The Myth - Dieter Rams Was The Inventor Of The LECTRON
The Reality - Georg Franz Greger Was The LECTRON's True Inventor
The Constantin Film Connection
Lectron Product History Overview
Raytheon Education Company
Lectron, GmbH MW Era
Lectron, GmbH RWO Era
Welcome to LECTRON.info, a website which is devoted exclusively to the world's best electronics pedagogical system, the LECTRON. Sales began in July of 1966 through the Egger-Bahn company and have continued, uninterrupted (albeit through different companies), for over 47 years.
This website will serve two primary purposes: an online resource of detailed information and vetted research on the LECTRON, and a virtual museum showcasing the LECTRON as a product in the marketplace from 1966 to present day.
With the gracious permission of Rolf Nitzsche, I am very pleased to present the cover of the first ever LECTRON brochure. Published on behalf of the Egger-Bahn company, this hardcover brochure was given exclusively to VIP attendees of the Nürnberg Toy Fair of 1966 along with 3 LECTRON blocks and an introduction letter signed by Georg Greger himself to announce the imminent shipment of the LECTRON in July of 1966. This brochure is extremely rare, and I am very grateful to Rolf for allowing Lectron.info to present the cover page of this unique and very rare document to the LECTRON community.
The graphic below is from Raytheon's 4 page brochure published in 1968 to help kick off the 2nd phase of their LECTRON product line which was sold exclusively in the American marketplace.
The Myth - Dieter Rams Was The Inventor Of The LECTRON
First things first. Dieter Rams had NOTHING to do with the creation, design, development, the writing of the manuals, or even the packaging of the LECTRON electronic blocks system. Setting the record straight is a major reason for why I created the LECTRON information resource. As far as I know, Dr. Rams himself has never personally claimed the inventor and designer roles for the LECTRON system and product, rather that these roles have been incorrectly ascribed to him by others. Identifying Dieter Rams (and usually Jurgen Greubel as well) as the inventor(s) and designer(s) of the LECTRON system and product is a common error that continues to be unfortunately propagated by numerous industrial design research authorities.
The facts are that Braun, a major German company with numerous product lines (and Dr. Rams' employer), purchased the LECTRON assets in 1967 from the Egger-Bahn company which had just gone out of business. Egger-Bahn sold three product lines including the H0-9mm model trains, slot cars (manufactured by Jouet, a French company), and the LECTRON. The Egger-Bahn company brought the LECTRON to the market in 1966 with 6 announced models. Five models were actually sold starting in July of 1966.
I would like to thank Bruce Sterling of Wired.com in the United States for adding my note in November of 2012 to his original blog article of May 10th, 2010 reflecting Georg Franz Greger as the inventor of the LECTRON system and product.
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The LECTRON electronic blocks system and product was the exclusive and unique invention of the German Georg Franz Greger in the early 1960's. The LECTRON achieved great accaim at numerous education, trade, and toy fairs upon its initial launch. The photo below shows Mr. Greger receiving the First Prize at the Electronica industry show in 1966. Unfortunately, the photograph does not identify which gentleman is Mr. Greger, but based on body language, my opinion is that he is on the left. If any reader can authoritatively identify Mr. Greger in the following photograph, please email me at mpeters at mpetersco.com.
Mr. Greger applied for a German patent of his 'Electronik-Baukasten' on May 7th, 1965. He was issued patent #1228081 on May 18th, 1967. The American patent filing date was about one year later after the German filing (May 5th, 1966) and is particularly interesting because it includes additional drawings (e.g. the speaker and deluxe base plate) which the earlier German patent filing did not have. Of course since the Egger-Bahn company had started selling the Egger Lectron in 1966, this extra detail in the American patent filing should not be much of a surprise. There is also quite a bit more information on how everything works. The American patent #3,447,249 was issued on June 3rd, 1969. Click on the patent links to see a PDF copy of the original patents.
Although not formally productized to this author's knowledge, Mr. Greger filed patents in numerous countries during 1967 for some additional LECTRON system component additions. These included a proposed motor, a unique ac rectifier multi-block, and a connection bar to the base plate. One addition (a block with soldering lugs which passed up through the top part of the block) violated his standing proposition of not using any soldering points exposed to the customer.
For ease of reading, the British patent filing of February 10th, 1967 may be examined here. A drawing showing the base plate connection bar is immediately below.
The 1966 Egger LECTRON instruction manual's last page also detailed the credits for the LECTRON product. Aside from Georg Greger and Joachim Schubert (Ingenieur or Engineer), there is Theo Hinz (Gestaltung or Layout), Robert Hoffmann (Graphik or Graphics), Andreas Feierabend (Technische Zeichnungen or Technical Drawings), and Lilo Bittlmayer (Herstellung or Manufacturing). No Dieter Rams credits are to be found!
While admittedly not directly related to the LECTRON story, Mr. Greger was also the inventor of a new method to copy skip-frame cinematographic film. The US patent (filed June 3rd, 1971) may be seen here. The German patent filing was a year earlier on June 9th, 1970. It is very interesting to note that while the inventor is Mr. Greger, the assignee for the patent is Constantin Film GmbH. Mr. Greger maintained an association with Constantin Film and its founder, Waldfried Barthel before and after the Egger-Bahn break up in 1967. He and Barthel joined together for several other patent filings including 'A baseplate for toy lines', 'Lighting circuit for toy vehicles', 'Sync method for sound film technology' and 'Cover for stereo sound film'. This is the company that, according to Ralph Stenzel, "... began unabashedly to stamp their interests on the EGGER product line." Additionally, "... conflict between the quality-conscious EGGER brothers and their profit-motivated backers from the film company, coupled with ongoing difficulties manufacturing the drive systems led to the end of production and the breakup of the firm in 1967.". The French company Jouef took over the train assets while Braun, AG took over the LECTRON assets.
Constantin Film, from 1964 (the year of their entry into Egger company as financiers) through 1966, was in the process of creating the Clint Eastwood 'Dollars' trilogy under the direction of Sergio Leone.
Constantin Film remains a significant production company having recently released the Resident Evil series of movies, The Three Musketeers, and the Fantastic Four movies. An animated Tarzan in 3D movie will be released in 2013.
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The history of the LECTRON product is an interesting one and I am still conducting research to 'fill in the blanks'. I would like to acknowledge Günther Stabe in particular as a person who shares a passion for the LECTRON product with me. He continues to maintain a significant LECTRON resource on the excellent website, Radio Museum.org. Some of my work on Lectron.info will mirror what Mr. Stabe has already prepared. However, the Radio Museum.org website is geared to a variety of electronic products and companies and therefore does not go into the detail that I hope to develop and present over time. Additionally, LECTRON.Info is devoted exclusively to the LECTRON sytem, product lines, the associated companies (Egger, Braun, Inelco, Raytheon, Kimble Products, and Lectron) and the LECTRON's history, both past and present.
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The LECTRON electronic blocks system was manufactured and sold first by the Egger-Bahn company (primarily a German model train maker) in 1966. The trademark can be seen here. Five models were available - the 8000, 8100, 8200, 8300, and 8400. A sixth model (800) named the Mini-Lectron was announced by Egger but was never sold commericially. Braun however would sell the model 800 as their Minisystem model.
In 1967, the huge German electronics concern Braun AG acquired the LECTRON assets from the Egger-Bahn company and began marketing and selling the LECTRON under their own branding. The Braun LECTRON used the exact same blocks (with one exception - the battery block), similar packaging (white instead of black styrofoam), base plate (a light tan trim border base plate instead of blue), and instruction manual (the cover and binder was different) as the Egger LECTRON. It should be noted that Braun did use the Egger black styrofoam for at least the 8400 model until the Egger LECTRON supplies ran out.
A more complete discussion of the packaging and battery block issues will ensue within the Egger and Braun pages.
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Concurrently, the Raytheon Education Company in the United States sold the LECTRON product first under the name Electronic Dominoes (models 800 and 820) and then under the name Lectron (Series 1 - 5 along with 'Add-On' kits) using the Egger trademark 'look'.
Unfortunately, Raytheon stopped selling the LECTRON in 1969.
Raytheon also repackaged a Series 3 model as the S822 LECTRON LCIII model in 1968 for the Creative Playthings company of Princeton, NJ. A nice differentiator for this model was the inclusion of the deluxe base plate.
Inelco, the Italian company which previously held the distributorship for the Braun LECTRON in Italy, also sold the LECTRON under their own brand starting in 1973 using the Braun Buchlabor model as its base. The Sistema Lectron Serie 2000 was sold exclusively in Italy. Like Raytheon, Inelco also used the add-on kit approach and sold six additional kits (2001 - 2006) which added more experiments. More information about Inelco's role in the LECTRON may be found under the Inelco tab.
Kimble Products, a division of Owens-Illinois and located in the USA, also sold several models of the LECTRON under their Mr. Wizard's Experiments In Electronics brand from about 1972 - 1974.
According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine article of November 17th, 1973, Braun formalized the arrangements for transitioning the LECTRON assets to Lectron, GmbH and Inelco based upon geographic boundaries in the Fall of 1972. The Lectron GmbH was established as an independent company under the leadership of the former Braun LECTRON division director, Manfred Walter. More information about the transition from Braun to Lectron and Inelco may be read under the Lectron - MW Era -> Introduction tab.
Mr. Walter, who had led the Braun LECTRON division, was a true leader and innovator of the LECTRON product and system. He and his team introduced new kits and over time retired the now aging 8000 series product line. Unfortunately the multi-language approach to the manuals, which Braun had spear-headed in an effort to attract a more global marketplace, was also retired over time so that by 2001, only German instruction manuals were produced.
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In 2001, Mr. Walter gifted the LECTRON assets to Rehab-Werkstatt Oberrad (a physical rehabilitation social home) and a part of the Frankfurter Verein association in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. Mr. Walter died a few years later.
Mr. Norbert Cahn von Seelen is the current director of RWO (2012). The good news is that the LECTRON product, in many different configurations and kits, can still be purchased through this organization. The website is www.lectron.de. Unfortunately, all the manuals are now published only in German and there are no plans to have them translated into other languages because there are no funds available (per email I received from Mr. Cahn von Seelen in 2012).
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As the reader may gather, I am quite passionate about the LECTRON product. I received my first LECTRON as a Christmas gift from my maternal grandmother in 1967. It was a Raytheon Electronic Dominoes 820 model. This LECTRON kit fueled my interest in electronics which has lasted throughout my life. Although that kit has long been 'lost', I have been acquiring a variety of LECTRON models over the last 2 years. I was finally able to re-acquire a model 820 through an Ebay auction in August of 2012. It still works and has brought back many happy memories of the many hours spent in following the 'schematics' to make an AM radio, morse code practice oscillator, night light, and other circuits of my own creation.
This resource will continue to be built over the next several months. There is a lot of information to cover. So please enjoy the website and I of course welcome any corrections or new information that can be added to make this the premier LECTRON historical information resource and museum on the internet.
All text on Lectron.info is © by Michael Peters 2012 - 2013
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