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I remember these, they were semi-popular in France when I was growing up in the 90s. Sadly Santa Claus never brought them to me :(

Similarly engaging toys:

Meccano (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meccano), a French brand of metal rods, plates, gears, etc. that you can assemble together to form functioning small scale models (usually of vehicles). E.g.: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f4/Meccano_0...

K'nex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%27Nex), my personal favorite as a child- rods and plastic connectors that you can use to build vehicles, small scale models, toy guns, etc. I really liked them a a kid because while LEGO are more about building static dioramas/models, K'nex is more about building dynamic/usable contraptions. For example they had really cool kits to make solar powered robots that would crawl around and were very easy to modify; unfortunately these days they seem to be more focused on branded content (e.g. Mario Kart, Angry Birds).

Logiblocs (http://www.logiblocs.com), plastic blocks from the UK with electronic components encased in plastic that are easy to plug together, allowing kids to assemble projects such as alarms or a basic voice recorder. E.g.: http://www.logiblocs.com/images/understanding_spytech.gif . Their website seems to be stuck in the 90s :)

Littlebits (http://littlebits.cc), in a way a modern reinterpretation of Logiblocs - electronic components that snap together using magnets, sold as kits.

And of course Lego, but no need to talk about these :) Although the LEGO Mindstorms series should get a special shoutout.

Those are all the ones I can think of, but I'm sure other HNers will have contributions. I wonder if there's room to do a construction toy these days, given LEGO's titanic market and mindshare. I was very excited about Goldie Blox recently, but I thought it fell kind of flat - their models aren't very extensible/modifiable in the way that LEGO or K'nex or Capsela are.




Another Addition: Construx:

"Unlike other building toys such as Lego, Construx feature beam-like pieces of varying lengths that snapped on to cubical connector knots in order to build large shapes. These are relatively secure even though no nuts or bolts were used. Panels allowed assembly of flat surfaces. Hinges, motors, wheels, and other movable parts expand the number of different shapes that can be built, and make moving creations possible."

I had two motors and could build simple robots. Due to the long size of the pieces, one could build truly gigantic things. I build really big helicopters, AT-T Walkers and whatnot. I played with this much more than with Lego. Also, the pieces had a bit of a 80ies future style look, which fit well for all the Sci-Fi things I was building.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construx

https://www.google.com/search?q=construx&safe=off&biw=1202&b...


I absolutely loved Construx growing up. I also had the motor box for it and distinctly remember my father explaining how gear ratios can increase torque by trading off turning speed using the rubber o-rings and yellow pulleys. One advantage Contstrux had over Lego is that once assembled, they were pretty rigid and sturdy toys. A great creative toy for kids.


I loved Construx when I was a kid. My brother and I would each build a vehicle, sit on the kitchen floor facing each other 10 or 15 feet apart, and ram them together. Whoever's vehicle lost the least number of parts won. We were probably 7 or 8 or so, and I clearly remember the process of coming up with an idea, building it, testing it, tweaking it, and so on, until we finally came up with what we thought was the optimal ramming vehicle. It was a great learning experience.


I knew there was something like this but when I went searching for it I couldn't remember it or find it. And now the kids are too old.

But maybe I'm not :-)


I had those, I could imagine the commercial jingle but I couldn't remember what they were like. thanks so much for the nostalgia link. awesome.


Author here, thanks a lot for the suggestion. I will definitely consider some of these.

I have a daughter and I bought her two capselas back when I wrote the blog post two years ago and she wasn't that interested. I think she expected a more espectacular outcome given the effort :)

I didn't have legos, as I mentioned I'm from Argentina and it wasn't very popular here, we had a clone called "rastis".

This year I went for the first time to US and we bought legos, but not a set, the $ 15 glasses of pieces. I did another trip in March and I bought more and last month a friend bring us another one. My daughter play with this every day.

I think legos in general and capsela are very different, but Lego as a brand has many different sets.

I agree with another commenter than "technic" is similar but it is a set and you know all the time what you should assemble and that's the reason I don't like Lego sets/models but I do like the pieces a lot.

[1]: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rasti


The technic are sold as a set but it doesn't stop kids from creating a lot of different things with them. As a kid, I almost only played with the lego technic but almost never actually assembled the object from the set.


Nice to hear that, I had that feeling too, I will buy one next time!


I always thought that meccano was originally English?

The great thing about meccano was because it was made out of steel that it could take some amazing abuse - the downside was the nuts and bolts were very easy to lose. I ended up with a whole series of beaten up plates that I could not bolt together :)


It was originally British, yes: developed by Frank Hornby in Liverpool. It's now made in France. There are still avid constructors who prefer 'original' Meccano (red/green coloured metal) as it is supposedly better build quality than today's product (blue/yellow).

The UK scene is quite active : http://www.skegex.nmmg.org.uk/


I recently bought some Meccano. I also noticed that the build quality is not so good anymore. The beams bent easily. The Capsula introduced by the topic starter look fun. And they teach an important principle of object oriented programming: encapsulation and the single responsibility principle.


FWIW, there's also Snap Circuits: http://www.snapcircuits.net/ I had this one as a kid, and I had fun with it, but I don't know how it compares to the other electronic kits you listed.


Addition:

Lego Technic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lego_Technic

Technic is a line of Lego interconnecting plastic rods and parts. The purpose of this series is to create more advanced models with more complex movable arms, such as machines with wheels, in addition to the simpler brick-building properties of normal LEGO.

For some reason they changed Lego Technic to studless beams (removed studded bricks) years ago. Lego has begun to re-incorporate studded bricks back into the Technic line - that's good.


The reasons for the studless beams were a design flaw in the original studded beams and that studless beams allowed more realistic designs. More on this: http://bricks.stackexchange.com/questions/1912/why-does-lego...


I never got them myself either, but would play with it at my cousin's house.

However, I did get a set of Robotix: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robotix_(toys)

Looking at it now, I knew nothing of the comic book/TV show connection. I saw them at some children's science museum (maybe in Chicago?) and spent the better part of a day building cars and simple robots.


I had a big robotix kit and loved it. My parents kept it and I was planning to have my kids use it, only to find out a few years ago that none of the motors work anymore, and a lot of the plastic has become brittle, so breaks easily when taking things apart. sigh


Wow, I saw some pics of Robotix and it looks awesome and very similar to capsela. Thanks for sharing!


I have an old, four-motor Robotix system from my childhood. It's part of the reason I became a programmer beyond QuickBASIC for DOS. Having played with the Robotix kit, I encountered an articulated robot arm in tech ed, in 7th grade, and wanted badly to program it. I learned the basic command language, excelled in the class, found out that C++ was what it used for the advanced stuff, and started to learn C++ on my own. Sadly, we moved before I got to program it further in 8th grade.

Robotix is definitely inferior to Capsela, because the only gearings it provided were the things necessary to run the sample project toys you could build, such as the grabber arm (use the slower, stronger motor for the hand!).


Here is another one, used to be very popular when I was a kid (but too expensive for me), friends had it and I played with it at their house:

http://www.fischertechnik.de/en/Home/products.aspx


My step father had a bunch of these that he brought back to the States from Germany in the 70s. They were seriously high quality with steel bits that would stand up for large load-bearing designs which wouldn't work with plastic toys like Lego Technic.




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