Engineers knew by the late 1940s, as they started experimenting with transistors, that upcoming products would require more electronic components in close proximity than current assembly processes could handle. Such products also were also time-consuming to design, which cut into project budgets. Therefore the U.S. Navy and the National Bureau of Standards devised Project Tinkertoy, with a plan to build Lego-like modular electronics components — this would allow systems to be assembled quickly, in smaller footprints, and with better thermal efficiency. Time reported on Sept. 28, 1953:

After three years, and $4,700,000 spent in experiments on "Project Tinkertoy," the Navy and the National Bureau of Standards had developed an almost automatic assembly line for many electronic parts. Since the end of World War II, the Navy has been worried about bottlenecks in the electronics industry which might slow up war production in a national emergency. ... When the Navy learned that the Bureau of Standards was working on the same problem, the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics decided to underwrite the experiments. To get mass production, NBS simplified electronic products and designed a standard unit. Its basic element is a thin ceramic wafer, 7/8-in. square. Various electrical devices (conducting paints, tape resistors, paper-thin capacitors, etc.) are affixed to the wafer surfaces. Next, four to six such wafers, spaced less than 1/4-in. Apart, are connected by a gridwork of twelve wires. The end product can be used as a building block for any kind of electronic circuit.

Tinkertoy ultimately proved ahead of its time, as did a molecular electronics project from Westinghouse and the U.S. Air Force in 1956 that sought to built circuits from crystal materials. Micro-Modules, yet another method of assembling microelectronics as if they were Legos, picked up the pieces by 1958:

First, what is a Micro-Module? A functional circuit package about the size of a small cube of sugar, consisting of a combination of active and passive components packaged as a solid, compact, inseparable combination. ... The structure should be sufficiently versatile to accommodate a wide variety of circuit configurations with a minimum of basic shapes, materials, and operations.

Walkie-talkies were the landmark proof-of-concept invention. MICROPAC with its 1,642 Micro-Modules did not receive the same attention, but did get the satirical name "Breakie-Backie". Its programming capability was identical to COMPAC.2 RCA project manager Albert Rettig wrote:

[D]esigned for many mobile tactical applications — battery fire control, missile guidance control, weather or surveillance data reduction, etc... It is a binary synchronous computer operating in serial mode at 1.6-Mc clock frequency, with random-access ferrite-core memory of basic 2,048-word capacity, expandable to 8,192 words... Its real-time duplex communication operational capability affords the means for remote access and control.

It indicated a prosperous future for computers that could fit on a desk or even in a briefcase. That transition would be well underway within another decade because of the integrated circuit, although mainstream business computers weighing less than 100 pounds were still a decade away, such as the Data General Nova minicomputer in 1969.

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