Please use this tag only for general Mindstorms questions and compatibility. If the question refers specifically to the EV3, NXT, or RCX, then use those tags instead.
In 1984 the LEGO Group partnered with the Media Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which among others led to the development and release of the technic Computer Control system in 1986 and Mindstorms in 1998.
Mindstorms Robotics Invention System
Mindstorms Robotics Invention System versions 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0, released in 1998, 1999, and 2000, respectively, came with an rcx brick that had ports to connect 3 motors and 3 sensors using the 9V connector cables and a 2x2x2/3 brick with metal in the studs.
Communication with the RCX brick is via infrared, either a Serial/USB "Tower" or a remote control.
Mindstorms NXT versions 1.0 and 2.0, released in 2006 and 2009, respectively, came with an enhanced nxt brick which has 4 sensor ports and 3 motor ports, and uses RJ12 connectors. There is a much wider variety of 3rd party sensors available for the NXT than the RCX, some of which have very advanced functionality. Enhancements include:
- A 100x64 matrix display
- A speaker capable of playing sound files
- On-brick programming
- Bluetooth capability
Communication with the NXT brick is via either a direct USB connection or Bluetooth.
Mindstorms EV3, released in 2013, is the latest incarnation of Mindstorms which comes with the upgraded ev3 brick, housing 4 sensor ports and 4 motor ports, and uses the same RJ12 connectors as the NXT. It is completely backward compatible with NXT sensors and motors. Enhancements include:
- New Linux-based firmware
- A USB port
- SD expansion slot
- iOS and Android support out of the box
- 3D Building instruction app
Communication with the EV3 brick is via either a direct USB connection, Bluetooth, or wifi.