Capsela, the toy that changed my life

Hackernews Discussion.

In 1995 my parents went to USA and they bought me a toy called Capsela. Looking back I realized how much this toy affected my life so I decided to write a blog post about it.

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I couldn't find much information about this set but it seems it was designed and manufactured first by "Mitsubishi Pencil Co" in the 70's, then they gave the license to a company called "Play Jour" and since then it has been manufactured by VTech, Kidology and others. A similar set is sell by a brand called IQ Key.

What is this toy?

This is toy is basically a construction set that allows you to build various kinds of vehicles and other artifacts by connecting capsules. Each capsule has a different mechanical or electrical purpose. The vehicles are for both land and water, although it is possible to build cranes, robots, water pumps and even a cleaner dust vacuum. While the manual comes with a vast collection of models, it is much more interesting to let your imagination fly and create things like a crawler crane vacuum.

Every model starts from a fundamental capsule that contains the motor wired to another that hold the batteries.

Mechanical capsules with gears inside are beautiful and represent real components that exist in the mechanical world.

The explanations that comes in the manual are gorgeous as well:

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Unfortunately, the manual I have is in three different languages German, Italian and Swedish, and I can vaguely read some italian but I will do my best here with the help of Google Translate :)

  • Motor Capsule; The motor inside is fed with an external battery. If you want to change the direction of rotation, change the position of the battery wires. If you want to use the switch box, put the cables as shown in the figure. Be careful not wet the engine, risk of dammage.

  • Speed reduction to multiple state Capsule: This capsule reduces the speed of the shaft and at the same time it increases the torque or the rotational force. For a good use of the engine, it must be connected to the input shaft. If by error is placed to the output shaft, the motor will not move. To know which is the input shaft, rotate it with your finger. The input shaft is the easiest to rotate.

  • Gear shift Capsule: This capsule combines the function of changing the speed of the wheel cap and tooth in a single unit. This can reduce the shaft speed and change direction of the driving force directly at a right angle.

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  • Planetary Gear Capsule: This capsule allows you to change the direction of the torque in right angle. If you install a sprocket shaft to the command it can be transmitted in three ways.

  • Internal Gear Capsule: this capsule changes the speed of the shaft without changing the direction of the command.

  • Rotating switch Capsule: while the shaft rotates, the switch is chaging to open and closed position. The figure shows how to put the wire and the battery.

  • Friction Capsule: this capsule was made to plug or unplug the command of the motor. The two gears could be unplugged with the two-point switch.

  • Transmission Capsule: this capsule could be connected into any other capsule to extend the gear without changing the prime mover.

Then you have lot of parts that can be connected to the aforementioned capsules, some of then in this picture:

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To connect the capsules, you have to use an octogonal piece as shown in this picture:

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Another interesting thing in the manual is this:

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Which in my humble opinion summarizes a lot of years in the history of mechanical engineering.

Things you can assemble

With the capsules you can assemble these things:

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TV commercial

I also found this tv spot (of the 80's I guess)

In this video you can see even a remote control. I read also on wikipedia that there was a model with an interface to Commodore 64, a Lego Mindstorms predecessor! or maybe not since Lego Logo was sold to schools in 1987.

Another funny commercial:

How did this toy influenced me?

I didn't study Mechanical Engineering. However this open my mind to the freedom of being able to invent things. I learned for instance, that with certain components I could change how I used the energy of the motor and the relation between speed and power, etc.

I find many similarities between my current job as a software developer and playing with this construction set. The power of being able to build something from scratch that exists only in my mind using a set of tools and the basic building blocks.

My mother kept some parts of the set and I found in a local website a person selling his capsela. Even if this was an smaller set with less pieces it was in very good conditions. Now I have two capselas, and sometimes we build really crazy stuff with my daughter.

Hackernews Discussion.

Update 30-01-2018

Faraz Hussain scanned the original manuals and sent me the pdfs:


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