never again in Technic (and only in 2 other types of sets). This electric element is powered by a 9V wire and has 8 holes into which clear fiber optic cables fit. The far end of each cable fits in a pin hole. Each hole of the electric element has a red light (LED?) which illuminates only when the central axle is in a certain position, and only one at a time. To get the lights to move, the central axle must be turned by and external crank or motor, and then the fiber optic cables visibly light in sequence.
While the 8880 had a unique transmission shifting lever, a more standardized solution was needed for other models. These gates (shown in gray) could be used in pairs along with the changeover catch above driving rings to allow shifting in an H-pattern. However, this system was somewhat limited to be used with only 4 gears. Besides the H-pattern on top, the gates also feature a transverse axle hole to support the catch. These parts were relatively rare and are no longer used.
Transmission Changeover Catch
The changeover catch (shown in red) was designed to be used with the transmission gates and driving ring to shift gears in a transmission. Unlike the gate, it remains in use to this day, sometimes for purposes other than shifting a transmission. The axle hole in top and on the side can be useful, and the tiny hole in the tip will fit a flex cable.
1x2 Technic Bricks with 2 Holes
Like the 1x1 Technic brick introduced last year, the 1x2 with 2 holes is fundamentally different than the others because the holes are centered under the studs. This part was critical for the spacing of the gears in 8480.
As Technic moved away from studded bricks and towards full thickness and half thickness liftarms, a pin which bridged the two was needed. The 3/4 pin is one stud long on one side but only half a stud long on the other and does not have friction. This part came only in dark gray until the next millennium.
6x4 Bent Liftarm
While a few half thickness studless liftarms had been introduced in previous years, this was the first full thickness liftarm. With 6 studs in one direction and 4 studs in the other, you might expect that this angled liftarm would be some obvious angle like 45 degrees or 30 degrees, but it is actually 53.13 degrees. Why? Because both ends need to fit on a standard grid of studs. With this angle, the axle hole at the end lines up perfectly with a square grid, but the other holes in between do not. This angle would be used for most bend liftarms in the future. The particular part was critical to the payload bay doors on 8480.
- 8207 - Dune Duster
- 8223 - Hydrofoil 7
- 8230 - Coastal Cop Buggy
- 8244 - Convertibles
- 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 and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 53
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 was an important year for Technic because it foreshadowed some important changes to come, both positive and negative. The number of sets continued to climb. This year was another new record with 13 sets, but the number would continue to grow beyond all bounds until 2001 when it plummeted and recoiled before stabilizing.
Of the 13 sets, 9 were relatively simple Tech Play sets and 4 were more complex Tech Build. The two smallest models, the Bungee Blasters were some of the smallest to date and represented a new shift toward very play focused models which would become significant in coming years. The semi-rigid tubing introduced as part of the Flex System had been previously re-purposed as pneumatic tubing in 8868. This year, it started use as a decorative element. Nearly every Tech Play set was covered in colorful swooping flexible tubing which allowed the kind of gentle curves not possible with traditional parts. 8277 and 8479 hearkened back to the days of the classic Universal Sets with instructions for many different models.
The most significant new entry was the Code Pilot introduced as part of set 8479. This programmable computer system was a first and, although it only ever came in one set, was the forerunner to Mindstorms which would usher in a whole new era of programmable LEGO which was used extensively in education and, in various incarnations, remains in use to this day.
As you can see below, the number of new parts introduced this year is staggering (and unsustainable). With the exception of the electrical parts, most are still in use to this day.
The venerable 24 tooth spur gear had been in use unchanged since 1977. With the advent of the new engine parts in 1990, it was no longer used as a crank shaft and therefore did not need the off-axis axle slots. A new mold for the 24 tooth gear eliminated those slots and replaced them with a straight slot. This had the added benefit of adding strength to the gear.
An alternate version of the 24 tooth gear was also released. This version includes an internal clutch which allows the central axle slot to slip relative to the gear teeth when a certain torque is exceeded. The mold lists this torque as 2.5 Newton-centimeters. As more and more sets included motorization, this part was needed to allow motorized functions to stop without stalling the motor.
The shift toward studless continued with a 9x5 right angle liftarm which is very useful as a
structural tool for locking larger assemblies together. A 5L thin beam was also released with 1/2 the thickness of a normal beam.
The last new length of Technic brick was released, 14L. This completed the set with every even length from 2L to 16L now in production (and also 1L).
A whole set of new angled axle connectors was released to replace the old toothed connectors. Like the toothed connectors, they represent angles in 22.5 degree increments. Unlike the toothed connectors, they are not adjustable. This makes them stronger but also less versatile. Each connector has a number molded into the side which corresponds to an angle. This helps to differentiate them in the instructions since some (especially #3 and #4) look deceptively similar.
- #1 = 0 degrees
- #2 = 180 degrees
- #3 = 157.5 degrees
- #4 = 135 degrees
- #5 = 112.5 degrees
- #6 = 90 degrees
There was a new 90 degree T axle fitting (shown in gray) and a 3L pin with integral bushing (shown in green). This latter part is often used to fasten subassemblies together because it is easy to insert and remove. Finally, the venerable 2L axle was replaced with a new grooved version. Although the grooves decrease strength, they make it infinitely easier to remove the part. With such a short length, it was previously quite difficult to get a good grip on it. With the grooves, a fingernail can be used to extract the part.
The Code Pilot computer is unique to set 8479 and is therefore detailed mostly on that page. This self-contained computer could be programmed using barcodes. The barcode reader served a dual purpose and could be used with the white gear wheel to detect motion and use that measurement to alter the program. The accessories introduced to be used with the new system included a "touch sensor" and a new 9V motor. The touch sensor is no more than a momentary switch which could be used to trigger actions in the program. The new 9V motor was considerably different than the older motor. While the old motor was ungeared and therefore rotated at high rpm, the new motor included internal reduction and therefore turned much slower but with much higher torque. The form factor was also quite different with the new motor being less long but also taller and more cubic. The slots on the sides allowed it to be suspended from rail plates. The same type of 9V connector and wiring system was retained.
The new wheel loader included a new bucket, the largest released at the time (18x10).
The pneumatic system was further expanded with an air tank. This tank has both an inlet and an outlet, but functionally can be used either in parallel or in series with the supply pressure. This allowed pressure to be stored so an increased number of functions could be used without pumping the input. This tank came in two sets this year and one in 1998 and then was not seen again. It can be presumed that it was quite expensive and not does not actually add any functionality (but does enhance it). A reinforced t-fitting was also introduced with a noticeable "bulb" at the junction.
Wheels and Tires
A pair of trucks wheels and tires was introduced which remained popular for decades due to the accurate aspect ratio and tread pattern. There was also a new type of treads. Rather than being made of individual links, this tread is a single piece flexible rubber part which mates with custom matched sprockets. With a fixed length, this is less versatile than the traditional track links, but is also much easier for younger builders to use.
- 2129 - Blast-Off Dragster
- 8205 - Bungee Blaster
- 8215 - Gyro Copter
- 8216 - Turbo 1
- 8222 - VTOL
- 8229 - Tread Trekker
- 8232 - Chopper Force
- 8250 - Search Sub(rereleased as 8299 - Search Sub)
- 8277 - Giant Model Set
- 8299 - Search Sub(Rereleased as 8250 - Search Sub)
- 8414 - Mountain Rambler
- 8437 - Future Car
- 8459 - Pneumatic Front End Loader(Rereleased as 8439 - Front End Loader and as 8464 - Pneumatic Front End Loader)
- 8479 - Barcode Multi-Set
By Isodomus and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 48
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: 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
Mindstorms: 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 was a transitional year for Technic. With 21 sets, it set a new record for the greatest number of sets in any year. However, these sets were less focused. In addition to the traditionally delineated 3 Tech Play sets and 3 Tech Build sets, another 15 sets were part of whole new series which attempted to expand Technic into new markets. While the desire to expand beyond teenage males and traditional vehicles was understandable, the expansion and corresponding lack of focus became an increasing problem in subsequent years as Technic gradually lost its way until a business crisis forced a new strategy.
The first and most prominent new category of models was called Competition. Unlike traditional Technic, these models were not based on any real life equipment but instead focused on competitive play. Most sets came with two models which could be pitted against each other in mock battles, and typically also included Technic figures. 5 competition sets were released this year.
An additional 9 sets were part of a new Micro category. These are tiny models (<50 parts) with little to no functionality aimed at younger builders. While they are certainly simpler to build, they also lack any of the functional intricacy which appeals to most Technic builders.
Not represented on this site are two more evolutions of the Technic theme started this year worth mention. Cybermaster was a short lived programmable system using Technic parts. Likewise, Mindstorms began this year as a full-fledged programmable robotics system.
The Competition line made heavy use of the new colors purple and turquoise . Two of the Tech Build models were primarily blue, a previously rare color, and all 3 used turquoise seats. All 3 Tech Build models also used the new deep dish silver years which were never used in another model again.
The last way in which this year was transitional was in the further evolution from studded to studless building. Many new studless parts were introduced which moved the building system further in that direction.
Building on the idea on using flexible pneumatic tubing as a decorative element, flexible ribbed hose was introduced. It serves the same purpose but is more prominent with a larger diameter. In early sets, the hose had to be cut to length by the builder.
Beams and Liftarms
The studless system was expanded significantly. A 6L and 7L thin beam were added to compliment the existing 5L. The 6L remains the only even length studless part. There was also a 3x3 L shaped corner liftarm.
A strangle thick liftarm with a joggle was released. It was used in two sets this year and then never seen again.
- A 2L brick was introduced with an axle hole instead of a pin hole which allowed axles to be structurally locked.
- Since the angle connectors had been introduced a year earlier, the toothed bushing and toggle joint were no longer needed and were therefore replaced with smooth versions this year.
- Finally a "knob wheel" was introduced (shown in yellow). This serves the function of a 4 tooth gear but has the advantage of being usable as both a spur gear and a bevel gear. Additionally, it is very easy to engage and disengage which is useful in mechanisms which need to decouple. It pays for this increased versatility with decreased efficiency and extra friction.
Competition and Suspension
The Competition Cannon is a spring loaded canister with a rubber tipped projectile. I can only imagine the arguments between the part developers and the lawyers as they tried to develop a firing weapon that was not too dangerous. They made it quite difficult to disassemble so that children (like me) who wanted to take it apart and put in a stronger spring would be thwarted.
A new type of suspension part was introduced which included a steerable control arm and a support bracket. With only two parts, this was quite easy to assemble for younger builders. The flat tab on the top of the gray part slides into a slot on the black part, then locks in place once rotated. Although very simple, these parts were used on some very large models including this year's flagship.
Wheels and Tires
A new type of very unusual futuristic wheels and tires were introduced this year and then never used again. All of the Tech Build models this year used them. The wheels have 3 spokes and are painted a metallic silver. The tires are NOT pneumatic. They are very low profile solid rubber strips which are quite difficult to assemble and take apart. It is presumably this last fact that lead to their short tenure in the Technic line. The advantage of the solid rubber is that these tires can support very heavy loads without deforming and therefore have low rolling resistance.
- 2544 - Motorcycle
- 2854 - Bungee Chopper
- 3038 - Spider Slayer(Rereleased as 8266 - Super Challenge)
- 3054 - Motorcycle
- 8202 - Bungee Chopper
- 8203 - Rover Discovery
- 8204 - Sky Flyer 1
- 8208 - Custom Cruiser
- 8209 - Future F1
- 8213 - Spy Runner
- 8217 - The Wasp
- 8218 - Trike Tourer
- 8219 - Racer
- 8226 - Mud Masher
- 8233 - Blue Thunder Vs. The Stinger(Rereleased in 8239 - Cyber Slam Spider)
- 8248 - Forklift
- 8245 - Robots Revenge
- 8257 - Cyber Strikers
- 8266 - Super Challenge(Rereleased as 3038 - Spider Slayer)
- 8417 - Mag Wheel Master
- 8428 - Turbo Command
- 8462 - Tow Truck
- 8483 - CyberMaster with Storage Case
By Isodomus and Technicopedia
- Category: Technic history 1990s
- Hits: 51
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.
With 25 total sets released, 1999 is tied with 2000 for the most sets ever. You'll notice that there are nowhere near that many models in the image above. The omission is intentional. At this point, Technic began expanding so far beyond its traditional market than many of the models are arguably not part of the Technic line. This distinction is subjective. Pictured are the 4 Micro sets, the 2 Competition sets, the 6 Tech Play sets, and the 4 Tech Build sets. Not pictured (but included on the list below) are the 9 new Slizer sets.
Slizer was a brand new idea to use Technic parts (and a lot of totally new types of parts) to create anthropomorphic figures with minimal functionality to appeal to younger males. These had little in common with the existing Technic brand, but would later expand into the wildly popular Bionicle. I've chosen to include the models badged as Technic on this web site up until the time that Bionicle came into existence in 2001. Past that, it became a whole other system.
Three of the Tech Play sets this year used a unique new part as a modular connector to allow portions of the models to be combined in many different ways. While intriguing in concept, it didn't really work because none of the alternate connection possibilities made any sense (they didn't learn from 8244). This part was never used again.
The focus on model appearance was pushed even farther this year. Previous years saw the use of flex tubing and ribbed hoses as decorative elements. This year went much farther and added curved panels and flexible axles. Nowhere was this more evident that in the 8448 Super Street Sensation. This 5th evolution of the Supercar line attempted to improve on the older 8880 in every way. Whether or not it succeeded is a subject of much debate, but there is no doubt that this car ushered in a new era of Technic automotive design.
Once again, the number of new parts was very large, and those listed do not even include the new Slizer parts. Some of the new parts (like panels and flex axles) set a new standard and were used for decades. Other new parts (like the modular connector and many of the unique 8448 parts) never appeared again.
The part shown in transparent yellow is a modular connector used to securely attach disparate parts of a model together and allow them to be connected in various ways. It didn't work very well and was never used again.
A 5L straight rotor and a 3 bladed rotor were introduced. They each had a central axle hole to drive rotation and studs on the blades.
To augment the existing bevel gears, a new set of double bevel gears was introduced. The full thickness gears have 12 and 20 teeth and can be used at a 90 degree angle from either side or can be used as spur gears. To round out the set, a half thickness traditional 20 tooth bevel gear was also introduced.
The part that looks like a transparent shock absorber is a damper. Some early promotional material inaccurately called it hydraulics. This spring loaded cartridge can be compressed and will then extend at a controlled rate. There were initial quality problems that lead to high breakage rates, but a redesign solved the problem and many existing parts were replaced (it was my first interaction with LEGO® Customer Service). This part is quite rare, but did remain in intermittent use for a decade.
A new suspension arm was introduced just for 8448 and never appeared in any other set. The primary advantage is the small size which allowed it to be contained inside the wheel for an accurate turning center.
A new 5.5L axle was introduced with an integral stop. This part saw heavy use as a wheel support axle because the stop prevents it from falling out of a hole. A 2x4 L-shaped liftarm was introduced. A double pin with cross axle hole provided for very secure connections, as did a cross block with two axles holes and a perpendicular pin hole (both shown in black). With the toothed elements gone, a new smooth toggle joint was needed. When used in pairs, these can be used to connect axles as angles not possible with the 22.5 degree increments of angle connectors, but also not locked. Finally, an extension was introduced for the driving ring transmission system. This is discussed further with 8448.
Some new parts which were introduced which were purely decorative in nature and had little to no structural or functional utility.
A series of flexible axles was introduced in fixed lengths (11L, 12L, 14L, 16L, and 19L). These are made of a very soft malleable material and have the same cross section as regular axles. The designers included multiple features to prevent builders from using them to transmit torque (which would destroy the parts). Firstly, the ends are round. This allows them to be inserted into pin or axle holes but remain free to spin. Even more importantly, the ends of the cross are blocked. Besides providing an aesthetic accent, the real purpose of these features is to prevent a gear from being attached.
There were a new set of curved panels, released in matched sets of mirrored pairs. All of these parts had large circular openings which were intended to accept the ribbed hose. Pin holes at the ends allowed locking to structure. Like the angle connectors, the panels had molded in numbers to assist in identification. The numbers released this year were #1-4.
Wheels and Tires
A new wheel and tire set were released for, and are unique to, 8448. The painted metallic silver wheels have a directional pattern which rotates the wrong direction on one side of the car. The tires have a unique tread pattern.
A new set of medium (56x30) balloon tires were also introduced. The wheel was available in metallic silver this year but then reverted to more traditional colors.
- 1257 - Tricycle (Also released under set number 3000 - Trike Buggy)
- 1258 - Buggy (Also released under set number 3001 - Propeller Buggy)
- 1259 - Motorbike (Also released under set number 1268 - Bike Blaster and 3003 - Motorbike)
- 1260 - Car (Also released under set number 3005 - Piston Car)
- 8246 - Hydro Racer
- 8247 - Road Rebel
- 8251 - Sonic Cycle
- 8252 - Beach Buster
- 8253 - Fire Helicopter
- 8255 - Rescue Bike
- 8268 - Scorpion Attack
- 8269 - Cyber Stinger
- 8444 - Jet Wasp
- 8445 - Indy Storm
- 8446 - Crane Truck
- 8448 - Super Street Sensation
- 8450 - The Mission
- 8500 - Torch / Fire
- 8501 - Ski / Ice
- 8502 - Turbo / City
- 8503 - Scuba / Sub
- 8504 - Jet / Judge
- 8505 - Amazon / Jungle
- 8506 - Granite / Rock
- 8507 - Electro / Energy
- 8520 - Millennium / Millennia
By Isodomus and Technicopedia