Author Topic: Heathkit is back . . well not really  (Read 9340 times)

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Offline amspire

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Heathkit is back . . well not really
« on: November 03, 2011, 12:09:08 am »
Heathkit promised they would make kits again, and their first kit is available.

Trouble is, it just doesn't deserve the name Heathkit.

It is $129 for a Garage Parking Attendant kit.



Very disappointing. The sensors are off the shelf Chinese modules. Very similar ones are available for $3.50 in 50 off quantities.

These modules usually have all the electronics built in to turn distances into a pulse width, so the main part of the build is not done by the constructor.

And they have even obscured markings on the microcontroller, so it doesn't look like the design is open to the constructor.

I built one Heathkit project around the early 70's -a desktop AM/Shortwave Radio - and the care in the design and the documentation was just awesome.  The set had built into it everything you needed to fully tune it, and I was really able to understand every part of the receiver. The only things I needed to build it were a soldering iron and a few screwdrivers.

Given the brand name with it's great reputation, I just would have expected much more from their first release.

Richard.

« Last Edit: November 03, 2011, 01:32:56 am by amspire »
 

Offline johnboxall

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2011, 12:20:41 am »
That's just wrong - there must be $20 max. worth of parts in there. Yes - not a Heathkit of yore...

Offline Mechatrommer

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2011, 12:25:52 am »
interesting how people can make so much money these days. but actually there's good in this. any hobbiest can jump in to compete.
if something can select, how cant it be intelligent? if something is intelligent, how cant it exist?
 

Offline johnboxall

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2011, 12:28:16 am »
interesting how people can make so much money these days. but actually there's good in this. any hobbiest can jump in to compete.

This is very true, anyone with the spare time, inclination and market presence can come up with a range of kits...

Offline amspire

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2011, 12:46:27 am »
Here is the exact radio I built.  It basically was the low end shortwave receiver
, but it was all I could afford to get from Australia.



And this is what people expect from Heathkit.  This is the type of kits in the catalog that we dreamt of getting. Even though it is a tube design, if I came across an unbuilt kit like this, I would definitely build it today. The SB-110 6meter 100 watt shortwave transceiver.

« Last Edit: November 03, 2011, 01:15:58 am by amspire »
 

Offline Balaur

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2011, 01:08:13 am »
This is very true, anyone with the spare time, inclination and market presence can come up with a range of kits...

I wonder what could a community such as EEVblog could do with a bit of motivation. Imagine all the people and their combined and various talents, instant international distribution network, a lot of quality web presence in sites such as yourself.

Or maybe we can think from time to time at some kind of community/club project for internal use and consumption, with input from all the interested people, shared design & manufacturing, etc.

Eh, one may dream.
 

Offline Mechatrommer

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2011, 01:25:32 am »
yes you are dreaming i think balaur. its been attempted here and somewhere else, search "open source" DMM. things will get messy when more people involved, esp who's not really got the experience of designing things, only talk. the magnitude of complexity of the device shown by OP is so simple anyone (one person! not many) can do alot better than that. i believe with a great dedication, one person can build a Fluke or Gossen. but many person will achieve nothing, just air.
if something can select, how cant it be intelligent? if something is intelligent, how cant it exist?
 

Offline Balaur

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2011, 01:32:53 am »
yes you are dreaming i think balaur. its been attempted here and somewhere else, search "open source" DMM. things will get messy when more people involved, esp who's not really got the experience of designing things, only talk. the magnitude of complexity of the device shown by OP is so simple anyone (one person! not many) can do alot better than that. i believe with a great dedication, one person can build a Fluke or Gossen. but many person will achieve nothing, just air.

Yes, I know that one. However, I feel that the open source DMM is an exercise in futility. But there are other stuff as well.

Cheers,
Dan
 

Offline amspire

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2011, 02:07:44 am »
I have been thinking how you could recreate the "Great Kit" experience today, and it is very hard.  It is not the same as building a kit from a magazine project, it was something completely different.

You were led part by part through the construction, so novices didn't have to panic.  All along the way, techniques were clearly explained. A full stepped procedure for powering up, testing, debugging and calibrating was included.  Finally, there has to be some kind of service available for the people who stuff up so badly that their kit will never work. As well as being a kit, they were a mini university course as well.

Heathkit and others like Sabtronics, Sinclair, University Graham in Australia and many others were able to make these "Great Kits" because the prices of the equivalent products was so high.  Production cost markups were just so big, that it was cheaper to sell a kit. People built the University Graham VTVM (Vacuum Tube Voltmeter) in the 60's because it was much cheaper then any built meter of the same quality.  Until FETs became available for meters, you had to have a VTVM to get the 10M input impedance you needed.

Sinclair in its Scientific Calculator kit  around about '74 - the first affordable scientific calculator - were able to offer a 2.50 Pounds repair option to anywhere in the world - so obviously when you paid for the kit, you were really paying for a second calculator board as well that Sinclair would send if your attempt failed.

The only successful kits I can think of today are the very specialized custom projects like the 3D printers, quadrocopters, and home DNA sequencing kits where there are no cheap commercial products available right now.

If anyone can think of a business model and a product range that would work today, I would love to know.

Richard.
 

Offline IanB

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2011, 02:37:02 am »
I have been thinking how you could recreate the "Great Kit" experience today, and it is very hard.  It is not the same as building a kit from a magazine project, it was something completely different.

You were led part by part through the construction, so novices didn't have to panic.  All along the way, techniques were clearly explained. A full stepped procedure for powering up, testing, debugging and calibrating was included.  Finally, there has to be some kind of service available for the people who stuff up so badly that their kit will never work. As well as being a kit, they were a mini university course as well.

...

The only successful kits I can think of today are the very specialized custom projects like the 3D printers, quadrocopters, and home DNA sequencing kits where there are no cheap commercial products available right now.

If anyone can think of a business model and a product range that would work today, I would love to know.

What about Adafruit? I built their Ice Tube Clock kit and I like the result. It has parts like the laser cut acrylic case that I could not make myself, and it is something you would not find in the shops. There are certainly very detailed step by step instructions, and full help on their forums if you get stuck. Another neat thing is the possibility to modify and customize the firmware (something I am yet to attempt, but I do intend to try it). That too is an added interest you would not get from a commercial product off the shelf.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?
 

Offline JonnyBoats

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2011, 02:57:09 am »
Have you seen the Nanode project done by the London (England) hackerspace? http://wiki.london.hackspace.org.uk/view/Project:Nanode

This is a relatively low cost (20 pounds) kit based on  Arduino with extras. They have done documentation and many group build sessions.

Perhaps high quality kits at reasonable prices are not dead after all.
 

Offline amspire

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2011, 03:03:30 am »

What about Adafruit? I built their Ice Tube Clock kit and I like the result. It has parts like the laser cut acrylic case that I could not make myself, and it is something you would not find in the shops. There are certainly very detailed step by step instructions, and full help on their forums if you get stuck. Another neat thing is the possibility to modify and customize the firmware (something I am yet to attempt, but I do intend to try it). That too is an added interest you would not get from a commercial product off the shelf.

That would be a potentially successful model. Item that have a unique aesthetic design that sell more for the design then the function. In this case, you could also get legal protection against forgeries.
 

Offline joelby

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #12 on: November 03, 2011, 03:15:15 am »
Perhaps the only sort of thing a community like EEVBlog could easily design might be something like Arduino shields or Sparkfun-style chip breakout boards. They tend to be small and simple, fairly self-contained, easy for one person to design, and easy for someone else to understand and improve upon, and would lend themselves well to kits. I reckon it's much more fun to solder something yourself than to buy a pre-made one.
 

Offline amspire

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #13 on: November 03, 2011, 03:19:30 am »
Have you seen the Nanode project done by the London (England) hackerspace? http://wiki.london.hackspace.org.uk/view/Project:Nanode

This is a relatively low cost (20 pounds) kit based on  Arduino with extras. They have done documentation and many group build sessions.

Perhaps high quality kits at reasonable prices are not dead after all.

The Nanode is a fantastic project.  I didn't mention Arduino as it is exceptional.  Arduino just caught on, and all attempts to copy the Arduino model just don't work.

 

Offline the_raptor

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2011, 03:18:35 pm »
In regards to Open Source it has been my experience that successful Open Source projects start as one man bands that later get adopted and improved upon by the user base. Committee based Open Source seems to either die or be incredibly slow.

Also most projects the hobbyist community are interested in simply aren't of the scale that you need more then about half a dozen main people. That is different to something like a Linux distro which is absolutely massive and can be heavily compartmentalised.
 

Offline FenderBender

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2011, 10:18:47 pm »
Well I wasn't alive to experience Heathkit in its mayday, but by the looks of it, the new Heathkit is not Heathkit at all.

It's a new company just riding off the name of something that used to have a good reputation in an effort to maximize profit. Happens a lot these days.

But yeah, not even a nice metal case. El cheapo components..and not many of em. Meh.
 

Offline amspire

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2011, 10:54:31 pm »
I love the way they Heathkit obscure the part number of the micro as if it is a big secret.  Their design might get stolen !!!!!!

I mean all the micro is doing is measuring a pulse length and turning a LED on if it is over a threshold. We are probably talking less then 100 bytes of code, including the calibration.

Anyone capable of copying the design is probably capable of designing something twice as good.

The next kit will be a Wireless Swimming Pool Monitor.

They are looking for suggestions for future kits. I think I will suggest a 40GHz spectrum analyzer.

Richard
 

Offline FenderBender

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2011, 01:48:49 am »
Yeah seriously a 15 year old kid could have designed that thing.
 

Online vk6zgo

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #18 on: November 04, 2011, 02:48:37 am »
Here is the exact radio I built.  It basically was the low end shortwave receiver
, but it was all I could afford to get from Australia.



And this is what people expect from Heathkit.  This is the type of kits in the catalog that we dreamt of getting. Even though it is a tube design, if I came across an unbuilt kit like this, I would definitely build it today. The SB-110 6meter 100 watt shortwave transceiver.



From the comments I've read on QRZ.com,there are a few unbuilt kits around,but they go for astronomical prices on eBay!
Pat,WA6MHZ who has a  fantastic,if a bit messy,collection of old radios, etc, is always growling about the people with huge budgets that
gazump him on eBay.

VK6ZGO
« Last Edit: November 04, 2011, 02:50:15 am by vk6zgo »
 

Offline amspire

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #19 on: November 04, 2011, 04:47:37 am »
From the comments I've read on QRZ.com,there are a few unbuilt kits around,but they go for astronomical prices on eBay!
Pat,WA6MHZ who has a  fantastic,if a bit messy,collection of old radios, etc, is always growling about the people with huge budgets that
gazump him on eBay.

VK6ZGO

Never really looked for unbuilt kits on ebay, but you are right - there are a few.

A SW-7800 digital shortwave receiver kit for $688. I might miss on that one.
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2011, 07:38:14 am »
Heathkit and others like Sabtronics, Sinclair, University Graham in Australia and many others were able to make these "Great Kits" because the prices of the equivalent products was so high.  Production cost markups were just so big, that it was cheaper to sell a kit. People built the University Graham VTVM (Vacuum Tube Voltmeter) in the 60's because it was much cheaper then any built meter of the same quality.  Until FETs became available for meters, you had to have a VTVM to get the 10M input impedance you needed.
thats how my dad explained it to me as well... kits brought the price tag of otherwise cost prohibitive electronics and test gear within the reach of hobbyists and semi-pros.

btw, i found his Heathkit VTVM the other day in the garage. needs some tlc but appears to still function. i had already located his Sabtronics DVM... unfortunately, i let the smoke out of it.  :-\
-sj
 

Offline amspire

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Re: Heathkit is back . . well not really
« Reply #21 on: November 05, 2011, 08:31:05 am »

btw, i found his Heathkit VTVM the other day in the garage. needs some tlc but appears to still function. i had already located his Sabtronics DVM... unfortunately, i let the smoke out of it.  :-\
-sj

I have the Sabtronics assembly manual and schematic, if you need a copy.
 


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