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Introduction
Electronics Illustrated Article – September, 1967
First Phase – Electronic Dominoes Models

Second Phase – Lectron Series Models
Add-On Kits 1 – 7

Marketing Brochure
Supplementary Instruction Manual No. 1
Creative Playthings, Three Worlds and Kimble
Raytheon Lectron System In The Media
Raytheon Employee Purchase Order
Raytheon retail pricing – Series Product Line
The End of the Line

Introduction
Raytheon is an American company with numerous subsidiaries which still conducts business today. From the fourth quarter of 1967 through 1969 the Lectron System product was sold through the Macalaster Scientific Company which was a division of the Raytheon Education Company (now defunct).

For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to the Raytheon Education Company as Raytheon.

How did Raytheon become involved with Egger-Bahn and the Lectron System? According to an article dated July 24th, 1966 (on right), Egger-Bahn had revealed plans to begin exporting the Lectron System to other international markets. “From January 1st, 1967, Egger will generally begin exporting the electronic system. Especially in the U.S. market as the largest market for technical teaching aids, the company (Egger) expects very good sales opportunities.

Unfortunately, Egger-Bahn went out of business in the Fall of 1967.  The Raytheon -> Egger-Bahn relationship would be realigned with Deutsche Lectron.

According to the F.A.Z. article (shown on the right) published in Frankfurt on April 20th, 1968 (Raytheon had started selling the Lectron System in the US in the 4th quarter of 1967) Deutsche Lectron, GmbH was identified as the company which had made the exclusive sales and distribution agreements (for the Lectron System) with Braun AG and Raytheon a year earlier in 1967. The reader will recall that Deutsche Lectron was the repurposed Lectron System production facility which was formed in the Fall of 1967 after Egger-Bahn’s dissolution in the same time frame. Deutsche Lectron’s production facilities remained at the Egger-Bahn production facility at 73 Albert-Rosshaupterstrasse in Munich. The F.A.Z. article immediately above provides an interesting revelation that it was Deutsche Lectron that made the distribution and sales agency arrangements for the Lectron System (in addition to the product development and roll out of new models and updates/upgrades). Braun AG (and Raytheon) only handled the sales and marketing.

The first known major article about the Lectron System in the USA appeared in the August 1967 issue of Popular Science. The reader will note that the demo unit is an Egger 8400 model.  Based on publishing practices, this article was likely written some 3 months before the article’s publication month of August.  Egger-Bahn was still the manufacturer of the Lectron System at this time.  The approximate pricing of $50.00 would reflect the initial release of the Raytheon 800 and 820 models.  An 8400 Raytheon variant would have to wait until the second phase of the Raytheon Lectron product line when it would appear as the Series 5 – Executive Model

Unfortunately, Raytheon decided to focus primarily on the toy market rather than the academic and education marketplaces with its initial 800 and 820 models.  The second phase Series 4 and 5 models however were developed with the academic and vocational school sectors and the price reflected this. These two models did not have a large production run. For example, only about 250 units of the Series 5 model were produced with a retail price tag of $200.00 in 1968 dollars (about $1400.00 in 2019 dollars).

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Electronics Illustrated Article – September, 1967
The second article of importance in the Fall of 1967 was published in the September, 1967 issue by Electronics Illustrated.  We have a first hand account of an Egger-Lectron model 8400 being evaluated by Elmer Carlson, a senior writer for Electronics Illustrated. The author in the article writes that he received an ‘Egger-Lectron 8400 learning aid‘ for his review (and not a Braun branded one).  In the review, the author also mentions the Egger Mini-Lectron (what would also be Raytheon’s Model 800), the availability of the ‘individual blister-packed add-on units (which were never released by either Egger or Braun), and the planning for release of two intermediate sets.

Looking at the cover photograph (just click on it and the full page lightbox will display), one can see the dark yellow cover of the Egger manual just above the base plate.  This is also one of the very rare color photographs of the Lectron System from that time period.  

I acquired both the Raytheon 820 (notice the white instead of black Styrofoam mold indicating the Braun version) and Egger 8400 in the same eBay auction from a Rhode Island consignment house. I was informed by the seller that these 2 models were the consignment of a man whose father had been a Raytheon employee and that he had acquired them as such. No Egger manual was included with this particular unit.  In another such unit, the Raytheon Lectron Laboratory Manual (in English) was shipped with it.

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First Phase – Electronic Dominoes Models
Raytheon sold the Lectron System in two phases. The first phase was sold as ‘Electronic Dominoes‘ and featured two models: The Model 800 ($21.95) and the Model 820 ($31.95). The Styrofoam molds were initially the black repurposed leftovers from the Egger Lectron models. The photo features the boy using the Egger 800 Mini-Lectron prototype. Not surprising since Deutsche Lectron was the manufacturer of the Lectron System until the Fall of 1972 when Lectron, GmbH was formed under Manfred Walter‘s leadership. Ultimately the Raytheon mold transitioned to white styrofoam instead of black, just as Braun had. It is interesting to note that the instruction manual photos of the 800 and 820 used the Egger black Styrofoam mold. In point of fact, the Egger leftovers were used as the examples because the white Raytheon versions were not production ready when the manual was prepared.

One unique aspect to the Raytheon Lectron core instruction manual was that there were two versions. The first version used for the 800 and 820 models (the more rare version) used actual photographs of an assembled experiment. Every other instruction manual published by the other companies (Egger, Kimble, Braun, Lectron, GmbH, and INELCO) used drawings.

In the second edition of the core instruction manual used for the Series product line, Raytheon also transitioned to drawings. Otherwise, content remained the same. 

This version of the manual was printed with the verbiage of the 800 and 820 removed and replaced with the Series 1 through 3 model names.  Can you spot the glaring issue with the models that were used in the manual?

Yes, they used the Electronic Dominoes 820 model (the old Egger 8100 model)!  The Series 2 model representation used the Electronic Dominoes 800 model as its photo. There was not any photo provided for the Series 1 model.

Finally, one additional positive of the Series product line was the new style ground plate which had the Raytheon logo and the word ‘Lectron’ stamped onto the plate instead of using a sticker as the 800 and 820 models had used for their ground plate.

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Second Phase – Lectron Series 1 – 5 Models
The second phase of the Raytheon Lectron System product line saw the dropping of the ‘Electronic Dominoes’ moniker.  The primary brand remained. The product line would be expanded to 5 models initially with the 6th (Series 3A) being added a few months later.  The newly christened Lectron Series product line with new packaging and colorful graphics was launched in May of 1968.   3 new sets were initially introduced – the Series 1, Series 4, and Series 5. The 800 and 820 Electronic Dominoes models were repackaged respectively as the Series 2 and Series 3 models.

The Series 4 and Series 5 models deserve a special mention here.  They were both made out of  beautiful hard wood and featured rows of red faux felt lined block trays.  The wood box even had a lock and key!  The Series 5 is my favorite Lectron System model ever made. They are exceedingly rare to find.  I acquired mine in 2012 on eBay and I have seen only one other unit offered since.

The Series 4 and 5 models shared their own instruction manual. It was written for a secondary school / vo-tech audience.  There were very detailed and more technical explanations about how how each circuit (experiment) worked with the accompanying block schematic. 

Unlike the Egger/Braun instruction manual which covered 90 experiments, the Raytheon 175 page manual only covered 57 experiments and was divided into 8 sections to discuss various electronics subjects.  Many of the Raytheon experiments were taken from the original Egger instruction manual.  For example the below Raytheon experiment (circuit) #57 was actually the Egger #90 experiment.

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Supplementary Instruction Manual No. 1
Naturally, given the Lectron System product history, there were two versions of the Raytheon Lectron Series product line. Within a year of the initial release of the Series product line, a Supplementary Instruction Manual No. 1 was issued which offered additional experiments numbered 28 through 64.  Orange stickers were created and added to various areas of the cover to reflect the additional experiment count which varied based on the Series model number.  For example the Series 3 initially supported 27 experiments.  With the supplementary manual a total of 56 experiments could be explored.  The block count remained the same for all Series models with the exception of Series 3A.  Several additional blocks, including a speaker block, were added to the box to support the additional experiment increase.

Astute readers will also notice a Series 3 orange sticker on the Series 1 cover shown in the above photograph.  In a further effort to economize, the larger Series 3 packaging box was replaced with the smaller Series 1 box hence the Series 3 sticker covering up the Series 1 verbiage.

The inside packaging had to be reworked and the clear plastic mold holding the the Series 3 blocks was eliminated in favor of rather cheap looking basic shrink wrapping.

Series 3 using original Series 3 mold in Series 3 box.

Series 3 using Series 1 box with shrink wrapping.

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Add-On Kits 1 – 7
Raytheon also provided extension Add-On kits so that, for example, a Series 1 kit could be upgraded to a Series 2 kit.  There were 5 initially announced Add-On kits with the Series product launch with 2 additional Add-On kits added concurrent with the Supplementary Instruction Manual release.  As can be seen by the above photo, there were two sizes of packaging to accommodate the type and count of blocks included for each Add-On kit. Add-On kits 6 and 7 were unique in that additional instructions were provided in the box.  The Add-On kits are very rare and the Lectron.Info museum is fortunate to have all 7 kits.

The retail pricing for the 7 Add-On kits is shown from page 41 of the supplementary instruction manual.  Also shown is how each Add-On kit complimented the partnered Series kit.

One final matter to discuss on the subject of the Add-On kits.  Raytheon issued on order sheet (shown on the left) specific to the Add-On kit product line.  It lists 8 available Add-On kits.  The reader will note that in the first paragraph, only the first instruction manual is alluded to by mentioning only 27 experiments for the Series 3.  Subsequent documentation only mentions 7 Add-On kits. 

Further evidence to this fact can be gleamed from a 1974 parts ordering list from Kimble.  Only 7 Add-On kit models are shown.

We also learn from the Raytheon Add-On kit order document that Mr. Harley Bates was the contact person for Raytheon Lectron System owners to send new experiments or projects to (that were not in the manual).

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Marketing Brochure
Illustrating the kids-oriented marketing focus for the Raytheon Lectron System (‘makes electronics child’s play’), the cover of the last Raytheon Lectron marketing brochure features an ebullient younger boy expressing his excitement at building an AM radio.

A creative product stand to tell the Lectron System story was also added to the marketing tools.

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Creative Playthings, Three Worlds and Kimble
During the Raytheon era (1967 – 1969) and after through the mid 1970’s, the Lectron System had several other resellers in the United States.

Creative Playthings of Princeton, NJ sold a repackaged and rebranded Raytheon Series 3 A.  Actually the block content was from the Series 3 but the box was from the Series 3 A model. 

Three Worlds followed the same formula as Creative Playthings with the release of their model. Unfortunately no instructional manual was received in both acquisitions of this model.  I therefore do not know the exact year that it was released that perhaps the publication date in the instruction manual might have shown. 

Kimble had been a division of Owens-Illinois since 1965 and sometime in 1972, Owens-Illinois purchased the entire Lectron System inventory from Raytheon. Kimble had already established the successful Mr. Wizard’s Experiments product line categories for Chemistry, Crystal Growing and Ecology. A category called Mystery Garden would be added later following the Electronics category.  Looking to cover the Electronics category, the acquisition of the Lectron System assets was a perfect fit and was ‘ready to go’ with the exception of needing to update the packaging branding.   

3 distinct Lectron System based models were issued between 1972 and 1974, the Model I, Model II, and Model III. Their branding, as well as the category products, capitalized on the then popular TV personality of Don Herbert who was also known as Mr. Wizard. The Lectron System  branding, became  ‘Mr. Wizard’s Experiments in Electronics‘. Mr. Herbert hosted three series of TV shows devoted to educating children about science and technology. The show series ran from 1951 – 1965, 1971 – 1972, and 1983 – 1990. Don Herbert died on June 12th, 2007.

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Raytheon Lectron System In The Media
Raytheon primarily advertised their Lectron product lines in Boy’s Life as far as I can tell from various Internet searches. 

The Raytheon Lectron System caused its own US domestic excitement at the New York City Toy Fair held in early 1968 and was featured as one the the six leading products from the toy show to appear on the Today Show.  In the article below, Hugh Downs demonstrated an experiment to his co-host Joe Garigiola Sr. who was ‘fascinated’. We also learn from this article that Bruce Hunt was the manager of consumer products at the Raytheon Education Company at this time.

From an internal (Raytheon News) publication in October of 1968, the article immediately below talks of pending Christmas season sales.  Most interestingly, the article states that following successful Lectron System sales to schools, Raytheon Education Company management decided to introduce the Lectron System to the consumer market.  This was quite a revelation to me given the Boy’s Life advertisement in 1967 shown above. Additionally, my maternal Grandmother had purchased an Electronic Dominoes Model 820 in the late Fall of 1967 to give me as a Christmas present!  So obviously, the Raytheon Lectron System was in the consumer sales channels before the publication of this article in October of 1968.

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Raytheon Employee Purchase Order
It was good to be a Raytheon employee!  Look at the pricing – the wood case Series 5 retailed for $200.00.  For the fortunate employee, $90.00. Also notice that only 7 Add-On kits are listed in the price list.

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Raytheon retail pricing – Series Product Line
Here is the original retail pricing for the Series product line.  The experiment count reflects the additional experiments added by the inclusion of the Supplementary Manual No. 1. Notice however that the orange stickers are absent from the model photos.

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The End of the Line

The approximate end date for Raytheon’s involvement with the Lectron System was sometime in 1972.  This was about the time that the first model of Kimble’s Mr. Wizard’s Experiments in Electronics was introduced.  Kimble was a sub-division of the Owens-Illinois Company.  As the above letter indicates, the entire Raytheon Lectron System inventory was sold off to Owens-Illinois -> Kimble Products to live another day.

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