Initial Product Line
Product Line Evolution (Experimentierkästen) -> Experimentiersysteme
The Demonstrationssysteme (Demonstration) Product Line
The Schülerübungssysteme (School System) Product Line
The Kybernetik Product Line
The Battery Block
The Speaker Block
The Meter Block
Last Product Line Overview Diagram
Transition to Lectron, GmbH
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 System product. The Lectron System was championed by no less than one of the two chief executives of Braun, Erwin Braun (on the right – born 1921-AUG-29 in Frankfurt, died 1992-JUN-27 in Sarnen, Switzerland). He and his brother Artur (born 1925 Germany, died 2013-NOV-03 in Germany) took over Braun upon the death of their father Max Braun in 1951. Erwin wanted to make the subject of electronics more approachable to students of all ages. The Lectron System 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 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 System survived the dissolution of the Egger-Bahn Company which occurred 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 system to the German marketplace in July of 1966. The Lectron System achieved far greater market placement under Braun’s sales agency and distributorship including a growing international presence by publishing the instruction manuals in multiple languages. The Lectron System product line was also expanded with new models commissioned over the next several years under Braun’s Lectron System division’s management.
With the aforementioned 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 to the Lectron System assets through a five year sales distributorship arrangement with the newly formed Deutsche Lectron, GmbH in 1967. The product development and manufacturing of the Lectron System remained primarily with Deutsche Lectron during the Braun era of 1967 – 1972. Marketing, Sales and Packaging Design became the province of the Braun Lectron System division. Dr. Rams’ design team, which included Mr. Lubs, was a part of the Lectron System re-branding and packaging redesign. Per Mr. Lubs, Mr. Manfred Walter took over the helm of the division in a short time frame.
Georg Franz Greger (the inventor of the Lectron System and pictured on the right) remained with Deutsche Lectron in an advisory capacity for new model and circuit development.
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 System product’s invention, development, and design has been incorrectly ascribed to Dr. Rams by many supposed ‘authorities’ rather than to its real inventor, Mr. Greger.
The Lectron System’s new business address at Braun starting in 1967 was 22 Rüsselsheimer Strasse, 6 Frankfurt (Main) 19. This facility was also the Braun corporate headquarters (very briefly) at this time. The Braun brothers’ offices were in the front building while the sales and design offices were located in the back building.
In 1967, the Braun brothers sold controlling interest of their company to the American firm Gillette for 200 million DM to attain international financing to expand various Braun brands and business lines. The corporate headquarters were then moved to Kronberg (Taunus), their current campus, in the late Fall of 1967. The Lectron System business offices remained at the Rüsselsheimer address as evidenced by the below 1972 price list.
In 1982 Gillette took over full control of Braun AG. Numerous product lines were eliminated or sold off. In 2005 Gillette was acquired by Procter & Gamble. Braun is one of several brands including Duracell that is under the P&G umbrella.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. Gillette was not interested in maintaining the education segment of their business lines and the Lectron System was a subsequent casualty.
Mr. Walter (shown on the far left side speaking to the gentleman with black glasses), purchased the Lectron System rights at a very attractive price from Braun and became the Managing Director of the newly formed Lectron, GmbH. Mr. Walter led this company from 1972 to 2001. He later gifted the Lectron System assets upon his retirement to the Reha Werkstatt Oberrad (RWO) Frankfurt am Main in 2001.
Initial Product Line (Experimentierkästen) -> Experimentiersysteme
Initially, Braun sold the entire Egger product line in their Lectron Experimentierkästen category in the first price list of 1967-SEP-01. The existing block inventory from the Egger-Bahn era was used. The product line included the announced but not sold Egger model 800 Mini-Lectron but it was re-branded as the Minisystem with the Braun name and a new cardboard graphics and packaging style. Five of the six models are described and illustrated.
In the graphic on the right, 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. Braun Lectron showed the blister packs at one of their early shows (photo below left from the Nürnberg Toy Show in February of 1968) but to my knowledge, Braun Lectron did not release them to to the marketplace either. I have never seen one for sale on eBay.
As a side note, the ‘blister’ pack idea had originated with the Egger-Bahn company as Bausteinsortimente für Nachkäufe (Building block kits for re-buys) mentioned in one of their earliest 1966 catalogs. Thanks to my research colleague and fellow Lectroneer 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.
The 8400 model was not shown or mentioned in the above initial 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 of them. Braun did sell the 8400 in white Styrofoam before discontinuing it in the latter part of 1968. 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 Braun Laborsysteme models of which 3 versions would ultimately be announced. The 8400’s last appearance in a price list was in the 1968-JAN-01 price list.
In the 1969-APR-15 price list, the Ausbausystem 3, System 300, Ausbau-Minisystem (and renamed Mini-Ausbausystem by the 1969-JUL-01 price list) and Juniorsystem (to be renamed Buchlabor by the 1969-NOV-01 price list) models had been added.
By the 1969-JUL-01 price list, the Labor 1 (8400) model had been discontinued and the name of the primary product category was changed to Lectron Experimentiersysteme.
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 System in other European countries including England, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Italy. The initial exclusive distributor for the Lectron System in Italy was Kosmos s.r.l. The graphic to the left shows the first Braun edition of the Model 800 (Mini-System).
In short order, INELCO would become Braun’s Lectron System distributor. INELCO would have an even more important European role in the Fall of 1972 when Lectron, GmbH was formed.
Braun, in an effort to emphasize a more education oriented product beyond toy/hobby marketplace, changed the packaging cover for the 800 – 8300 models with a new graphic (replacing the Egger grandfather and grandson family theme photo) to emphasize a more contemporary, academic theme. Mr. Lubs, in conversations with him in October of 2019, told me that the Sales/Marketing team had designed the packaging ‘look’ and NOT the the Design team.
When the 2nd edition of the 800X line was released using dark grey or black plastic vacuum formed trays instead of the Styrofoam packaging, the cover verbiage was changed to be written in three languages, adding French and English to the German.
The Styrofoam color was also changed at the product line launch 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 for the 8400 model. 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’ was 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 feature 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…”. I recommend that my readers visit Dr. Kapos’ website for a very scholarly, authoritative and interesting presentation of the Braun Design ecosystem and ethos.
It should be noted as shown in the above photograph, Egger also had the academic community in mind with the development of 8400 Labor 1 model. Braun however realigned the entire Lectron System product line toward the academic/education marketplace rather than to just the hobbyist with Dr. Rams and his team spearheading this refocus with the overall packaging design rework.
Product Line Evolution
Braun (through 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 ppurchased in 2013. According to Mr. 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 System 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 above 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 System had a very important role to play in the teaching of electronics and translated several of the main 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, Japanese, and Dutch translations. The Mini-Experimenter Volume 2 manual was only translated into English.
These were specially designed models to facilitate electronic demonstrations in the classroom by using oversize (81mm x 81mm) blocks. The System 1300 model is shown below in the classroom application.
Focusing on the academic community became Braun’s market priority, and 3 demonstration models were introduced – the 1300 (shown to the left), the 3101/3102, and the 3201 – which featured individual component blocks the size of the speaker block. The 1300 was also the first Braun model to introduce the use of integrated circuits into a Lectron System block rather than simulating a digital function using analog components and circuits as was done for the Ausbausystem 3 (Computer Techniques) model. Mr. Lubs (photo on the right) designed the block cover graphics for this model.
Also note the metal holding tray for the plastic tray on the left. For multi-tray models like the Labor Spezial model, 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 innovation of the metal trays was the idea of Mr. Walter while head of the Lectron System division at Braun.
Although the System 1300 was listed in the Schülerübungssysteme product category of the Braun April 1st, 1970 price list, it was a demonstration category model. That misprint would be corrected in the January 1st, 1972 price list. The 1300 model was never released as a ‘normal’ size block model. The A 4 format 1300 (Boolesche Algebra) Lehr-und Lernkartei (teaching and learning cards) documentation was also included. Mr. Norbert Cahn von Seelen, the Lectron System product manager at Reha Werkstatt Oberrad (RWO) from 2001 to 2016 very generously gave me an original copy of this very rare manual.
The 3101 (later the 3102) was the demonstration edition of the System 1100 series models and included the 1100 (Elektrik I) and 1101 (Elektrik II) Lehr-und Lernkartei documentation.
The 3201 was the demonstration edition of the System 1200 model and included the 1200 (Schaltalgebra) Lehr-und Lernkartei documentation.
All three demonstration models were still listed in the Lectron – MW price list of February 1st, 1976. The demonstration product category would be phased out during the later Lectron – MW era.
The 3102 demonstration model in all its glory.
The 3102 in the classroom.
The Schülerübungssysteme (School System) Product Line
Another major positive innovation that Braun made was with the creation of academic versions of the Lectron System experiment model line. The Schülerübungssysteme product category first appeared in the 1970-APR-01 price list along with the Demonstrationssysteme category.
The school system line featured a light blue placard for ancillary component packaging (like for the motors featured in the Ausbausystem 2 M model) and a light blue colored cover.
Another important innovation which encouraged testing at various points of the circuit were the ‘inserts’. Their large thin tabs would allow easy insertion between blocks for making test measurements. The special blue insert had a split tab with two probe jacks to allow for current measurements.
For the Grundsystem S, the Ausbausystem 1 S, and 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 manual. The A4 format guides were also translated into English, Italian and French. The A5 format ‘flash cards’ of Elektrik I were added to the 1100 product line and were only published in German.
By the final January 1st, 1972 price list, Braun had replaced all the Egger legacy 800x models, the Ausbausystem 3, and System 300 models with the Schülerübungssysteme versions. These models were then shifted from the Schülerübungssysteme product category to the Experimentiersysteme one. The Minisystem and Mini-Ausbausystem were also discontinued.
Interestingly, the Minisystem would reappear like the mythological Phoenix in the 1976 Lectron – MW era price list of February 1st, 1976.
All of the Braun price lists may be examined individually on the Braun Documentation page.
The Kybernetik Product Line
The Kybernetik I and II models were designed by Edzard Timmer (photo on the left) during the early 1970’s. In an unusual packaging design decision, the Kybernetik I was released as a part of the Ausbausystem 2 M model rather than having its own Ausbausystem model. This was the only such ‘hybrid’ model that Braun produced. 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 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 had its own separate Lehr-und Lernkartei (teaching and learning cards) which were added to the Ausbausystem 2 M.
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 photo below is clearly just for publicity purposes since the vehicle could not possibly scale over a rocky terrain. Note the Egger style battery box with the power switch and two screws.
The Ausbausystem 4 – Kybernetik II model was listed as ‘in preparation’ in the Braun School and Demonstration catalog but was not released by Braun. LectronMW (Lectron, GmbH) did release it and it appeared in their 1976 price list and in their Red Brochure.
Braun also sold a magnetic black board as an accessory. The last known existing blackboard is currently at the Lectron, GmbH workshop located at 124 Wienner Strasse (as of 2019-OCT).
The Battery Block
The one negative change Braun (through Deutsche Lectron) made (in my opinion), was to alter the battery box as a cost cutting measure. 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 further 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! Who knows how many were made of this battery case variant?
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. at that time 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.
Finally, Braun released several different types of AC 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.
The Speaker Block
The Egger Lectron System 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.
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 the Reha Werkstatt Oberrad (RWO) took over the Lectron System 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.
Last Product Line Overview Diagram
The graphic to the left is a model profile based on category summarizing the three Lectron System product lines during the latter period of Braun’s ownership. Braun (in partnership with Deutsche Lectron) took the Lectron System product to the next level with the introduction of numerous new models including the Buchlabor, the Mini-Ausbausystem 1, the Ausbausystem 3, its complete stand alone version the System 300; the development of the Ausbausystem 4, the release of the 1100 – 1102 and 1200 models, the Labor Spezial SK, and the mighty (81mm x 81mm) Demonstrationssysteme models.
Transition to Lectron, GmbH
After about four years of ownership, Braun (with pressure from the Gillette Group, Braun’s majority shareholder since late 1967) observing a trailing of profits over the years as product saturation became a factor, was looking to divest themselves of the Lectron System product line. This was internally discussed during a meeting on March 8th, 1971 (referred to in document of the left). A separate company, Lectron, GmbH, was formed under the leadership of Braun’s Lectron System managing director, Mr. Walter. According to Mr. Lubs, Gillette wanted to get out of the toy/education market and that is why the Lectron System 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 System assets. How much Deutsche Lectron and Mr. Greger were involved with this process is unclear. We do know from interviews that I conducted with Mr. Max Gürth (a Lectron System circuit designer and independent colleague of Mr. Greger) in December of 2015 that the plans for the impending sale of the Lectron System by Braun was announced (with deep regret) to the Deutsche Lectron staff sometime in 1971 by Mr. Greger.
Mr. Walter kept the Lectron, GmbH company running from 1972 to 2001, the longest single ownership of the Lectron System product line by one company.