The TECHNIC line was started by LEGO in 1977 in Europe, called a 'Technical Set'. These sets were similar to normal LEGO sets of the time, but had several places for pins and gears. These pins and gears could work to create realistic technical movement. The next year the line launched in the USA, under the heading 'Expert Builder'. The 'Expert Builder' sets were cars, and cranes, and other assorted vehicles. This year featured the first appearance of the plus-rod piece, available on one side of certain pins. The bulldozer set of 1979 was one of the first LEGO sets ever to include treads, and the next year the automobile sets featured a great advancement in building construction.
1981 featured a huge leap in construction advancement with the introduction of several toothed connector elements. Currently the line was doing pretty well, but the true advancements in TECHNIC construction was still on the horizon. In 1982, the TECHNIC: Universal Building Set line was launched with models that could be several different things. This year featured the plus rod's first appearance, a huge leap in TECHNIC construction. The pneumatic system line was released in TECHNIC in 1983, featuring a pump-based system. The pneumatic sets did have several drawbacks in the way they were constructed.
1986 featured the first play themes regarding TECHNIC, the Arctic Action wave. It featured the first appearance of TECHNIC figures within vehicles in an arctic setting. The first transforming TECHNIC set was the only set of next year, a truck that could transform into a robot. Several new construction types were introduced including an improved chassis. 1989 was the golden year for TECHNIC, including improved pneumatics, nine new fully functional sets, and a huge lift arm.
1994 was a huge year for the TECHNIC line with the Super Car set, the pinnacle of TECHNIC design. It had some pieces exclusive to it, and a very detailed body. Overall, the Super Car was one of the best TECHNIC sets ever. The Universal sets reached their pinnacle as well with huge multi-part sets with new pieces to improve suspension. The next year featured the 'Tech Play' and 'Tech Build' lines being introduced, focusing on either play value of the building experience. There was a Control Center set with helicopters and a T-Rex, all controlled by an electronic motor.
More and more smaller TECHNIC sets were released, focusing more on play value and that aspect. The Space Shuttle set was a huge design leap with a 9V motor system and fiber-optic connectors. The fiber-optic connectors were a huge leap for LEGO. 1997 featured several transforming sets, such as a submarine to a robot. The 9V motor system was now widespread, and TECHNIC sets focused on build or play value. 1998 was an explosion for TECHNIC sets with all new ranges of sets. The TECHNIC mini-figures returned in battle vehicles, and then there were several smaller TECHNIC sets that still had the advancements of the first. TECHNIC was moving into a new age.
BIONICLE was in motion for a launch under the TECHNIC brand name in 2001. But a filler line was needed, and so the RoboRiders were created. Swamp, Lava, Frost, Onyx, Dust, and Power were six vehicles trying to fight a super RoboRider and a computer virus. RoboRiders flopped however, but did their job paving the way for BIONICLE. Meanwhile the core line of TECHNIC figures continued to be just small little sets, losing the complexity of past years. However, this decade would change TECHNIC forever.
In 2001, BIONICLE launched under the TECHNIC line with revolutionary new construction types and builds. Normal TECHNIC sets began to regain complexity, but they were different. No longer did the beams with axle holes have LEGO studs, they were now smooth. The new TECHNIC line had begun with smoothed out beams and pieces. In 2002, BIONICLE left TECHNIC and became a full-fledged line, though it continued to use TECHNIC elements in larger sets such as the Bahrag. That year, TECHNIC was reduced to only three sets, perhaps to focus on BIONICLE over TECHNIC. 2003 was all construction equipment going into a key year for TECHNIC.
To make TECHNIC a kid-friendly line, LEGO made lines of sets that had special functions, and some of these lines had a story behind them.
- Slizer (Known in North America as "Throwbots") - A line of action figures that each had a special disk-throwing function. Although both Slizers and Throwbots were the same product line, they had two separate storylines.
- Speed Slammers - A line of vehicles that were propelled by a "slammer" constructed of the same types of pieces as the vehicle.
- Robo-Riders - Another line of vehicle sets. Each was "adopted" to an environment. The line also had a storyline to promote the sets.
- BIONICLE (Formerly) - Designed to be storyline-based product themes, designs were somewhat based off of the previous Robo-Riders and Slizer sets. After successfully taking off it branched off of the TECHNIC line to become its own separate toy line.
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