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Author Topic: Heathkit rebooted  (Read 12383 times)

Mike Sokol

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Heathkit rebooted
« on: December 29, 2013, 09:18:06 pm »

Just a heads-up. Looks like Heathkit will once again be offering kits early in 2014. I loved their kits (along with Dynaco) back in the 70's and their built big power amps, a guitar amp, VTVM, color organ, graphic equalizer, and a few other gadgets I've long forgotten. I really learned a lot about troubleshooting electronics by having the schematics at hand along with knowing where everything went and how to calibrate it. Here's a link to a discussion by the new Heathkit board of directors: http://www.reddit.com/r/tabled/comments/1tdf45/table_iama_member_of_the_heath_company_heathkit/

I think that building a kit like this goes beyond any savings you might achieve (probably none nowadays). So few young people get the opportunity to know what's under the hood of their smart phone or tablet, and they miss the big thrill when you hit the switch and see something come to life that you soldered together yourself. If Heathkit gets ramped up in 2014, I'm going to be giving their kits as Christmas presents next year to my favorite young techies. I can't wait to see what their first kits are.
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Mike Sokol
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brian maddox

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2013, 10:04:50 pm »

Just a heads-up. Looks like Heathkit will once again be offering kits early in 2014. I loved their kits (along with Dynaco) back in the 70's and their built big power amps, a guitar amp, VTVM, color organ, graphic equalizer, and a few other gadgets I've long forgotten. I really learned a lot about troubleshooting electronics by having the schematics at hand along with knowing where everything went and how to calibrate it. Here's a link to a discussion by the new Heathkit board of directors: http://www.reddit.com/r/tabled/comments/1tdf45/table_iama_member_of_the_heath_company_heathkit/

I think that building a kit like this goes beyond any savings you might achieve (probably none nowadays). So few young people get the opportunity to know what's under the hood of their smart phone or tablet, and they miss the big thrill when you hit the switch and see something come to life that you soldered together yourself. If Heathkit gets ramped up in 2014, I'm going to be giving their kits as Christmas presents next year to my favorite young techies. I can't wait to see what their first kits are.

Dude, I'll get a kit for MYSELF.  Sounds like a lot of fun.  Like playing with an old school erector set. Very cool.
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2013, 10:31:16 pm »

Looks like Heathkit will once again be offering kits early in 2014.

I think the demise of electronics kits had a twofold cause. First, sometime in the late 80's to early 90's was the incredible price drop of electronics due to overseas manufacturing. That made is so it was considerably more expensive to build your own, and the products became so inexpensive it was cheaper to replace than repair. Secondly, the proliferation of integrated circuits means that repairing most electronic gadgets yourself is nearly impossible, and you can't build something yourself of equivalent functionality due to the difficulty of procuring integrated circuits and programming.

What I think gives the 'rebooted' Heathkit hope is the popularity of the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms. With those two kits, techie tinkers are able to build their own modern, programmable devices to do any number of things at a reasonable cost.

Arduino and Raspberry Pi don't directly teach about discrete components, but they provide a platform that can interface with discrete circuits. And to the extent that it will drive young people to learn about circuits, that will be a good thing. I think Heathkit would be smart to make some of their kits as extensions to Arduino & Raspberry Pi, as that will provide the opportunity to learn not only about discrete circuits, but also controlling and monitoring those circuits through logic programming.
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Lyle Williams

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2013, 11:13:03 pm »

I hope they do well.  I have one of their antenna tuners at home somewhere. 
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2013, 11:33:49 pm »

I think the demise of electronics kits had a twofold cause. First, sometime in the late 80's to early 90's was the incredible price drop of electronics due to overseas manufacturing. That made is so it was considerably more expensive to build your own, and the products became so inexpensive it was cheaper to replace than repair. Secondly, the proliferation of integrated circuits means that repairing most electronic gadgets yourself is nearly impossible, and you can't build something yourself of equivalent functionality due to the difficulty of procuring integrated circuits and programming.
A topic I know something about... I ran a kit business from mid '70s to mid '80s.

To refine you theory, it wasn't offshore manufacturing per se that killed the kit business but the increasing use of machine "automated" assembly. IMO the driving force powering the kit business was the compelling economics. By performing the relatively low tech labor of hand assembling the products, you could save hundreds of dollars off the typical retail price. BUT by the "80s machines could assemble the same products so cheaply that the cost advantage between kits and low cost assembled was no longer attractive. The rise of offshore manufacturing was the last nail in the coffin, a final insult. Back then it was made in Japan, but now China is even cheaper. I found myself trying to sell kits that cost more than a brand name assembled product (albeit made in Japan). Even I could read the writing on that wall.

I don't know that the IC were much of an issue. In fact all of my kits used ICs and several showcased specialized IC that facilitated some useful function. 

Quote


What I think gives the 'rebooted' Heathkit hope is the popularity of the Arduino and Raspberry Pi platforms. With those two kits, techie tinkers are able to build their own modern, programmable devices to do any number of things at a reasonable cost.
Modern manufacturing has not stopped advancing for the last few decades, so now it is way past machine insertion, now the components are so small they are hard to see. IIRC there were kit companies near the end of the big kit business days that actually provided assembled and tested PCBs in the kit, and let the kit builder do some final assembly. Perhaps something like that might work, but the compelling cost advantage is gone. 
Quote

Arduino and Raspberry Pi don't directly teach about discrete components, but they provide a platform that can interface with discrete circuits. And to the extent that it will drive young people to learn about circuits, that will be a good thing. I think Heathkit would be smart to make some of their kits as extensions to Arduino & Raspberry Pi, as that will provide the opportunity to learn not only about discrete circuits, but also controlling and monitoring those circuits through logic programming.

We are on the horizon of an exciting time where personal 3d printing means we can relatively easily make odd shaped physical objects. DSP keeps getting cheaper and more powerful. But I still see this as a tiny fraction of the good old days.  Back in it's prime Heathkit was selling something like $100M in kit sales and that was real dollars, not today's.

Heathkit has a brand name that at least the old farts will still recognize and respect. I just don't think there is a compelling economic business model for kits.

Note: There are still niche kit companies selling clones of legacy recording gear, and sundry electronic gadgets. Heathkit could carve out a decent niche in educational markets and the like. I used to sell lots of kits to college engineering students to use in course work.   

I wish them luck...

JR
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2013, 12:34:54 am »

I taught a college studio-maintenance class last year which required that students build something. Many of my class selected Jameco kits such as the stereo headphone amp or color organ with LED lights. Now these weren't really complicated kits, but they had to solder every component onto a circuit board, mount it in some sort of a case, and demonstrate it for class. There was a lot of pride from these students who showed off their builds during final exams.

I'm trying to get funding and permission from the university to build a few singing Tesla coil kits next semester. Of course, this it beginning to get into dangerous territory, so we have to consider student safety above all things. http://onetesla.com/index.php/products/kits/onetesla-singing-10-coil-kit-110.html#.UsEEtPYdBgI

Too much fun.... 8)

 
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Steve M Smith

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2013, 04:01:38 am »

Heathkit products were sold in the UK through Maplin Electronics.  A mail order supplier who started with a few shops and now have a shop in most big towns.

I remember them from the 1970s and 1980s but as I was still at school, I didn't have the necessary funds and had to make do with making things with components from discarded TVs and radios.


Steve.
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Jeff Bankston

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2013, 06:51:57 am »

i wish i still had my 1960's Dynaco 60 watt tube mono blocks
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2013, 08:30:16 am »

i wish i still had my 1960's Dynaco 60 watt tube mono blocks

I still have my pair of Dynaco Mark II 60 watt tube mono blocks which I bought back in the late 70's . I didn't build them and there's a sticker that says they were factory built which I'm guessing must be rare. One of them has a bad power supply cap, so they're due for a re-capping and some TLC. But they really did sound great when I had them running in my studio and were a real conversation piece.

Yes, I know that tubes aren't supposed to sound better than transistors, but there's just something magical about listening to vinyl through great tube amps.  ;D
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Mike Sokol
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2013, 08:36:51 am »

Also, I've been toying with the idea of getting my ham radio license and have been casually studying for the test, but need a boost to go do the exam. Perhaps building a Heathkit transceiver would be just the thing to get me off my butt. I still remember my grandmother's neighbor having a "radio shack" with a really cool Heathkit transceiver he built and a big antenna on his roof. He was also building a Heathkit automatic key for Morse code with paddles you could push side-to-side for high speed dots and dashes.
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Mike Sokol
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ProSoundWeb Community

Re: Heathkit rebooted
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2013, 08:36:51 am »


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