Building and construction toys have existed since the dawn of time. They have existed since the dawn of my time, anyway. Such building and construction toys were always in abundance at Grandma’s house. There were the wooden blocks, some textured and cube-shaped with letters on their sides and others smooth and in multiple shapes: cubes, rectangles, pyramids, cones, cylinders, etc. There were the Lincoln logs, which I thought had been invented by and named after President Abraham Lincoln. There were the Tinkertoys, with their wheels and spokes. There were the Erector sets, with their metal pieces, nuts, bolts, and wrenches. And there were the Legos as well as the Duplos, the bigger Legos for little kids.
But in the mid-80s, several new building and construction toys burst upon the already bloated toy scene. These building and construction toys were very different from the blocks, Lincoln Logs, and Legos, but oddly very similar to each other. They were also very much products of their time, bearing that distinctive 80s futuristic air.
The first of these toys was Construx by Fisher Price. The Construx sets had girders, panels, and six-sided square connectors that could be combined to form all sorts of vehicles. Some even had power packs that allowed for basic motor functions which could be controlled with a wired remote.
Next were the Zoids and Robostrux by Tomy. These sets allowed you to build robot-dinosaur things, at least some of which were motorized and had flashing lights. Despite the strux suffix, Robostrux were not related to Construx (they couldn’t be related; they were produced by two different companies). However, both Robostrux and Zoids had their own Marvel comic books.
After them was Robotix by Milton Bradley/Hasbro. Robotix was kind of a hybrid of Construx and Robostrux; the Robotix sets could create dinosaur-ish robots that were motorized and could be remotely controlled. Again, despite the robo prefix, Robotix was not related to Robostrux. But like Robostrux, Robotix did have its own Marvel comic book as well as its own cartoon that ran as part of the Super Sunday program (which included Inhumanoids, Jem and the Holograms, and Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines).
And then there was Capsela by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company (that’s right: the Mitsubishi Pencil Company). Capsela was not a part of the Construx-Robostrux-Robotics spectrum, but it shared a lot of their better qualities and was perhaps the most ingenious of all the sets. The key components of Capsela were little transparent spheres that contained motors and could be snapped together. With them, you could create all sorts of ingenious moving vehicles and things. Since the Capselas were air-tight, these vehicles and things could even go in water. There was also a wireless remote that allowed for the programming of 94 commands (yes! 94!).
But here’s the sad thing about all these sets. I didn’t have any of them. Not a one. As a kid, you only had two real chances of scoring anything as good as these, Christmas and birthday, and it just never happened. But I did see the commercials on Nickelodeon and during afterschool cartoons. I saw them a lot, and I liked what I saw.