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The first light bricks were introduced in November 1957 under the number 245 in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal... and under the number 1245 in Denmark Norway and Sweden. (These all were the only countries selling LEGO in late 1957.)
By late 1958, the LEGO parts pack number 245 was used in all these countries (including Italy, which started LEGO sales in 1958) until 1965. This same brick was sold under different pack numbers (445 in UK/Australia, 485 in continental Europe) until the late 1960s, when it was rreplaced with the 995 Lighting Brick Parts Pack... and later others lighting bricks parts packs (such as 970 in the late 70s).
Here is an image of the parts pack box of the first lighting brick... 1245 from 1957-58.... with Danish writing "System i leg" = "System in Play" on the box top.
All the box tops of the late 1950s show the the 3 children of LEGO managing director Godtfred Kirk Christiansen (later sole owner of the company)... from left to right... Gunhild Chistiansen Johanson, (the late) Hanne Christiansen, and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen (KKK).
Today TLG is owned by Kjeld and his older sister Gunhild (who is the principal owner of Kirkbi AG... the Swiss company owning the valuable LEGO patents). Kjeld and Gunhild's younger sister Hanne died tragically in an October 1969 car crash, in which she was a passenger
With the current light brick, you can build a structure around it that would push against the button and thus free your hand from keeping the brick lit. I'm sure using standard bricks a creative solution can be found if you're using it in a MOC.
And finally, a more flexible and durable lighting solution for your creations is just to use the Power Function Light Set: http://www.brickset.com/detail/?Set=8870-1 This really is a good solution. The battery box (sold separately) uses common batteries and has an on / off switch. You could use an IR remote switch for you lights if you wanted to. You can get multiple sets of lights and wire them to the same battery box. The light tip fits into the hole of a technical brick or similar sized hole, so you can easily position the light in a variety of ways. Finally, if you want to add color you can put in translucent pieces in front of the light to act as a color filter. The biggest drawback is size. The battery box is large and so it might be a challenge to incorporate it into the model. And you have to run wiring through your model, which might be a challenge.
Remember there are two non-rechargeable PF battery boxes now (as well as the very pricey rechargeable one). The new train-centric one is the same size as the rechargeable one and uses triple-A batteries (I think - that is from memory from when I built the two new train sets last year) rather than double-A and so it is bit more compact. Plus it's brick-like shape may mean it is perhaps easier to integrate into some models.
You might also want to take a look at lifelites, I'm considering them for my Winter Village.
and one of these:
they could serve as a switch.
The guy who made it also sent me some 'behind the scenes' photos, of how it's wired in, which I can forward if you give me an email address.
One thing I've noticed about the LEGO lights is that they get considerably dimmer after being on for a few minutes... That and I have no interest in replacing those silly batteries they have. I also didn't want to spend a silly amount of money on LifeLites (which are nice, but terribly expensive if you want more than a couple).
Anyway, if you're willing to wire up your own LED's, I recommend these: http://www.alliedelec.com/search/productdetail.aspx?SKU=3980970
They're blindingly bright when you operate them at 4v - and they're still plenty bright when you use a 3v supply. It's also hard to go wrong at 36 cents a piece.
Instead, I ordered 300 6x6 white plates from PAB online. Pricey, but well worth it.
I laid everything out on a variety of baseplates, then put down two layers of 2x2 bricks 4 studs apart. The result is a false floor (much like how wiring is routed in a server room) . This allows me to hide all the wiring, and it looks quite nice. I also drilled a small hole in the center of a few of them so I could route the wiring for the brickforge lamp posts.
I'm wire-wrapping everything instead of soldering (partly because I can wire-wrap in close proximity to the LEGO without any danger of melting). I might use some hot glue to insulate the leads on the LED's.
Currently I'm using a pair of AAA's to power it, but I plan on using a 3v 300ma adjustable power supply, and everything is plugged into a pair of solderless breadboards (one on each side of the layout).
Here's a link to what I'm calling LEGO LED Lighting 1.0: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157625317465027/
I just recently learned that this is basically what they do in dollhouses (except it's covered by wallpaper).
I'll post some pictures of "2.0" this evening.
Right now, I think the LED's I have are nearly ideal, when they're run at the proper voltage, they're way too bright, but I'm running them at about 75% of the "typical" forward voltage listed in the spec sheet - and as a result they're drawing less than 10 mA each - which is fairly important, because I'm planning on having 30-40 of them in the display.
I still need to work on the connectors. The solderless breadboard is easy, but isn't ideal. I'm having trouble finding connectors that don't require a $800 crimp tool, will fit in a 4.8mm diameter hole (technic), and will accept 28+ AWG wire (wire-wrapping wire).
Lastly, I need to figure out how to add some sort of microcontroller. If the current draw of the LED's is low enough (< 20-30mA), I could drive them directly off the outputs of most cheapo microcontrollers, but I'd probably want to add some sort of buffer in there.
Anyway, my point is there's plenty of room for improvement.
This is why I am going the power supply route as opposed to just batteries. You need alot more control over the voltage and amperage you send. I am also dreading drilling out the small holes needed to run the wires. The single lamp will not be bad but that double lamp post will be a bit trickier for sure.
I have an old 300ma 1.5 or 3v "adjustable" power supply I'm going to use.
Unless you're going to build or buy something that's really adjustable (3.5v would probably be ideal for these LED's) If you look on the spec sheet for the LED's I linked, the current ramps up very quickly as you increase the voltage. If you have a power supply, the voltage won't drop over time like with batteries, but otherwise it should all be the same.
I decided just to switch all the lamps to the brickforge ones - http://www.brickforge.com/store/product.php?productid=17122&cat=407&page=1
More expensive, but so much easier to work with, and they look quite nice.
I have at least 35 LED's connected.
Let's assume that I want to drive my LED's with 10mA at 3.3v (These LED's, at full brightness are extremely unpleasant to look at).
If you have an adjustable power supply, and can supply 3.5v, you can use 22ohm resistors, and only dissipate a fraction of the total power as waste energy. (88mW / 1.2W, about 7%)
If you're forced to use a 5v power supply (much more common), and use 180ohm resistors, you're looking at .6W/1.8W or 33% waste...
Then you need to worry about the power dissipation of each individual resistor (is it within 50% of the the resistor's rated power dissipation?), etc.
This is why I want to look into LED drivers for next year, from what I can tell, they're constant current, adjustable voltage.
Anyway, that's for next year.
@Savage_Steel - Don't feel so bad. Last year, I started in October, and managed to make five lamp posts, which were very dim. This year was the second time I started in late October, and I put too many weekends into this.
I'm calling it "Winter Village Tavern".
I have more pictures on flickr... Maybe.
Eventually, I'll take better pictures and post them on flickr.
What did you use?
After this comes off display (sometime in January...) I'll do the full LDD treatment.
^ - Thanks!
That was a stupid question but I got scared - losing my only light brick meant no more cattle mutilation by aliens.
Perhaps recommend a good duster and some canned air for dusting sets in future :)