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New Sets for 1997
New Parts for 1997

1997 - Code Pilot


1997 was an important year for Technic because it foreshadowed some important changes to come, both positive and negative.  The number of sets continued to climb.  This year was another new record with 13 sets, but the number would continue to grow beyond all bounds until 2001 when it plummeted and recoiled before stabilizing.

Of the 13 sets, 9 were relatively simple Tech Play sets and 4 were more complex Tech Build.  The two smallest models, the Bungee Blasters were some of the smallest to date and represented a new shift toward very play focused models which would become significant in coming years.  The semi-rigid tubing introduced as part of the Flex System had been previously re-purposed as pneumatic tubing in 8868.  This year, it started use as a decorative element.  Nearly every Tech Play set was covered in colorful swooping flexible tubing which allowed the kind of gentle curves not possible with traditional parts.  8277  and 8479 hearkened back to the days of the classic Universal Sets with instructions for many different models.

The most significant new entry was the Code Pilot introduced as part of set 8479.  This programmable computer system was a first and, although it only ever came in one set, was the forerunner to Mindstorms which would usher in a whole new era of programmable LEGO which was used extensively in education and, in various incarnations, remains in use to this day.

As you can see below, the number of new parts introduced this year is staggering (and unsustainable).  With the exception of the electrical parts, most are still in use to this day.


2129 Blast-Off Dragster

8205 Bungee Blaster

8215 Gyro Copter

8216 Turbo 1

8222 VTOL

8229 Tread Trekker

8232 Chopper Force

8250/8299 Search Sub

8277 Giant Model Set

8414 Mountain Rambler

8437 Future Car

8459 Pneumatic Front End Loader

8479 Barcode Multi-Set



The venerable 24 tooth spur gear had been in use unchanged since 1977.  With the advent of the new engine parts in 1990, it was no longer used as a crank shaft and therefore did not need the off-axis axle slots.  A new mold for the 24 tooth gear eliminated those slots and replaced them with a straight slot.  This had the added benefit of adding strength to the gear.

An alternate version of the 24 tooth gear was also released.  This version includes an internal clutch which allows the central axle slot to slip relative to the gear teeth when a certain torque is exceeded.  The mold lists this torque as 2.5 Newton-centimeters.  As more and more sets included motorization, this part was needed to allow motorized functions to stop without stalling the motor.

The shift toward studless continued with a 9x5 right angle liftarm which is very useful as a
structural tool for locking larger assemblies together.  A 5L thin beam was also released with 1/2 the thickness of a normal beam.

The last new length of Technic brick was released, 14L.  This completed the set with every even length from 2L to 16L now in production (and also 1L).

Angle Connectors
A whole set of new angled axle connectors was released to replace the old toothed connectors.  Like the toothed connectors, they represent angles in 22.5 degree increments.  Unlike the toothed connectors, they are not adjustable.  This makes them stronger but also less versatile.  Each connector has a number molded into the side which corresponds to an angle.  This helps to differentiate them in the instructions since some (especially #3 and #4) look deceptively similar.
  • #1 = 0 degrees
  • #2 = 180 degrees
  • #3 = 157.5 degrees
  • #4 = 135 degrees
  • #5 = 112.5 degrees
  • #6 = 90 degrees
Other Parts
There was a new 90 degree T axle fitting (shown in gray) and a 3L pin with integral bushing (shown in green).  This latter part is often used to fasten subassemblies together because it is easy to insert and remove.  Finally, the venerable 2L axle was replaced with a new grooved version.  Although the grooves decrease strength, they make it infinitely easier to remove the part.  With such a short length, it was previously quite difficult to get a good grip on it.  With the grooves, a fingernail can be used to extract the part.

Code Pilot
The Code Pilot computer is unique to set 8479 and is therefore detailed mostly on that page.  This self-contained computer could be programmed using barcodes.  The barcode reader served a dual purpose and could be used with the white gear wheel to detect motion and use that measurement to alter the program.  The accessories introduced to be used with the new system included a "touch sensor" and a new 9V motor.  The touch sensor is no more than a momentary switch which could be used to trigger actions in the program.  The new 9V motor was considerably different than the older motor.  While the old motor was ungeared and therefore rotated at high rpm, the new motor included internal reduction and therefore turned much slower but with much higher torque.  The form factor was also quite different with the new motor being less long but also taller and more cubic.  The slots on the sides allowed it to be suspended from rail plates.  The same type of 9V connector and wiring system was retained.

The new wheel loader included a new bucket, the largest released at the time (18x10).

The pneumatic system was further expanded with an air tank.  This tank has both an inlet and an outlet, but functionally can be used either in parallel or in series with the supply pressure.  This allowed pressure to be stored so an increased number of functions could be used without pumping the input.  This tank came in two sets this year and one in 1998 and then was not seen again.  It can be presumed that it was quite expensive and not does not actually add any functionality (but does enhance it).  A reinforced t-fitting was also introduced with a noticeable "bulb" at the junction.

Wheels and Tires
A pair of trucks wheels and tires was introduced which remained popular for decades due to the accurate aspect ratio and tread pattern.  There was also a new type of treads.  Rather than being made of individual links, this tread is a single piece flexible rubber part which mates with custom matched sprockets.  With a fixed length, this is less versatile than the traditional track links, but is also much easier for younger builders to use.

code pilot



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