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A History Question: When did the Technic parts begin to mingle with regular sets?

sonsofscevasonsofsceva 1904 World's FairMember Posts: 537
edited December 2011 in Everything else LEGO
In the decade of 1980, when I was a wee lad, the LEGO System sets were very separate in their parts from the LEGO Technic sets. The System sets were "solid" sets and the Technic sets were the one with the holes in them that made, in my young opinion, mere representations of vehicles. But the Technic sets were much more mechanically minded than their System counterparts.
Having come back to LEGO within the past year, I have been building the SW Clone Turbo Tank and the AC Earth Defense HQ with my boys and it struck me, looking at the other sets we also built, just how many "Technic" pieces were being used in "regular" sets. When did this begin to happen? How has this transition been received?
Or was it always there and I just missed it?

Comments

  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,414
    An excellent observation, and one that is quite correct. Back in the olden days it was very rare indeed to get any kind of Technic piece in a 'System' set. However I'm racking my brains to think when it became commonplace. If I had to guess I'd say late 1990s, before the Star Wars licence, but it's annoying me that I can't put a better date on it.

    I'll have to have a think!
  • LostInTranslationLostInTranslation UKMember Posts: 5,512
    I personally haven't got a clue, but I bet @istokg knows the answer :-)
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 808
    I think it was pretty gradual. Play features started getting more and more advanced as time went on, and started incorporating technic elements to achieve the effect. The first set to include both a technic gear and a minifig was (I believe) 7866. Technic beams made their way into sets as early as 1980 (set 6970 at least, maybe more).

    DaveE
  • krklintkrklint Member Posts: 500
    I was going to say 6970 too. Thats the earliest set I remember having technic beams. This was my second "major" set as a kid, and the use of technic beams in that set, back then, blew my classic space mind! Lots of hours spent running minifigs from the command center to the launch pad.
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 808
    D'oh, 493 had technic beams too, and that's from 1978!

    I'm trying to think of the first "complex" play mechanism in LEGOLAND-- I'm thinking either the walking mechanism from 6882 Walking Astro Grappler. Or if that's not complex enough, maybe the 3-bar linkage from the 6953 Cosmic Laser Launcher?

    I seem to recall that the bigger sets often started getting more complicated play features that would be difficult for kids to invent on their own (rather than duplicate).

    And more recently, I agree, it seems like there's been a trend of having a more-or-less technic framework with a standard brick "decoration" on top. I think I really started noticing that with Exo Force, but has been less pronounced even earlier.

    DaveE
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,088
    Ironically the first mixing of Technic type parts within regular LEGO sets actually predates the 1977-78 introduction of the Technic/Expert Builder Sets.

    The 1970-72 800-801-802-803 European type gear sets evolved into the 1974-75 810-811-812-813-814 gear sets with LEGO parts...

    http://www.bricklink.com/catalogList.asp?catType=S&catString=422.421

    But there were some other seats that used gears, axles and axle bricks. Two that come to mind were 2 of the Hobby Sets... the 392 Formula 1 Racer set (1975) and the 393 Norton Motorcycle (1976). These 2 sets had the 9 tooth red gears and Technic style axles. Later versions of the 392 Racer set were redesigned to use red Technic style pulley type wheel and tire that matched it.

    Another pair of sets that used these early gears was the 912/404 Universal Building set, and the 387/780 Construction sets. The 404 and 780 were the only USA sets (that I recall) that had the European style gears in them.

    Also, Technic parts were found in regular LEGO sets, from the very beginning, but in very small quanitities, almost a "blip under the radar"....

    Examples can be easily seen by going to Bricklink and doing a set search on some of the more common Technic parts....

    http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemIn.asp?P=3700&colorID=5&in=A
    http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemIn.asp?P=3700&colorID=3&in=A
    http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemIn.asp?P=3709b&colorID=5&in=A
    http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemIn.asp?P=32001&colorID=11&in=A

    So there was a "comingling" of Technic and regular LEGO parts... but it was usually just a few pieces per set...

    Cheers and Happy New Year!
    Gary Istok
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    My earliest set is 6971 Inter-Galactic Command Base, but as Gary says, there were only a few technic parts, 1 brick, 1 plate and a couple of axles and pins.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 9,302
    I think many of the 'classic' Space 'baseplate' sets have Technic beams and pins.

    I think it is safe to say that Space sets have usually had some sort of Technic parts in them

  • sonsofscevasonsofsceva 1904 World's FairMember Posts: 537
    Thank you for all of the interesting responses.
    @davee123 and @krklint - That is a great crossing. I never thought about the transition in terms of the train systems before, since I was never into trains much, but I can see that as a possible place where the Technic pieces would quickly come in handy.

    I seem to recall a couple of the old space sets with blue Technic beams in them, as mentioned by several of you. But now the whole chassis system of "regular" vehicles is made with Technic parts and techniques.

    Perhaps it is the Technic techniques being incorporated about which I am curious. A beam or a gear here and there is different from whole sections of functionality being made in Technic fashion.
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 808
    Out of curiosity, I ran a quick check, based on BrickLink data. The following is the average percentage per set per year of "Technic" elements that were released in sets which ALSO contained either minifig torsos or minifig legs.

    Note, this list is sort of unfair in a few places, but gives a general idea of what's been going on:
    Year  #Sets   Perc.
    1978 - 37 = 0.55%
    1979 - 42 = 0.26%
    1980 - 33 = 1.23%
    1981 - 27 = 0.38%
    1982 - 19 = 1.44%
    1983 - 33 = 0.60%
    1984 - 32 = 2.08%
    1985 - 63 = 1.11%
    1986 - 48 = 1.68%
    1987 - 50 = 1.50%
    1988 - 35 = 2.38%
    1989 - 50 = 1.67%
    1990 - 38 = 0.58%
    1991 - 44 = 0.91%
    1992 - 38 = 0.68%
    1993 - 46 = 3.23%
    1994 - 55 = 1.08%
    1995 - 47 = 2.60%
    1996 - 68 = 2.94%
    1997 - 94 = 1.88%
    1998 - 135 = 1.45%
    1999 - 119 = 2.59%
    2000 - 129 = 2.31%
    2001 - 76 = 3.54%
    2002 - 134 = 4.99%
    2003 - 108 = 9.38%
    2004 - 64 = 7.22%
    2005 - 91 = 10.11%
    2006 - 88 = 13.05%
    2007 - 111 = 14.13%
    2008 - 149 = 10.00%
    2009 - 159 = 10.81%
    2010 - 193 = 07.70%
    2011 - 220 = 05.13%
    2012 - 23 = 12.00%
    And if you're REALLY curious, here's the breakdown by theme (BrickSet won't let me post the whole list, so I stripped the "tame" themes that were less than 1%)-- I'm not sure I like all the categorizations that BrickLink has, but again, it's good enough for seeing more-or-less some of the trends:

    perc. #sets
    83.15 - 2 - Educational & Dacta / Mindstorms / NXT
    77.15 - 2 - Educational & Dacta / Technic / eLAB
    57.19 - 8 - Educational & Dacta / Technic
    56.98 - 8 - Educational & Dacta / Mindstorms / RCX
    49.88 - 4 - FIRST LEGO League
    45.33 - 1 - Educational & Dacta / Service Packs / Special Element Sets
    41.32 - 4 - Racers
    40.00 - 1 - Educational & Dacta / Mindstorms / WeDo
    39.60 - 4 - Sports / Basketball
    39.16 - 2 - Educational & Dacta / Technic / Control Lab
    29.39 - 7 - Vikings
    28.15 - 1 - Discovery
    27.53 - 19 - Power Miners
    27.25 - 34 - Exo-Force
    23.98 - 18 - Space / Mars Mission
    22.89 - 8 - Alpha Team / Mission Deep Freeze
    22.11 - 5 - Dino 2010
    21.39 - 13 - Agents
    20.55 - 24 - Town / City / Construction
    19.72 - 4 - Star Wars / Ultimate Collector Series / Star Wars Episode 4/5/6
    19.30 - 21 - Star Wars / Star Wars Episode 3
    18.31 - 9 - Time Cruisers
    18.29 - 6 - Racers / Drome Racers
    17.78 - 3 - Sculptures
    17.62 - 8 - Racers / World Racers
    17.37 - 44 - Star Wars / Star Wars Clone Wars
    17.32 - 21 - Atlantis
    17.28 - 5 - Dino Attack
    16.15 - 17 - Space / Space Police III
    16.02 - 14 - Batman I
    15.61 - 10 - Star Wars / Star Wars Other
    13.42 - 2 - Town / World City / Harbor
    13.21 - 9 - Aquazone / Aquaraiders II
    13.05 - 19 - Alpha Team / Mission Deep Sea
    12.72 - 13 - Star Wars / Star Wars Episode 2
    12.21 - 36 - Ninjago
    11.86 - 1 - Sports / Hockey
    11.43 - 9 - Space / Alien Conquest
    11.14 - 22 - Castle / Knights Kingdom II
    10.99 - 2 - Star Wars
    10.77 - 14 - Toy Story
    10.71 - 8 - Indiana Jones / Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
    10.65 - 4 - Racers / Speed Racer
    10.62 - 5 - Town / City / Cargo
    10.20 - 3 - Super Heroes / Batman II
    9.43 - 2 - Super Heroes
    9.08 - 1 - Indiana Jones
    8.43 - 2 - Factory / Space
    8.37 - 82 - Star Wars / Star Wars Episode 4/5/6
    8.31 - 3 - Aquazone / Aquaraiders I
    8.11 - 1 - Boat / City
    7.87 - 7 - Town / World City / Police
    7.84 - 24 - Castle / Fantasy Era
    7.63 - 6 - Spider-Man / Spider-Man 2
    7.32 - 9 - Sports / Gravity Games
    7.19 - 3 - Racers / Radio Control
    6.99 - 2 - Avatar
    6.95 - 5 - Indiana Jones / Raiders of the Lost Ark
    6.59 - 2 - Indiana Jones / Temple of Doom
    6.28 - 11 - Racers / Ferrari
    6.17 - 3 - Town / World City / Coast Guard
    6.17 - 5 - Harry Potter / Goblet of Fire
    6.10 - 2 - Educational & Dacta
    5.84 - 1 - Creator / Basic Set / Pirates
    5.81 - 8 - Town / City / Farm
    5.79 - 22 - Town / City
    5.72 - 11 - Train / RC Train
    5.72 - 3 - Indiana Jones / Last Crusade
    5.56 - 5 - Castle / Black Falcons
    5.46 - 27 - Star Wars / Star Wars Episode 1
    5.45 - 5 - Spider-Man / Spider-Man 1
    5.41 - 1 - Educational & Dacta / Supplemental
    5.20 - 14 - Pirates of the Caribbean
    5.18 - 28 - Adventurers / Orient Expedition
    5.12 - 6 - Prince of Persia
    5.08 - 9 - SpongeBob SquarePants
    5.01 - 2 - Studios / Jurassic Park III
    4.88 - 19 - Town / City / Airport
    4.78 - 32 - Town / City / Fire
    4.66 - 11 - Pirates / Pirates II
    4.52 - 7 - Alpha Team
    4.41 - 2 - Dino
    4.37 - 12 - Town / City / Coast Guard
    4.37 - 9 - Town / City / Harbor
    4.09 - 20 - Town / City / Traffic
    4.01 - 1 - Educational & Dacta / Town / Space Port
    3.98 - 16 - Castle / Kingdoms
    3.97 - 4 - Train
    3.86 - 16 - Value Packs
    3.78 - 11 - Town / Extreme Team
    3.75 - 5 - Aquazone / Hydronauts
    3.75 - 3 - Space / Spyrius
    3.66 - 2 - Town / City / Gas Station
    3.66 - 1 - Space / Unitron
    3.63 - 10 - Harry Potter / Chamber of Secrets
    3.57 - 1 - Holiday / Advent / Castle / Fantasy Era
    3.47 - 37 - Train / 9V
    3.47 - 3 - Educational & Dacta / Universal Building Set
    3.36 - 20 - Castle / Knights Kingdom I
    3.33 - 9 - Pharaoh's Quest
    3.29 - 1 - Factory / Racers
    3.25 - 2 - Town / Arctic
    3.20 - 1 - Castle / Black Falcons / Legends
    3.17 - 13 - Island Xtreme Stunts
    3.12 - 2 - Town / Airport
    3.02 - 18 - Town / Race
    2.90 - 14 - Train / 9V / World City
    2.89 - 4 - Space / RoboForce
    2.78 - 2 - Town / Classic Town / Farm
    2.70 - 2 - Town / Classic Town / Coast Guard / Harbor
    2.67 - 1 - Master Builder Academy
    2.61 - 1 - Holiday / Advent / Pirates / Pirates II
    2.58 - 36 - Studios
    2.49 - 6 - Town / Launch Command
    2.49 - 46 - Town / City / Police
    2.47 - 8 - Town / Classic Town / Off-Road
    2.44 - 10 - Harry Potter / Prisoner of Azkaban
    2.44 - 3 - Creator / Model / Building
    2.42 - 8 - Town / Divers
    2.37 - 28 - Town / Classic Town / Construction
    2.36 - 3 - Aquazone / Stingrays
    2.33 - 12 - Town / Classic Town / Cargo
    2.32 - 7 - Western / Indians
    2.30 - 4 - (Other)
    2.27 - 9 - Adventurers / Jungle
    2.15 - 1 - Harry Potter / Sorcerer's Stone / Train / 9V
    2.10 - 20 - Harry Potter
    2.06 - 3 - Pirates / Pirates I / Imperial Armada
    1.99 - 18 - Space / Futuron
    1.98 - 1 - Holiday / Advent / Castle / Kingdoms
    1.98 - 2 - Castle / Black Knights
    1.96 - 85 - Sports / Soccer
    1.95 - 87 - Space / Classic Space
    1.92 - 16 - Town / Space Port
    1.90 - 20 - Train / 4.5V
    1.86 - 6 - Space / Blacktron I
    1.86 - 7 - Holiday / Advent / City
    1.84 - 5 - Holiday / Christmas
    1.82 - 8 - Space / Exploriens
    1.76 - 4 - Boat / Police
    1.65 - 1 - Creator / Basic Set / Construction
    1.65 - 2 - Town / Classic Town / Police / Harbor
    1.64 - 6 - Town / Town Jr. / Construction
    1.62 - 5 - Space / Space Police I
    1.60 - 6 - Aquazone / Aquasharks
    1.57 - 18 - Adventurers / Dino Island
    1.55 - 1 - Modular Buildings / Fire
    1.55 - 13 - Train / 12V
    1.49 - 18 - Town / Classic Town / Recreation
    1.36 - 3 - Harry Potter / Prisoner of Azkaban / Train / 9V
    1.36 - 13 - Town
    1.28 - 4 - Modular Buildings
    1.26 - 1 - Modular Buildings / Factory
    1.23 - 1 - Western
    1.23 - 18 - Space / Insectoids
    1.19 - 23 - Ninja
    1.18 - 1 - Castle / Lion Knights / Legends
    1.14 - 3 - Castle / Dark Forest
    1.05 - 1 - Educational & Dacta / Adventurers / Desert
    1.01 - 9 - Castle / Lion Knights
    DaveE
  • Bosstone100Bosstone100 USAMember Posts: 1,392
    I am going to rebuild my yellow castle and found technic pieces in there. The set is from 1978.
  • sonsofscevasonsofsceva 1904 World's FairMember Posts: 537
    @davee123 - Thanks for the breakdowns. Since I missed all of 2000-2009, my personal jump was from about 1% in childhood to 11% and up today in AC and SW. Very interesting.
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 808
    I just discussed this with set designer Jamie Berard last night--

    Each playtheme is targetted at a slightly different market. The themes with a lot of technic construction generally have a target market that does NOT want to re-build with their LEGO bricks. They want the model shown on the box, and aren't really interested in disassembling them and making other things. So they're willing to accept a complex design, as long as it's cool looking and does neat stuff.

    Also, that target group wants really BIG things. And big things have to be very sturdy. If you build them up with normal system bricks, they're more likely to fall apart. But technic beams are a lot more secure, so they can handle the stress from being larger, as well as from more intense play.

    Another issue is that kids "don't understand" technic. They instinctively understand how to build using stacking bricks and plates, but they find technic a lot more challenging. As a result, if you give a pile of elements to a kid, they'll typically build with the bricks, but not with the studless technic beams-- those will just sit there, unloved.

    That means that in play themes like Creator, there's not much technic present at all. Kids that buy Creator are interested in building and re-building things with their bricks, so any technic pieces included would essentially be a waste to them. Hence, those themes avoid technic as much as possible.

    Back in the 80's and early 90's, the target group for minifig sets was pretty much the same. The level of building was very similar for each castle, space, pirate, or town set. But since then, each playtheme is much more isolated in terms of its target market, and is highly specialized for that group.

    The mechanisms that I mentioned before are also pretty different. Technic in the 70's and 80's involved pretty simple concepts that children could understand and then replicate in their own creations, like a steering mechanism or a piston. But kids are (apparently) more interested in cool features like bizarre 4-bar linkage systems that they can't ever hope to replicate on their own.

    Also: studless technic. Supposedly, the technic beams were an incredible annoyance to technic designers. The holes in the beams are actually a fraction of a millimeter too high, causing tolerance issues at times. In addition, studless beams work on a uniform grid, whereas studded beams use the bizarre 5:6 ratio for brick hight, causing a lot of oddities. Additionally, you've got rounded corners and smooth sides which help in a lot of situations where square, studed surfaces would be a hindrance. Hence, studded technic slowly made its way out of technic-- to the point where nowadays, studded technic beams are no longer classified as "technic", but are instead "system"!

    DaveE
  • Jabba_the_TaffJabba_the_Taff Member Posts: 211
    ^Really informative. Not normally something we've heard from TLG. Thank you DaveE!
  • OdinduskOdindusk Member Posts: 763
    That's a great overview, @davee123. Thanks for relaying that.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    Awesome overview and awesome thread.
  • IstokgIstokg MichiganMember Posts: 2,088
    @davee123 Yes I noticed that as well about the old Technic bricks going into other systems outside of Technic, with Technic using mainly the new non-stud parts.

    What caught my eye was this novelty... the 2011 Technic 8067 Mini-Mobile Crane...
    http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemPic.asp?S=8067-1

    This had all the new Technic parts used for building functionality... and then using an old Technic 1x8 (studded) brick as the part at the end of the crane, serving no Technic building functionality whatsoever... just what the crane is carrying around....

    Thanks for the info Dave!
  • sonsofscevasonsofsceva 1904 World's FairMember Posts: 537
    @davee123 That is very helpful information from Mr. Berard. Perhaps what I thank you for most is that you have helped us see "behind the curtain" a bit - The expert talking shop revealing a glimpse of just how much engineering, design, and thinking has gone into the work of TLG. As fun as his presentations of his creations are on the YouTube page, the technical/historical stuff is really fascinating, at least for me.
  • StuBoyStuBoy New ZealandMember Posts: 623
    edited January 2012
    @dave123 Great post for the reasons @sonofsceva and others mentioned. I never realised so much thought went into the type of bricks that go into set - I always thought pieces were chosen out of necessity for the functionality or strength of the set, rather than by type. Very eye-opening.
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