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.
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.
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.
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