2013 marks the 15th anniversary of the first LEGO® MINDSTORMS® set, the Robotics Invention System, which featured the RCX, one of the first programmable bricks marketed by LEGO and developed in collaboration with the MIT Media LAB. However, the evolution of LEGO robotics, which came to be known under the theme name MINDSTORMS, started several years earlier. The first page in that evolution was written in 1984, and the events that led up to that moment trace back even further.
In 1980 Seymour Papert wrote the book ‘MINDSTORMS: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas’ – which is where the LEGO robotics product got its name from. In this book he explored to groundbreaking concepts: children can become proficient with computers, and learning to use computers can change the way they learn in all other areas.
In 1984, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, President and, at the time, CEO of LEGO, saw a TV program in which children used the LOGO programming language, developed by Wally Feurzeig and Seymour Papert, to control the behaviour of turtle robots. These turtles could draw complex geometrical patterns using relatively simple instructions. Kjeld was interested and asked his management to contact Seymour Papert.
The LEGO Group visited the MIT Media Lab in Boston which was founded in 1985 and the very next year the first computer- controlled LEGO products were released. The LEGO Interface A (marketed as set number 1093 and 9750) consisted of a control interface that was connected to a computer serial port and could control several 4.5V motors and sensors. The interface could be used in conjunction with LEGO Technic sets from the Dacta theme, such as technic Control 1 and 2 which featured such constructions as a robotic arm prototype or a plotter. To program these creations a special version of the LOGO computer language was developed.