Georg Greger designed the Lectron System (1967- 69) as a teaching tool for use in schools and universities. It is made up of a large range of little bricks, like dominoes, that magnetically connect to one another. Once the blocks are organized on a conductive plate, they can form a variety of functional circuits. See this great article on it from a 1967 issue of Electronics Illustrated, where they discuss “what a drag” it is to make your own circuits, but “now it can be as much fun to put electronic circuits together and to learn fundamentals as it is to put words together when you play Scrabble.”
The purpose of the system was to dispel the mystery of electronics by encouraging children to engage in the construction of their own operational systems –light meters, electric thermometers, tone generators, transistor radios, transmitters, etc. Most of the blocks have transparent plastic walls through which the electronic component housed can be directly observed, whilst the blocks upper surface is printed with the diagrammatic icon corresponding to its contents. It also came with a “recipe book” of different experiments to try with the included set of circuit “dominoes.” It is an early attempt to get children interested in learning about physics, electricity and physical computing, a sort of “erector-set” for tiny electrical engineers. It is remembered fondly by those who were able to play with it growing up. According to some sites, Lectron (which hasn’t been produced by Braun since the mid 1970s) is still in development (if you know German you can read about it here), but only for limited use.
Talk to Me will rely on few germinal historical examples such as this to set the stage for contemporary practice. Lectron represents one of the major ideas at the root of the exhibition: making the invisible visible, the technical understandable, the educational playful, and communication clear and elegant.
Many thanks to Michael Maharam for alerting us to this great piece, and a special thanks to Michael Peters for helping us set the record straight regarding the original creator of the Lectron System, Georg Greger.