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All text on Lectron.info is © by Michael Peters 2012

BRAUN Era


Introduction
Initial Product Line
Product Line Evolution
The Demonstrationssysteme (Demonstration) Product Line
The Battery Block
The Speaker Block
The Meter Block

The Schülerübungssysteme (School System) Product Line
The Kybernetik Product Line
Product Line Overview Diagram
Transition to Lectron, GmbH

Introduction

Outside of the United States (where the name Raytheon would be the most recognized association), Braun is the company and brand name that the majority of people associate with the LECTRON product. The LECTRON system was championed by no less than one of the two chief executives of Braun, Erwin Braun. He wanted to make electronics more approachable to students of all ages. The LECTRON system fit his vision for doing so. Dr. Dieter Rams informed me of this fact through an interview conducted through the courtesy of Mr. Dietrich Lubs in August of 2014.

The sales director at Braun during that time, Georg Hohm, was also an advocate for the LECTRON system. According to a letter I received in March of 2015 from Dr. Jürgen Stark, a former Braun employee who left that company in 1969, wrote that Mr. Hohm had "died recently" at age 94.

Because of Erwin Braun and Georg Hohm's foresight in recognizing a superior product with great potential, the LECTRON survived the dissolution of the Egger-Bahn Company which occured in the Fall of 1967. Egger-Bahn's primary business had been the manufacturing and sale of H0 - 9mm model trains since 1963. Egger-Bahn introduced the LECTRON system to the marketplace in July of 1966. The LECTRON achieved far greater market placement under Braun's distributorship including a growing international presence by publishing the instruction manuals in multiple languages. The LECTRON product line was also expanded with new models over the next several years.

With the unfortunate demise of the original Egger-Bahn Company in 1967 due to financial difficulties and external pressures (see Ralph Stenzel's excellent Egger-Bahn historical account here), Braun acquired the sales rights of the LECTRON assets through a five year sales distributorship arrangement with Deutsche Lectron, GmbH in 1967. The manufacturing of the LECTRON system (with the exception of the manuals and cardboard boxing) stayed with the newly formed Deutsche Lectron, GmbH in Munich. This company had been formed out of the Egger-Bahn company in late 1967 to continue with the production and development of the LECTRON System.

Braun is known for many types of innovative products over the years - from shavers to shelves. The name Dieter Rams, who was their Chief of Design from 1961 to 1995 (per Sophie Lovell, author of Dieter Rams - "As Little Design As Possible"), is also synonymous with the Braun company. Unfortunately, the LECTRON product's invention, development, and design has been incorrectly ascribed to Dr. Rams by many supposed 'authorities' rather than to its real inventor, Georg Franz Greger. If you are reading this page and have not read the historical background facts of the LECTRON's creation and market presence prior to Braun, please click on the HOME navigation button to have this information presented for your review.

The LECTRON's new business address at Braun starting in the Fall of 1967 was 22 Rüsselsheimer Strasse, 6 Frankfurt (Main) 19. This facility was also the Braun corporate headquarters at this time. Artur and Erwin Braun had taken over the Braun company in 1951 after the death of their father (and Braun's founder) Max Braun. Also in 1967, the Braun brothers sold controlling interest in their company to the American firm Gillette for 200 million DM to attain financing to expand the Braun brand and business internationally.

The Braun brothers' offices were in the front building while the sales and design offices were located in the back building.

Sadly, Egger-Bahn had the LECTRON in the marketplace for little more than 1 year. Braun held the sales distributorship of the LECTRON System assets through the Fall of 1972 when it concluded the transition arrangements to Lectron, GmbH and INELCO, Braun's Italian distributor.

Mr. Manfred Walter, who had led the Braun LECTRON division from the very beginning (according to Dietrich Lubs, a senior member of the Braun Design Team headed up by Dieter Rams and who became deputy director of the Design Department at Braun starting in 1995), purchased the LECTRON rights at a very attractive price from Braun and became the Managing Director of Lectron, GmbH. Mr. Walter led this company from 1972 to 2001. He later gifted the LECTRON assets upon his retirement to the Reha Werkstatt Oberrad (RWO) Frankfurt am Main in 2001. More on this aspect to the story can be read under the LECTRON - MW Era and LECTRON - RWO Era tabs.

A photo of Mr. Walter (shown on the far left side speaking to the gentleman with black glasses) during his early days at Braun is shown below.


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Initial Product Line

Initially, Braun contracted the entire Egger product line from Deutsche Lectron, GmbH (including the model 800 Mini-Lectron) and re branded it with the Braun name and new cardboard box packaging. The new packaging and graphics were designed by Dieter Rams and his team. The 2 graphics below are from one of the earliest Braun brochures circa 1967 showing the initial Braun offering of the LECTRON product line. Five of the six models are described and illustrated. The 8400 model was not shown or mentioned in this brochure. In fact, I have not seen any Braun brochure advertising the 8400. It was nevertheless sold (briefly) but only in a white sleeve rather than the Braun branded cover with photos. Egger had sold their version of the 8400 in the same way - a simple white sleeve. Very likely, Braun only sold the 8400 until the Braun re branded Egger Lectron inventory was exhausted and did not commission Deutsche Lectron to make any more or them. On one of the 8400s that I own, the word 'BRAUN' has been taped over the word 'EGGER'. The 8400 would be shortly retired by Braun/Deutsche Lectron in favor of the Labor Spezial model of which 3 versions would ultimately be released. The 8400's last appearance in a price list was in 1968.

In the 2nd graphic, take note of the six little parts packages (Baustein-Sätze) on the bottom right side. The blister pack was an initial solution to replace failed blocks (a rare occurrence -- I have not had one active component block failure) or to support additional circuit experimentation. These are extremely rare to find.

As a side note, the 'blister' pack idea had also originated with the Egger-Bahn company (Bausteinsortimente für Nachkäufe (Building block kits for re-buys)) mentioned in one of their earliest 1966 catalogs. Thanks to Günther Stabe for pointing this out to me. Unfortunately, this product line was not released to the marketplace during Egger-Bahn's tenure. The Baustein-Sätze were later phased out by Braun/Deutsche Lectron in favor of individual block and parts ordering through a parts price list and catalog.

Braun, having an eye toward a marketplace beyond Germany, developed, in a relatively short period of time, sales agencies and service depots for the LECTRON in other European countries including England, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Italy. The initial exclusive distributor for the LECTRON in Italy was Kosmos. The graphic below shows the first Braun edition of the Model 800 (Mini-System).

In short order, INELCO would become Braun's LECTRON distributor.

The packaging cover was changed for the 800 - 8300 models with a new graphic (replacing the Egger grandfather/grandson family theme photo) emphasizing a more contemporary, academic theme.

When the 2nd edition of the 800X line was released using dark grey or black plastic cassette trays instead of the Styrofoam packaging, the cover verbiage was written in three languages, adding French and English to the German.

The Styrofoam color was also changed by Braun from the Egger black to white. The graphic below shows a later version of the Braun 8400 Labor 1 model. Earlier versions still had the Egger battery blocks with the two screws and switch.

The Styrofoam color change from black to white was not instantaneous. The Egger black Styrofoam supplies were used by Braun in their packaging for the 8400 until that inventory was exhausted. Even the Egger box was used for the 8400 model with Braun simply placing a sticker over the Egger name.

The instruction manual retained the verbiage and the schematics but the cover was changed to a simple all white cover binder with black lettering. Lectron GmbH would maintain the same color scheme.

Another item that Braun (through Deutsche Lectron) unfortunately eliminated from the 8000 - 8300 series (likely to save costs) was the very helpful full size layout placard that Egger had included. This placard afforded an easy way to make sure that all the blocks were accounted for. The placard was retained in the 8400 model. In the below graphic, you can see that the Braun label is peeling off. The word 'Egger' is underneath it.

To make up for the missing placard, the early version Braun instruction manuals showed the layouts for the 8000 - 8300 models on a single page. Later editions of the manuals finally eliminated that page too.

Nevertheless, the importance of the Braun re branding approach should not be understated. As Dr. Peter Kapos of Das Programm shared with me in an email in January of 2013, "... presentation of the set is a fundamental part of its appeal and significance. The artwork on the (Braun) Lectron boxes, in particular is stunning. ... (Braun) received the idea of (a) child's game and redeveloped it as an educational tool...". Although Egger had the academic community in mind with the 8400 Labor 1 model, Braun realigned the entire LECTRON product line toward the academic/education marketplace rather than to just the hobbyist with Dieter Rams and his team spearheading this refocus with the packaging design.
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Product Line Evolution

Braun (Deutsche Lectron?) later transitioned from Styrofoam packaging for the blocks to dark grey plastic trays. This allowed for the use of smaller packaging boxes as well once the Styrofoam molds were retired. For example, the Ausbausystem 2 (8200) model was reduced to 1/2 of its original size.

Here's a very rare block type with actual Braun branding on the white top cover. Four of them shipped with a Labor Spezial SK model that I purchased in 2013. According to fellow LECTRON community colleague Günther Stabe, this Braun branded block was used for promotional purposes at industry shows during the Braun era circa the early 1970's. The grounding block was the simplest and least expensive block of the Braun LECTRON catalog.

The 8400 model was also retired once the Labor Spezial model was introduced in the early 1970's. It came in three stackable metal trays. Although the graphic below is from the Lectron - MW era catalog, the SK model with power supply (using the same part number of 8-140-021) was first introduced by Braun in their May 1st, 1971 price list.

Braun recognized that the LECTRON had a very important role to play in the teaching of electronics and translated several of the instruction manuals in languages other than German. For example, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Finnish translations were published for the 90 experiments manual. The Buchlabor model manual "What is Electronics?" had English, Italian, Spanish, Danish, and Dutch translations. The Mini-Experimenter Volume 2 manual was only translated into English.
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The Demonstrationssysteme (Demonstration) Product Line

Focusing on the academic community became Braun's market priority, and 3 demonstration models were introduced - the 1300, 3101/3102, and the 3201 - which featured individual component blocks the size of the speaker block. More information is presented under the Braun -> Demonstrationssysteme tab.

Also note the metal holding tray for the plastic tray on the left. For multi-tray models like the Spezial Lab, stacking metal holding trays were introduced by Braun for the academic community to make it easier to store the kits when not in use by the students.

The 1300 (shown below) was also the first Braun model to introduce the use of integrated circuits into the blocks.

This tray shows the oversized blocks used in the 3101/3102 and 3201 models.


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The Kybernetik Product Line

The Kybernetik I and II models were designed by Edzard Timmer during the 1970's. Kybernetik I was released as a part of an Ausbausystem model and also as a standalone Curriculum model. Kybernetik II was released as the Ausbausystem 4 model and a Curriculum Kybernetik II model under the Lectron, GmbH company.

Curiously, the Kybernetik I subject matter (with its own separate Lehr-und Lernkartei (teaching and learning cards)) and parts were incorporated into the Ausbausystem 2 M model rather than having been created as a separate Ausbausystem model. This was the only such 'hybrid' model that Braun produced. The Ausbausystem 2 model had originally focused on the Electronik III subject matter based upon experiments 72 - 90d in the 90 experiment instruction manual. The Kybernetik I subject matter focused on Regelung und Phototaxis (control and phototaxis (movement of an organism toward or away from a source of light)). If the student purchased the Fahrgestell accessory kit (parts to build a frame with wheels), a light guided vehicle could be built.

The Curriculum Kybernetik I was available as a stand alone Schülerübungssysteme model with all the blocks and components, including the Fahrgestell kit, needed to complete the experiments in the documentation.

The photo below is clearly just for publicity purposes since the vehicle could not scale over a rocky terrain.

The Ausbausystem 4 - Kybernetik II model was listed as 'in preparation' in the Braun School and Demonstration catalog but was not released by Braun. Lectron, GmbH did release it and it is shown in their 1976 price list and in the Red Brochure shown in the documentation tab under the Lectron - MW era tab.
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The Battery Block

The one negative change Braun (Deutsche Lectron) made (in my opinion), was to alter the battery box. The Egger battery box used 2 machine screws to secure the white cover to the clear base. It also featured a switch built into the side of the white cover.

Braun eliminated the 2 screws in favor of 2 tabs on each long side of the white cover with matching slots in the clear base. Braun also eliminated the switch. This was a poor engineering decision requested by Braun in an attempt to reduce production costs. The new tab and slot approach frequently broke under the slightest provocation (such as opening the box to change the battery) leading to the cover falling off at inopportune moments and exposing the frail battery wire connections to the two connection points in the base. The battery would fall out of the base and stress the wiring to the point that either the red or black wire would frequently disengage from the soldered connection point. I know from personal experience! The off/on switch was nice to have so that the battery block did not have to keep being moved off the circuit to save battery power.

While we're on the subject of the battery case, I acquired a very rare battery case which has the screws but not the switch!

Egger, and by extension Braun, used PNP transistors in their circuit designs and therefore adopted the European convention of using a positive ground in schematics. When NPN transistors were introduced in the later Lectron - MW era models, a ground neutral battery case was devised. One such battery case was in my Labor Spezial unit.

Another observed variant of the battery block was shipped in a Labor Spezial SK kit I acquired in 2013. The power jack was wired in parallel with the interior battery solder posts. According to Günther Stabe, this block was modified by a third party and was not actually manufactured by Braun.

Finally, Braun released several different types of mains power supply blocks so that batteries would not be necessary. The photo below shows a version which actually had a switchable 110vac and 220vac capability. A nice feature for the international marketplace! Other versions did not have this capability but included 12vac binding posts rather than the sockets which were on this model.


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The Speaker Block

The Egger LECTRON speaker block had a square slot pattern in its grill. For some reason, Braun (Deutsche Lectron) changed it to a circular slot pattern to match the circumference of the speaker when the Schülerübungssysteme (blue box) versions of the original Experimentiersysteme product line was introduced during 1971 - 1972. The circular pattern would be retained by Lectron - MW and Lectron - RWO.

I am indebted to Jon Hill for pointing out to me on July 11th, 2014 that there were two different slot pattern designs for the speaker grill. I had never noticed this before. Well done Jon!

The height of the block was also changed from the original 2" height block to a lower profile 1.5" block.

Jon also pointed out that Mr. Greger may have been influenced in his speaker grill design by Braun's Dieter Rams' designs. It looks like that is certainly possible based upon the photos below! Of course, this speculation cannot be authoritatively answered due to the by now likely passing of Mr. Greger.

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The Meter Block
The original meter, as introduced by Egger-Lectron in 1966 was a positive deflection only meter. By about 1971, a positive and negative deflection meter was introduced so that negative and positive values could be measured by having a center position needle.

When Lectron - RWO took over the LECTRON product line in 2001, the positive and negative deflection meter was retained but the connection points were changed to allow greater flexibility in the circuit designs.


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The Schülerübungssysteme (School System) Product Line

Another major change Braun made was with the addition of academic versions of the LECTRON which used a light blue placard for ancillary component packaging (like for the motors featured in the Ausbausystem 2M model) and a light blue colored cover.

For the Grund S, Ausbausystem 1 S, Grund S + Ausbausystem 1 models, a Lehr-und Lernkartei documentation set called Elektrik I (Grund S) and Elektrik II (Ausbausystem 1 S) consisting of 57 experiments in total was added. The A4 sized guides used a question and answer format to explore additional experiments with more detail than the 90 experiment instruction book. The A4 format guides were also translated into English and French. The A5 format 'flash cards' of Elektrik I were added to the 1100 product line and were only available in German.

By the January 1st, 1972 price list, the Schülerübungssysteme product line had completely replaced the old Egger 8000x product line and the Minisystem and Mini-Ausbausystem that had been in the Experimentiersysteme product line. Interestingly, the Minisystem would reappear like the mythological Phoenix in the 1976 Lectron - MW era price list of February 1st, 1976.


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Product Line Overview Diagram

The following is a product category overview chart summarizing the three LECTRON product lines during the latter period of Braun's ownership. Braun (and by extension Deutsche Lectron) took the LECTRON product to the next level with the introduction of numerous new models including the Buchlabor and its own Ausbausystem; the Ausbausystem 3, its complete stand alone version the System 300; the Ausbausystem 4, the 1100 - 1102 and 1200 models, and the mighty (81mm x 81mm) Demonstrationssysteme models.

Transition to Lectron, GmbH

After about five years of ownership, Braun (with likely pressure from the Gillette Group, Braun's US holding company at the time) made arrangements to divest themselves of the LECTRON product line during the Fall of 1972 when a separate company, Lectron, GmbH, was formed under the leadership of Braun's LECTRON product director, Manfred Walter. According to Mr. Dietrich Lubs, Braun wanted to get out of the toy/education market and that is why the LECTRON product line was eliminated. Fortunately Mr. Walter was very passionate about the LECTRON system and asked for and received the right to purchase the LECTRON assets. How much Deutsche Lectron and Georg Greger were involved with this process is unclear. We do know from interviews that I conducted with Mr. Max Gürth in December of 2015 that the impending sale was announced (with regret) to the Deutsche Lectron staff by Mr. Greger.

Mr. Walter kept the Lectron, GmbH company running from 1972 to 2001, the longest single ownership of the LECTRON product line by one company. More information about the transition from the Braun to Lectron-Walter era may be read starting here.
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