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Celebrating 25 Years of MINDSTORMS

In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of MINDSTORMS, we take a trip through history. Please also visit ROBOTMAK3RS Community every week as we highlight different projects all through 2023 in celebration of the anniversary.
Some of the early history is based on the content shared by Coder Shah in our MINDSTORMS EV3 Community Group. Some of the text and links may have been edited from his original posts for consistency and clarity. 
1984 - Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen watched a TV program called "Talking Turtle," where MIT professor Seymour Papert demonstrated how children could control robot "turtles" using LOGO, a programming language he developed.

1988 - The collaboration between MIT and LEGO resulted in LEGO TC Logo in 1988, which allowed students to control LEGO models using computer commands. The video shows Papert demonstrating TC Logo.

1990 - LEGO TC Logo was hampered since the robots you built had to be tethered to a personal computer. LEGO and MIT began to explore the concept of an intelligent brick, which could be programmed and operate independently of a computer. One of the steps along the way was the Technic Control Center sets. This allowed you to "program" the robots you built by recording a sequence of actions, which could be replayed later.

1992 - As electronics became smaller, lighter and cheaper, Seymour Papert and Mitch Resnick (from MIT) envisioned an “intelligent brick”, which could be programmed, thus robots no longer needed to be connected to computers. The first prototype, the Grey Brick, was developed in 1990, which was followed by the Red Brick in 1992.

"The MIT approach is in sharp contrast to traditional uses of computers in education, where the emphasis is on desktop machines that "deliver" information to children." - MIT Press Release

1998 - The culmination of years of research and development between LEGO and MIT, the first LEGO MINDSTORMS set, 9719 Robotics Invention System, is launched in 1998. The name MINDSTORMS was derived from the title of Seymour Papert's book. In the linked video, Gaute Munch and Erik Hansen talk about the creation of LEGO MINDSTORMS. The first LEGO MINDSTORMS advertisements were seen.

1998 - LEGO 9730 Robo Sports was one of the two expansion sets available for the initial release of LEGO MINDSTORMS. It contained parts and instructions to build sports themed robots. LEGO 9732 Extreme Creatures was the second of the two expansion sets available for the initial release of LEGO MINDSTORMS. It contained parts and instructions to build animal and creature themed robots. 
1998 - A pilot of FIRST LEGO League is created. By 2023, more than 40,000 teams would have participated in the program.
1999 - LEGO released LEGO MINDSTORMS RIS 1.5 (set 9747). This set featured improvements to the programming environment and documentation and added a few new pieces. LEGO also released an upgrade kit, (set 3803), so that owners of the original LEGO Mindstorms RIS could obtain the software, manuals and parts of 9747 without having to buy a new set.

LEGO MINDSTORMS (set 9735), Robotics Discovery set was also released this year. It included a blue programmable brick named the Scout, with an integrated IR sensor, two motors, and two touch sensors. You program it by changing settings on the brick, no computer required!

1999 - MIT organized Mindfest this year. This was the first ever gathering of MINDSTORMS fans
The first Star Wars LEGO MINDSTORMS Set 9748 Droid Developer Kit was released. It came with the Micro Scout, which had a motor and a light sensor, with 7 programs built in.
2000 - LEGO released (set 9731) Vision Command. You needed a computer to use the camera.

2000 - LEGO released the final expansion set for the RIS, LEGO (Set 9736) Exploration Mars.

2000 - LEGO released the Dark Side Developer Kit, (set 9754). It used the same Micro Scout found in the earlier Set 9748 combined with new parts to build vehicles such as the Destroyer Droid, the AT-AT, and the Droid Starfighter.  

2001 - LEGO released the final version of the RCX-based LEGO MINDSTORMS Robotics Invention System 2.0 (
Set 3804). Of note are the Pro Challenges in the bundled software, showcasing some amazing models.
2001 - LEGO released the final expansion set for the RCX-based MINDSTORMS sets, the Ultimate Builders set (Set 3800).
2003 - World Robot Olympiad was formally organized. In subsequent years, ROBOTMAK3RS were invited to run Expert Zone booths at WRO international finals. Talking to and inspiring students from around the world at WRO events in Qatar, Indonesia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Canada, etc. has been a highlight for the ROBOTMAK3RS.

2004 - LEGO started development of the next generation LEGO MINDSTORMS, the NXT, involving LEGO fans for the first time. A tight-knit group of secret master builders formed the MINDSTORMS User Panel (MUP) and LEGO also recruited 100 users for the MINDSTORMS Developer Program (MDP).
2005 - The very first FIRST LEGO League World Championship is held in Atlanta, GA.
2006 - LEGO released MINDSTORMS NXT Set 8527. Here are some advertisements from 2006
2008 - LEGO MINDSTORMS was inducted into the Carnegie Mellon Robot Hall of Fame. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of MINDSTORMS,
were given out.

2009 - LEGO released an updated MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Set 8547. The set introduced a new color sensor.

2009 - To mark the 10th anniversary of LEGO MINDSTORMS, LEGO released a limited-edition black NXT brick along with build instructions for five fan models by Martyn Boogarts, Daniele Benedettelli, Laurens Valk, Fay Rhodes, and Mike Brandl . Only 1998 were made! "Why black? Because it is cool!"

2013 - 15th Anniversary of MINDSTORMS. The third generation (or evolution) of LEGO MINDSTORMS (EV3) was launched.  The Home Edition EV3 (Set 31313) had five base models. An additional 12 bonus models created by 11 community members were added. An alternative Education edition set (45544) was also launched for the education and competition markets. Many third-party sensors were created for the EV3. In addition, you could use NXT sensors and motors with the EV3. The EV3 was also capable of running alternative operating systems via a microSD card.
2018 - ROBOTMAK3RS Recognized Online Community was founded as a place for former MINDSTORMS Community Partners (MCPs) and other robotics enthusiasts to come together. It was originally going to be named the acronym MINT but the name was abandoned because in German it meant "STEM" and deemed to be not as accurate a descriptor as the term "robot maker".
2018 - The 20th Anniversary of MINDSTORMS. A handful of ROBOTMAKRS were invited to exhibit robots at the LEGO House in Billund, Denmark and were featured in a documentary.

2018 - ROBOTMAK3RS gathered at LEGOWORLD Copenhagen to share their MINDSTORMS projects with thousands of attendees. MCP and ROBOTMAK3R, Vassilis Chryssanthakopoulos, passed away unexpectedly on the last day.
2019 - ROBOTMAK3RS were reunited at LEGOWORLD Copengagen to highlight their work with MINDSTORMS. One memorable moment was demonstrating their robots to the owner of the LEGO Group, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. 
2019 - The original launch date for SPIKE Prime Set 45678. After some delays, it was eventually launched in January 2021. SPIKE Prime was the educational version of the soon-to-be-released MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor Set. A small group of ROBOTMAK3RS (known as the "First Five") were invited to provide feedback during the development stage of the product.

2020 - Robot Inventor (LEGO Set 51515) was launched, featuring 5 main models with multiple extension activities. The electronics was not backwards compatible with previous generations of MINDSTORMS. Robot Inventor was similar to SPIKE Prime, but offered unique features including remote control blocks. Later, hub-to-hub communication and machine learning were added. LEGO collaborated with a small group of community members (Anika Brandsma, Laurens Valk, Arvind Seshan, Sanjay Seshan, Marc-Andre Bazergui, and Anton Vanhoucke) to add 8 bonus models to the MINDSTORMS App
2021 - MINDSTORMS EV3 reaches end-of-life and is officially retired.
2021 - Hub-to-hub communication was added to MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor, enabling multi-hub projects. LEGO collaborated with additional community members to add several new bonus models to their App, taking the total to 21 models.
2022 - Machine Learning was added to MINDSTORMS. In December 2022, LEGO made the decision to retire the MINDSTORMS product line including the new Robot Inventor set.

Articles about MINDSTORMS and its History:

MINDSTORMS Over Matter (Brothers Brick)

Image Credit: BrickNerd, MIT Media Lab, BrickLink, the LEGO Group, FIRST LEGO League

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