Hartmut Birett’s Recollections

The Funktionsmodelle was the most academically ambitious model released in the Lectron product line to date. The model was developed in 1973 by Hartmut Birett.  Mr. Birett’s Lectron Luminary page shows some actual videos of him demonstrating several experiments from his instruction manual.

The accompanying manual was actually a book published by Diesterweg in 1974 and was written for college/university level students and went into very detailed descriptions of biology functions and how these functions could be illustrated or demonstrated by electronic circuits. Unique to all the Lectron models, a transparent foil could be placed over the drawing schematics to show what individual Lectron blocks were to be used for the experiment. This innovation was also the idea of Mr. Birett.

The Funktionsmodelle was the only model to ship in two separate boxes but with identical nomenclature. There was no marking such as Box 1 of 2 or something similar.

The instruction book was available through regular retail book channels in addition to being included with the model.

The below is a photo proof of the first version of the model layout. This was the photo used in the Funktionsmodelle brochure. Notice the lack of the LEDs in two of the block types.

The photo carousel below shows the actual production run of the blocks in their respective four trays.

Like the Physik Experimentell model, it was released to the marketplace between October 1974 and October 1975 (according to published price lists).

Priced in its final appearance in the 1999 price list at 1,628 DM (about $990.00), this was the most expensive single model (as opposed to the hybrid Special Laboratory models) to date in the Lectron product line.

The 4 major blocks used ICs and featured TTL logic which required that the blocks use a 5VDC power source. Even the relay block was made in a 5 volt version. The 8170-101 LN300 5VDC power supply was required. There were two versions of two of the major blocks. The first version (without LEDs) may have been the prototype and was used for the brochure photographs. The productized second version added LED indicators.

The graphic below shows all the blocks and parts unique to the Funktionsmodelle model.

When visiting the Lectron-RWO warehouse in June of 2014, Günther Stabe discovered a small box at the bottom of a larger box which had just a few blocks from the Funktionsmodelle model. There were a couple of ‘dummy’ blocks which only had the white cover with schematic but had no electronic components on the inside. There were also some complete blocks which are shown immediately below.

Mr. Birett devised an ingenious and unique approach to helping someone visualize the individual Lectron System blocks through the use of a transparent ‘foil’ with a black grid (rasterfolie) that could be placed on top of the experiment’s schematic in the book. The book used only a few actual photos of the Lectron System circuits so the foil was helpful in setting up the blocks correctly.

Two of the photographed experiments illustrated within the book.

This is another very rare model and I have only seen it appear once on eBay since I began my research in 2012.  The second unit that I acquired was from a private purchase.

This model was discontinued by 2000. Its last appearance was in the February 1st, 1999 price list.

The instruction manual may be downloaded/reviewed here.

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Hartmut Birett’s Recollections
One of my research efforts has been to find and converse with as many Lectron System model designers and major contributors that I could find. After a preliminary search on the Internet using Mr. Birett’s name, I came up with a number from a directory. On June 4th, 2015, I called that phone number and a woman answered. My lack of German prevented my being able to speak to Mr. Birett and I was not sure if he was the correct person. I asked my research colleague Günther Stabe to call the number. On June 8th, Günther called the number and success! A 35 minute phone conversation ensued followed up with an email exchange.  Günther set up an appointment for us to meet Mr. Birett at his home in December.

From emails and an interview during our first visit, Mr. Birett shared some biographical information.  He had been a prospective teacher for biology and physics when he brought his first Lectron System set, an Egger model. The reader will recall that Egger sold the Lectron between 1966 and late 1967 before Braun took over the brand.

The unique flexibility of the Lectron  System got Mr. Birett to thinking that it could be used to better clarify concepts to students for cybernetics and functional biological models.

He communicated by mail to Mr. Manfred Walter of Lectron, GmbH in the early 1970’s and thus began their collaboration.

Mr. Birett related to me during my first face to face visit at his home in December of 2015 that money was hard to come by for Mr. Walter, even back in 1974. Instead of paying just cash for the development of the Funktionsmodelle model, Mr. Walter traded some equipment (an X Y plotter and a Braun movie camera) to Mr. Birett to satisfy the financial obligation. Mr. Birett still had that equipment in 2015!

During our 2017 visit, Mr. Birett agreed to demonstrate several experiments and I duly recorded them.  The videos may be seen on Mr. Birett’s Lectron Luminary page.

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