When tempered glass breaks it blows into a million tiny pieces. While startling this actually makes the glass safer when it breaks as there are no large, heavy pieces which are actually more likely to harm.

I never understood why otherwise strong tempered glass would break so spectacularly but this article and the videos below of “Prince Rupert’s Drops” (small drops of tempered glass) show how the inherent tension caused by quick cooling makes glass stronger, but explosive.

via MAKE

Love Tester ProjectFor those of you who are interested I have now posted the complete Bloc-Troic manual in my gallery!

From cover to cover (well, not really, the back cover was blank so I didn’t scan it.) the manual contains 163 electronic experiments. Each experiment illustrates the block layout for the kit and also includes a standard schematic for those who want to breadboard or permanently build any of the projects.

The experiments span from a simple conductor/insulator tester to a sound level meter to a basic radio with microphone mixing. While the Bloc-Tronic set was designed for children completing every, or even most projects in this book would be quite an accomplishment!

Unfortunately I have not transcribed the text from these pages to make them searchable. Perhaps someday I’ll get around to that, or better yet, maybe some fan of the set will volunteer to do part or all of them for me. (It took me a year to even get the images up, so don’t hold your breath on my account.)

If you’re having trouble making out something in the images notice that you can switch to a high-res version. The shadows in the image are the experiment on the back of each page bleeding through which should give you an idea of the quality of paper used in this manual. I have made it available because it seems to be orphaned. It is no longer made or distributed, the company named on the manual and box seems to have disappeared and there isn’t a copyright to be found anywhere in the materials.

I hope some others can find this useful with either the set or for building experiments on a breadboard.

electronic, toy, project, make, build, build your own, electronics kit

Bloc-Tronic ManualI have written about my Bloc-Tronic electronics kit before. My original article on the kit has garnered several comments asking if I could scan and upload the manual.

I’ve finally uploaded the first 100 pages to my images site! The entire manual is around 180 pages, so this is most of it and I hope to get the rest up sometime soon.

If you are lucky enough to have a Bloc-Tronic kit without manual, hopefully this manual will be of use. Also, since the experiments include schematics in addition to the block layout they could be done on a standard breadboard or even permanently assembled from components.

The experiments start off simple and get progressively more complicated. There’s everything from a volt meter to a radio receiver.

electronic, electronics, toy, block, educational, electronics kit

I have to say that I spent more hours than desired with my head in a freezer today. Worse yet, this is the second time I’ve had to defrost my previously frost-free refrigerator in the past month.

Conclusion: something’s not right in the defroster unit, but what? Since I’m no appliance repairman I was happy to find AcmeHowTo.com.

The Acme How To Refrigerator Troubleshooting Guide made for easy lookup of symptoms, possible causes, and how to test each part. To complete the picture I found the handy technical data sheet tacked behind the front grill on the fridge.

With that in hand and the faulty part identified I could look up the appropriate replacement part number. Another web search turned up AppliancePartsPros.com. Their site is easy to navigate and search. They have the part in stock and their price is about $10 below Sears, so I ordered it.

Results yet to be seen, but these two sites, AcmeHowTo.com and AppliancePartsPros.com are definitely keepers.

appliance repair, refrigerator, parts, diy

In the “Why don’t they make ’em like that anymore?” category, Bloc-Tronic is a set of electronic blocks that snap together to make a very broad variety of electronic projects.

More Bloc-Tronic Images
The Blocks

Each block has a label on the front and back and a conductive connector on each other side designed to interlock and allow the blocks to be snapped together in many different configurations. Inside each translucent block is an electronic component, ranging from a resistor to a basic amplifier. The blocks are numbered, but also marked with their electronic symbol.

You’ll notice on the picture of the kit that most of the blocks have masking tape on them. I played with this kit so much the print started wearing off the labels. Since I couldn’t stand the thought of not having the kit I started re-labeling the blocks with masking tape.



Full Kit
The Set

This is set ‘D’ which came with 54 assorted blocks, test leads, battery case, meters, microphone and more. According to the case (which has also survived nicely) this is the largest set available. The manual contains 160 combinations for these blocks ranging from a simple circuit with a lamp to a transistor radio.

Add-on sets were available but largely unnecessary with this set. It even looks like you could buy empty blocks to add your own components into the mix.



Click for larger image
The Experiments

This book contains 160 experiments, all possible with Set D. Each experiment has a short description, block diagram, and even the schematic for the circuit. I can’t say I learned how to read schematics from this manual, but it certainly helped when I started to get deeper into electronics.

The experiments get progressively more complex through the book. If one were to complete all the experiments they would have built quite a variety of electronic projects. At some point I may attempt to scan the entire manual.



Better than a breadboard?

While this kit is limited to the components that come with it, Set ‘D’ is sufficient for a great many experiments. The company also offered empty blocks and add-on kits for further projects.

One of the biggest strengths of this kit is the fool-proof way the blocks snap together. Each block connects firmly to the next with a large conductive surface. Even after years of use the blocks still made firm contact and (other than the labels) showed very little sign of wear.

With good instructions, large pieces, and simple, Lego-like construction Bloc-Tronics put a broad variety of electronic projects within reach of a much younger audience than other electronic kits. Even basic prototyping is possible and I have now recovered the kit from my parent’s attic for exactly that purpose.

I’m sure my parents paid a hefty sum for the kit, and took somewhat of a risk that I’d take to it. Whatever the cost, it was worth it.

Where’d it go?

I found only one other reference to the Block-Tronic kit online at Sarah’s Transistor Radio Page. The XTRONIC brand has now been adopted as the name of a Nissan transmission and I couldn’t even find that much information on the parent company Contact-Connect Enterprise.

I’m sure I received this kit sometime in the 1980s, probably around the mid 80s. I can only imagine what a kit would be like today. Imagine an embeded microcontroller, logic gates, synthesis modules, and USB ports!

I don’t know of anything comparable on the market today. The only thing I’ve ever seen that comes close was a homegrown project using Legos which came to me through the Make magazine blog.

Check out my gallery of Bloc-Tronic pictures.

If you’ve owned a Bloc-Tronic set, or have even ever heard of or seen them please leave comment.

Update: I have finally started to scan and upload the Bloc-Tronic manual which is now available on my images site.

electronics, electronic, projects, electronic toys, toy

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