Prototypical Childhood Education

POSTED BY on Nov 5, 2011

For those who know me, You know that I have a not so secret obsession with Mr. Dieter Rams's beliefs and principles toward design.
I was reminded of this awesome product from the 60's and 70's while reading the Unabridged Steve Jobs Bio by Walter Isaacson. Embedded within the naked pages of this book is the story about a young Steve Jobs and his interest in building "heathkits". What are Heathkits? They were essentially electronic model kits where you knew what you were building. Braun, A West German consumer electronics company at that time, added something different to the ordinary offering. What was different? They took it a step farther by adding modular simplicity which encoraged more creative flexibility. Mr. Rams  and "brAun" invented a Lego-like electronic kit where you could experiment and essentially make custom prototypes, provided you knew what the hell you were doing. At that time, "toys" were somewhat risky, even dangerous by today's standards. Back then, companies, parents and especially kids rarely cared about toys from the standpoint of safety regulations. Product recalls and "suing" over defective or poorly designed products had not yet quite caught on like the ndustry that it has grown into today.

I digress again. Back to the dangerous toys thing. Guess what? As kids, we all loved the danger and unexpected surprise of not reading directions. As with any learning and adding the the law of Darwin's natural selection to the mix, I am sure there are more than a few that would vocalize their dissapointment with this one fact. Ta-da! I'm still alive! With scars of joy to boot!

Really, no joke. Most of the toys for boys from the 60's and 70's would totally be outlawed now. I'll post a few that my brother and myself survived while playing with them. I'm not just talking lawn darts either... stay tuned. Again, I Digress... Please, feel free to research these on your own. I personally think these kits were cool, fun, experimental and treated tedious, intellectual education in an approachable manner of "fun" and "play", not "work" and especially not "homework", barf!

Sort of reminds me of our basic philosophy for our own HAX lab.

Below is an explanation I grabbed off the web of the kits that go for mega bucks on Ebay today. Take a look at all of the imagery that comes up in a google search too. So cool!

“Dieter Rams and Jurgen Greubel designed the BRAUN Lectron System (1967- 69) as a pedagogic instrument for use in schools and universities. It consisted in an extensive range of magnetic component modules that could be freely organized on a conductive plate to form a variety of functional circuits. According to Rams, the purpose was to dispel the mystery of electronics by encouraging children to engage in the construction of their own operational systems, radios etc. Most modules have transparent perspex walls through which the electronic component housed can be directly observed, whilst the module’s opaque upper surface is printed with the diagrammatic icon corresponding to its contents. By thus exhibiting the concrete functional layer from which the circuit diagram abstracts, Rams established a typically modernist interplay of material, function and image under the sign of ‘truth’. In this sense, arguably, the Lectron system represents the ‘New Functionalism’ in pure form; function, here, is the communication of function.


Add a comment


Aug 16, 2013 at 2:43pm

Dieter Rams had NOTHING to do with the creation, design, development, the writing of the manuals, or even the packaging of the LECTRON electronic blocks system when first released in 1966.

The LECTRON electronic blocks system and product was the exclusive and unique invention of the German Georg Franz Greger in the early 1960's. Mr. Greger applied for a German patent of his 'Electronik-Baukasten' on May 7th, 1965. He was issued patent