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Heathkit arising again?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Joerg, Jun 16, 2013.

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  1. Joerg

    Joerg Guest


    Just received a link from a ham radio operator where they do a survey. I
    just completed it, looks like they are scoping out what to offer in
    terms of new kits and stuff:

    That brings back fond memories. I still have my old HW-100 transceiver
    and the HD-1250 dipmeter (that one is actually in use here).
  2. EICO

    I have a 232 here, works fine. Uses a 12AU7.

    The plastic red/black probe is finally starting to decay ;(

  3. Guest

    Tried to answer, put hitting Next returned to the first question page,
    even after selecting some answers :).
    Building equipment from kits made sense in the days of point to point
    wiring (tube sockets and soldering posts). Making equipment
    commercially, required a huge amount of manual labor, making equipment
    extremely costly, at least when measuring how many hours a radio
    assembly line worker had to work in order to buy the radio he/she had

    By shifting this assembly cost to the "free" hobbyist, made it
    possible to sell kits much cheaper than ready made products.

    In the days of point to point wiring, making
    modifications/improvements was pretty easy.

    With PCBs and especially surface mounted components, commercial
    assembly costs dropped significantly.

    However, in order to let an average hobbyist solder components to a
    PCB, larger than necessary tracks are needed. Handling a large number
    of unmarked SMDs is error prone. Hand soldering a multipin SOIC is
    demanding for a hobbyist.

    IMHO, there is no point of hand soldering individual components, it is
    much more reliable and cost efficient to use industrial wave soldering
    for that.

    A kit producer might survive if it provides some factory made building
    blocks that can be combined into various devices. I am thinking about
    something between Mini-Circuits and Elecraft.

    When people with wildly different skills are building kits, a support
    organization is required and this costs a lot, even if some
    peer-to-per support groups will handle most of the work. Still
    supplying replacement parts is going to be costly.

    Anyway, "kit building" in the future is more about connecting software
    and firmware components together rather than joining resistors,
    capacitors and transistors.
  4. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    I still got mine. Heathkit had a FET meter but that was one of the not
    so great kits they sold, was never very accurate.
  5. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    I wish I'd built that instead if the lesser performing FET multimeter.
    But they didn't offer the tube meter anymore when I grew up. So I got a
    used Eico.
  6. Tauno Voipio

    Tauno Voipio Guest

    There seems to be something fishy with the survey,
    it does not work.

    I still have a SB-220 of 1972 (a linear amplifier
    with two bottles, 3-500Z).
  7. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    I think it needs Javascript turned on.

    I strongly believe there is a point. Nothing beats the feeling of
    accomplishment in a kid or young student after they complete a kit and
    it all works. When it doesn't work it provides a really good opportunity
    to hone troubleshooting skills. That pays off on the first real job, big

    I learned the most not from building Heathkit gear but from helping
    others salvage their capsized Heathkit projects. "I heard a sharp *POP*
    from where those 6164 tubes are and then there was smoke, but I can't
    find where that came from ...", stuff like that.

    Well, it did work in the 60's and 70's, so why can't it work again? I
    just believe they place too much emphasis on ham radio (and I am a
    licensed ham myself), and there will probably not be enough market for
    kits in that. So I suggested they concentrate on robotic and home

    You may be right. Unfortunately that's one reason why many young
    engineers these days run aground easily when facing a hardware problem.
  8. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Absolutely, too ham-centric. And I say that as a guy with a ham radio

    There are still areas. Home automation, for example. Because that
    industry is sound asleep, tons of opportunity including lots of
    follow-up business.

    After the components shrank, robotic assembly
    That's the major danger they are facing. I believe it is nearly
    impossible to have all kits made in America. At least not right now.

    The only way to succeed and thwart pilfering is to include at least one
    part that must be bought at the company store. For example, a
    pre-programmed uC. With home automation that would be no problem.
  9. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Worked for me.

    I wanted bigger, so built two of my own back then. The 2nd one with two
    QB5/1750 with around 5kV on the plates.
  10. Tim Williams

    Tim Williams Guest

    I have a VTVM that I still use frequently; amazingly the AC bandwidth is
    far in excess of any DMM (up to 7MHz or so). The impedance (and clip
    leads!) up there isn't guaranteed to be useful, of course.

  11. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    It does in robotics, and might in home automation. Both markets are
    seriously underserved.

    Right now I don't have much of an idea. Maybe they'll have to drag us
    out of nursing homes :)

    Well, there are always those who will whip out the credits card and buy
    a painting. And then there are those who will whip out the brushes and
    paint. The ratio has been skewed towards the non-innovative folks but
    hope is not lost.
  12. cameo

    cameo Guest

    They also made nice PC kits available, I built my first XT-compatible
    from their kit. I also built a Geiger counter among other gadgets. I
    sure miss the company. They should never have sold out to Zenith.
  13. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    So was most of the stuff I built as a kid. Much of it lost its luster
    the millisecond it worked. Like my pong game which I gave away without
    playing even one game. But you learn an increadible amount of practical
    electronics, stuff universities never teach.

    Yeah, look at some cars :-(

    The trend is also visible in the embedded (non-analog) world. Our pellet
    stove controller contains some things in the uC code that I'd consider
    blunders. And sometimes in the summer it turns itself on. So we have to
    unplug it.
  14. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    It can be done without "calling home". All that most people want is that
    the electric stuff in the home becomes more intelligent. Like lights
    going on and off via dawn-dusk timers, seasonally adjusted. Or push a
    button in the bedroom and that starts the coffee maker. Have it
    automatically turned off after 1/2h or so in case someone forgets. Close
    the garage door if uncle Leroy forgets again (you wouldn't believe how
    often I saw that happen). X-10 does all of that but it is IMHO clunky
    and unreliable.
  15. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Maybe they had to? For many years they were affiliated with
    Schlumberger. Which I found odd or interesting, because when I worked
    there on an oil rig they were all into oil/gas exploration. I never
    figured out how a kit business fit in there.
  16. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    As a kid with modest budget I decided to build my own cantenna. It had
    an SWR <2 even at 2m. Could do a good kilowatt for 10-15 minutes, then
    you had to let the oil cool down. It lasted over 30 years and then the
    old honey pot (literally, it was one) began to rust and eventually leaked.
  17. It has a twist tip to select AC or DC measurements. There is a 1G
    resistor for DC and a pass thru for AC-ohms.
    I've used it with a RF probe in the past, don't recall measuring DC
    with out the 1G resistor. It's supposed to limit the cable capacitance
    from affecting the DUT.

    But its easy to fab 2 replacements for the 1 probe.

  18. Amature Radio was hot in the 70's. I remember 73 magazine was almost
    1/4" thick. Similar to Byte in the 80's and computer shopper in the

    What the latest magazine thats 1/4" thick?

  19. John S

    John S Guest

    If you can do all those other things, why not do your own alarms rather
    than being awakened at 2AM? Not being critical, just wondering.

    I have a country home about 90 miles away. I built a gizmo to call my
    cell phone it the temperature is too high, too low, power off, and other
    triggers. It has worked wonderfully for years using the PSoC1 which does
    the DTMF dialing itself.

    John S
  20. brent

    brent Guest

    Ha, I built the VTVM as a high school project, but I really wanted to
    build the FET meter because it was more portable. I think the FET
    meter was not available at the time of purchase (out of stock) so I
    built the VTVM but always felt disappointing. I never gave it too
    much thought, and certainly threw my VTVM away years ago. Now I find
    out after all these years that I had built the preferable model. I
    doubt I would have used it around the house instead of the very small
    hand held meters which have been available for years.
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