A good recollection, Charles. I can recall visiting some science fairs in the late 1950's and early 1960"s and seeing various computational functions executed in hard-coded relay logic. And I have seen some of the older industrical control panels with a hundred or more of the little "ice cube" type relays, all running some fairly complex machines. Those were more the logic type of relays, while the cast-offs that I had were more toward the power types, with contacts designed to switch ten amp loads all day long.
Indeed, Chuck. And it also gives kids an idea of what they are interested in at an early age, leading them down the right path vocationally. Hopefully this leads them to a fitting and fulfilling career. If kids become interested in engineering early through clever toys, it might save them time later on deciding what they want to do with their life.
My education about electricity and circuits began with building simple sequencing circuits using cast-off Allen Bradley control relays. They were easy to understand since all of the contacts were in the open, easy to watch as they opened and closed. And all of it ran on 110 volts AC power, so there were no batteries to go dead on me. The designs were noisy and sparky and quite entertaining to a nine-year-old, and they amazed my friends who came to watch them work. What a great way to recycle industrial controls parts that weere just a bit obsolete. Later on I did get one of those educational electronic kits that made a bunch of different projects. I don't think that anyone worried about the 150 volts DC power that they used, and I know that I didn't get shocked by it while using it, so it must have been safe, somehow.
The only downside to this littleBits is that all the boards just click together in a proprietary way. There is no hands on configuring, like breadboards, etc. It still removes the kid from realizing, these circuits have to be constructed, each part.
I will admit, most engineering is based off on modules these days. So, may it's just a sign of the times.