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Pt 10994

Do you, or did you, make Heathkits? If so please post up your fond memories (or anything else) in the comments, I’m writing up a Heathkit related column and I wanted to include some comments from folks who grew up making these or have/had interest in them!

Heathkit… From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Heathkits were products of the Heath Company, Benton Harbor, Michigan. Their products included electronic test equipment, high fidelity home audio equipment, television receivers, amateur radio equipment, electronic ignition conversion modules for early model cars with point style ignitions, and the influential Heath H-8, H-89, and H-11 hobbyist computers, which were sold in kit form for assembly by the purchaser.

No knowledge of electronics was needed to assemble a Heathkit. The assembly process did not teach much about electronics, but provided a great deal of what could have been called “electronics literacy,” such as the ability to identify tube pin numbers or read a resistor color code. Many hobbyists began by assembling Heathkits, became familiar with the appearance of components like capacitors, transformers, and tubes, and were motivated to find out just what these components actually did. For those builders who had a deeper knowledge of electronics (or for those who wanted to be able to troubleshoot/repair the product in the future), the assembly manuals usually included a detailed “Theory of Operation” chapter, which explained the functioning of the kit’s circuitry, section by section. Heath developed a relationship with electronics correspondence schools (e.g., NRI). Heath supplied electronic kits to be assembled as part of courses, with the school basing its texts and lessons around the kit.

Heathkits could teach deeper lessons. “The kits taught Steve Jobs that products were manifestations of human ingenuity, not magical objects dropped from the sky,” writes a business author, who goes on to quote Jobs as saying “It gave a tremendous level of self-confidence, that through exploration and learning one could understand seemingly very complex things in one’s environment.

By the 1980s, the continuation of the integration trend (printed circuit boards, integrated circuits, etc.), and mass production of electronics (perhaps especially computers overseas and in plug in modules) eroded the basic Heathkit business model. Assembling a kit might still be fun, but it could no longer save much money. The switch to surface mount components and LSI ICs finally made it impossible for the home assembler to construct an electronic device for significantly less money than assembly line factory products. As sales of its kits dwindled during the decade, Heath relied on its training materials and a new venture in home automation and lighting products to stay afloat.

Post up in the comments!

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. I made quite a few Heathkits! Two function generators, an oscilloscope, an 80, 40, 20, 10 meter Amateur Radio. Loved them. Wish they were still around to introduce kids to them. :-( It’s definitely a niche market and the kits would have to sell for far more today than you can buy, say a function generator for today..but the education you got was priceless.

  2. s k says:

    I set up my first electronic shop with Kits from Heathkit. A OScope (tube based) – and an audio signal generator. Just more fun than a box of kittens to build, and then go back over the assembly manual to find that wire you soldered to the wrong terminal post. Served yoemans service for too many years…

  3. Chris Muncy says:

    I also made several kits. An electronic morse code keyer, rs-232 rtty decoder, a transmitter and an amplifier. *sigh* I really miss them….

  4. Dave says:

    My dad did. I was too young but i used to go to the heathkit store with him that was near seatac when i was a young kid in the early to mid 80′s. I remember heathkit had a robot that i begged and begged my dad to buy so we could make it. They went away before i succeeded.

  5. vmarks says:

    My mom and dad made the oscilloscope, digital multimeter, Color Television. Still have all of them, although the TV needs repair, and I haven’t had the time/heart to read through all the books to troubleshoot it.

  6. Angus Hines says:

    I built a ham radio from one of their kits !!!

  7. sure did! loved ‘em.

  8. Made their VTVM kit, and some smaller ones. Also, the Allied (the pre-Radio Shack Allied) Knight-Kit “Star Roamer” HF Superhet.

  9. Ethan Dicks says:

    I built a few Heathkits back in the day – nothing as elaborate or as expensive as the H-11 computer on the cover of that catalog, but I have one of those now and have repaired it.

  10. Steve Mazza says:

    Best catalog -EVER-! Better than the Sears Christmas Wish Book. I’ve still got several projects that I built “back in the day.” What a loss that they’re not still around.

  11. Jeff Bailey says:

    Dad made our family’s first hi-fi from a Heathkit. I made a dwell/volt/tachometer from a Heathkit, and I still have it! Don’t have much use for it these days, though. But I used it enough to replace the original after it got stolen in the early ’80s. (Is there anything lower than using a stolen Heathkit?)

    I miss Heathkit as much as I miss Frostline kits for jackets, tents, sleeping bags, etc. I made nearly a dozen of those, and the down sleeping bag my dad made for me in 1975 still gets regular use.

    I miss those days.

  12. RoysterBot says:

    Wow! Very fond memories come rushing back just mentioning Heathkit. As a teenager learning about electronics in the late 1970′s a trip to the local Heathkit store was always filled with wonder and amazement. I used the Heathkit Novice Class study guide and Morse code practice oscillator kit to get my first Amateur Radio license. My first ham radio transceiver was their 1978 vintage crystal controlled VHF FM walkie talkie. It was a challenging kit that helped me hone the soldering skills which still serve me well to this day. Kit building has always been a great way to learn while having a ton of fun.

  13. Chris Palmer says:

    Heathkit was active through my teen years and I used to love putting together the cheaper electronic kits that Radio Shack sold. I “subscribed” to the Heathkit catalog and used to drool over it, but all of the things I really wanted to build were out of my price range at the time. By the time that changed, they were already moving out of the kit business.

    I remember thinking how cool it would be to have built my own TV…

    1. Kevin Cook says:

      My Uncle made one of the TV’s. It was working until I was no longer able to get tubes for it and the Digital Conversions really was the nail in the coffin. I still loved the TV, but it was getting very old.

  14. Will Austin says:

    I never built one of their kits. I did own a ham radio transceiver built by a friend, though. Nice, clearly labeled, modular construction…all in a rock-solid chassis. I drooled over their catalogs as well, since they advertised in the back of every magazine back in the day. I really wanted to build the “HERO” robot like Mr. Wizard had on his show.

  15. My dad made a fish finder, it had a rotating strobe light that showed at what depth the fish were. I remember when he made it (he was an electronics engineer) — he would sit in the basement evenings smoking cigarettes and soldering (he’s 81 now, guess it didn’t kill him yet). I think I might have stashed it somewhere, will have to look for it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I made a digital clock, which is sitting on my desk right next to me as I type this – it still works fine. I also made an H-9 computer terminal that I used with my Southwest Technical Products 6809 computer. It worked well initially, but developed problems about 3 years after I built it.

    Of course, what I REALLY wanted to make was their big color TV, but there was no way I could afford it.

  17. Bryan says:

    Unfortunately, HeathKit was no longer around by the time I got into electronics.

  18. Erik Jenkins says:

    My dad made a bunch of them including a HiFi. I don’t know if it was a Heathkit, but in the 80′s I made a guitar pre-amplifier that had both transistors and a vacuum tube!

    I wish someone would post a link or two to a modern equivalent of the Heathkit company . . . I’d like to teach my son how to solder by the two of us making something for his guitar.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I’d say Sparkfun would be the modern equivalent: http://sparkfun.com

      1. Anonymous says:

        @rocketryguy:disqus i would say no company has come close to heathkit’s documentation yet, maaaaayyyyybbbbbeeee parallax / instructables / make projects and ladyada all put together, but we still all have a long way to go :)

        1. Ed Young says:

          Heathkit was the 0-G, but you guys are taking up the mantel. Keep it up. Us old school hams really appreciate it

    2. Anonymous says:

      The “Cracker Box” amp from Make a few years ago is a fun, simple little guitar amp that sounds pretty decent. I highly recommend it. It’s based on the “Little Gem” circuit that’s floating around the ‘net and it’s a good gateway to similar guitar effects box projects.

      I think Ramsey Electronics is the kit maker that is most like the old Heathkit; but they don’t have as many projects. The do have excellent instructions that make the kits easy to build and you learn something about the circuit when you’re done.

    3. Anonymous says:

      There are a bunch of kit manufacturers for the ham radio crowd: [url=www.elecraft.com]Elecraft[/url], [url=www.qrpkits.com[Hendricks[/url], [url=www.smallwonderlabs.com] Small Wonder Labs[/url], [url=www.tentec.com]Ten Tec[/url] just to name a few.

      None of these are a Heathkit though. Too much specialization these days.

  19. I put together a Heathkit Short Wave radio in 1969. I was 13 at the time. I remember looking into the night sky that summer when there were men on the moon. I thought for sure that my new radio would be able to hear them but, alas, I never did tune in NASA.

    1. Ed Young says:

      Great story. I remember looking up at the moon during that time too. I was only 6, but it was so inspirational for me and the whole country. A few years later I got into ham radio and built a tuner and a keyer. Still have the tuner, and still love building electronics. Still wish I’d ended up an astronaut too.

  20. Rob says:

    My dad has a Heathkit amp that he built when I was too young to remember it. He’s still using it today, it’s got to be 30 years old if not 35. It’s in the stereo cabinet in the living room, and still gets daily use.

  21. Mike M says:

    I built a Heathkit Guitar amp, helped my dad build a color tv set. My sister made extra cash in high school during the radar detector and cb days by building radar detectors for classmates. Loved those heathkit kits. The instructions were always clear and easy to follow.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I desperately wanted the Hero robot, and I think they had a dabbling in RC planes? Maybe I’m mis-remembering, but I think I was dying for that in the same catalog…

    1. Cameron S S says:

      A LONG time ago they had a dabbling in full-size planes. Also kits, seems fitting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heath_Parasol

      1. Anonymous says:

        Wow, had no idea of their involvement of the early homebuilding movement! But now, looking at the specs, yikes. 150FPM climb is so low that I’d consider it dangerously underpowered. But then, it was 1930, and folks were less concerned about such things.

        All that vastly predates what I remember. I think it was called a telemaster, they may have partnered with hobby lobby or somebody, circa 1978 or so.

  23. kentkb says:

    Yep, Short wave tube type! still have it too….

  24. D Mac says:

    Heathkits were of decent quality, but all the time I spent on them, I was always yelling, “Hurry Up with those damn Arduinos already!”.

    If I had Arduino or Lego Mindstorm systems when I was a kld, I would have STAYED A KID, and skipped the whole “adult” phase in-between my childhoods.

    Kids these days always have it easy! :-)

  25. Anonymous says:

    I remember watching my dad put together their stereo receiver when I was really young, would have been the early ’60s… and they still have it, and it still works fine!

  26. I totally built a Heathkit frequency counter for credit in school!

  27. I have a Heathkit Oscilloscope. There is no documentation anywhere on-line though. I am not a fan of no documentation.

    1. Anonymous says:

      A Google search shows a few sources for manuals.

  28. I built several Heathkits over the years. My first one was when I was still in high school – a ham radio receiver. Then, a ham SSB radio, a 2 meter radio, a DMM, an oscilloscope, and even a Hero Robot. The catalog always was a sure way to while away hours. I wish they were back.

  29. Bob says:

    The first Heathkit I built was something like a 101 project kit that had components contained in Lego style bricks. I spent many hours with it and learned a lot about electronics with that kit. I helped a fiend’s father build a beautiful color TV and they used it for many years. The last Heathkit I built was a Ham Radio Packet radio box which I still have but I haven’t used it in years.

  30. Anonymous says:

    My grandfather made a stereo that my grandma used for as long as I can remember. It disappeared when she died about 8 years ago. I went in search of kits I could buy and build and was surprised to discover that the company was long gone.

  31. Keith says:

    I learned a lot by building Heathkits. I started with a tube-driven AM receiver and a 3-tube amplifier. They worked very well, then about 5 years later the tuner quit, until I fixed a cold solder joint. I built the dot-matrix printer and hooked it up to my Apple II. It was very costly, almost $1000 for a dot-matrix printer with very little sophistication, but it taught me a lot about RS-232 communication, so it was worth the price. All issues considered, I got good value and worthwhile products that kept their promises. I am glad the company is still around.

  32. The first color console TV we had in our house was one my dad built from a Heathkit kit, until it stopped working. He fixed it, and months later it caught on fire while we were watching it. I found out MANY years later that the kits were also a commercial assembled set, that they were allegedly sued via class action for having TVs that would catch on fire.

    That said, we had tons of Heathkit stuff in our house growing up
    !

  33. Dan Braun says:

    sure did… several in fact…

  34. Capt.tagon says:

    I learned electronics from their eletronics courses and experimenter station. It was part of my 7th grade home school year. What I learned there, I’ve been using ever since. And one kit. It was sad seeing them go, but open hardware initiatives and all the people out there creating kits are doing a good job of replacing what we lost.

  35. Anonymous says:

    When I was 8 or 10 years old, it became clear to my parents that I needed something more challenging than public school could offer. They couldn’t afford private school, but found a friend of a friend who was building a Hero robot in his shop. He taught me to solder, and we worked through most of that entire project together, including learning all the theory. Unfortunately he moved away before we could finish, but thanks to his generous gift of time, and that awesome Heathkit, I got a supplementary educational program that I couldn’t have gotten any other way at the time.

  36. gloyer says:

    My Dad (now in his 80′s) made our first stereo from a Heathkit while I “helped”. :-) In my twenties, I took a Bell and Howell course that included a couple of Heathkits: a digital multimeter and an oscilloscope – made two of those. Great experience, very high quality kits. I’ve never found a kit since with such attention to detail in the instructions.

  37. Bob Maccione says:

    I was a bit young but we did have a heathkit mini-bike. Well made and I spent many hours riding it.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Built a bunch of them long time ago. Most complex was likely the SW receiver. (neat that they had a way to align the IF without other test gear). Later some test gear – they did a clone of the fluke DMM that worked quite well, and a timing light.

    The high school electronics shop was equipped entirely with heathkit each station had had a VTVM (the shop was built out in the early 60′s, but the stuff was in use when I took the classes in the early 70′s) oscilloscope, signal generator, power supplies (both low voltage,DC, and the combo hv dc, ac fillament), etc….

    The memorable incident – I built a couple of their digital clocks, as they had a good height vacuum florescent display, and could be jumpered to display in 24 hour format – at the time they were about the cheapest way to get a 24hr clock. Anyhow, they used a cmos hex inverter to make the oscillator to drive the 2″ speaker that was the alarm – turns out they were LOUD, which was good for me, as it takes a medium explosion to rouse me… It was Sue’s first weeknight sleepover, so the first time we had to get up and go to work.. She is easily roused. In the morning the alarm went off, and she practically hit the ceiling. To make it more “entertaining” instead of a big snooze button on top, they have a small slide switch on the back (eg, hard to find if you didn’t know where it was), so she couldn’t shut it up., I was my usual sluggish self getting up. (my record was 38 minutes of alarm blaring).. The clock was retired to the other room, and one with a quieter alarm, and a more obvious cancel button was purchased that afternoon. (happy ending, we are still together, and its coming up on 25 years)

  39. Bob Paleck says:

    Early 1965, middle of San Francisco Bay, USN Electronics “A” School on Treasure Island. We were in such a hurry to become ET’s that we’d pitch in and buy kits and do marathon builds on the weekends in the barracks. Eight to twelve fellows who’d just that week learned how to tell a resistor from a choke would build a home stereo receiver/amp advertised to take two months, in about twenty continuous hours…whatta trip. The Navy knew what they were doin’ letting us each take our tool kit ‘home’ for the weekend…we really learned our skills by trying to fix Aunt Bess’s TV and Uncle Elmer’s car radio – instead of experimenting with the Surface Search Radar on the ship we each eventually ended up on off the coast of ‘Nam.

  40. Heathkits are some of my fondest memories of the 70′s, and Yes the Catalog was a Book of Dreams.

  41. Emery DeWitt says:

    I made several Heathkits in the late 70′s while taking a correspondence electronics course from National Technical Schools. But it was in 1986 that I built my biggest kit ever – a Hero robot. My wife was studying that summer for the CPA exam, and for the whole summer, she sat at a desk and studied, while I sat at a nearby card table and soldered, wired and assembled.

    It took most of the summer, and when finished, I put the Hero on the floor and turned it on. It immediately rolled away, stopped in front of a running oscillating fan we had on the floor, and said, “Are you a human being?” We were amazed!

    Incidentally, later that year I sold the Hero at the big electronics swap meet that was held on Saturdays in Dallas, TX, underneath one of the bridges in the “Mixmaster” – the confluence of a number of major highways. No way that is still going on, I guess…

  42. Emery DeWitt says:

    In addition to the Hero robot I just posted, I also had a couple of Heathkit computers, although I bought them from hobbyists who had already assembled them. The first was a Heathkit H8 – see
    http://oldcomputers.net/heathkit-h8.html
    . It had 8K of RAM. Now, kids, that’s not 8 gigabytes, or even 8 megabytes, but 8 kilobytes, as in 8,192 bytes. As I recall, after loading “Benton Harbor Basic” from cassette tape, I had about 1300 bytes of memory for programs.

    I wrote my first real program on that machine in BH Basic – a single-player implementation of the code-breaking game “Mastermind” that I played on my serial-attached Heathkit monitor. Later, I built a kit from a third-party manufacturer that expanded the memory to 64KB – big times!

    My other Heathkit computer was an H89, which even had a floppy drive. I ran the CP/M operating system on that one, and wrote an implementation of the “Pong” video game. The best part of that game was the name: YAGBOG – Yet Another Generic Bouncing Object Game!

  43. Mike Jackson says:

    My parents built the TV kit. I can remember a few times when it broke down my father replacing bits and pieces to repair it. I believe the TV itself is still in the family somewhere and functional, but when I last saw it it was being used as a stand to support another TV.

  44. GreggV says:

    The only TV sets I knew growing up were Heathkits. I used to help my father make them, troubleshoot them and repair them. I remember going across the street to a convenience store that had a tube tester to troubleshoot problems – they even carried a decent selection of replacement tubes! In the early 80s, I built my first computer and taught myself assembler using one of their 6800-based kits. It’s a pity kids today don’t have such mass-market options to get exposed to the real inner workings of electronics. At least we have Make!

  45. Anonymous says:

    I built a GR-2000 color TV, oscilloscope, and digital multimeter in the 70′s. I got them all through the GI Bill while I was in the Air Force as part of a TV Repair correspondence course. It cost me only $159, and I didn’t have to pay until the course was finished. It was frustrating because I would assemble one of the 15-odd circuit boards, test it, answer some test questions and then wait a few weeks for the next shipment. It took well over a year to finish. I still remember the thrill of tuning it on for the first time. I still have them and they all work. The GR-2000 was the first TV to have on screen channel and time display. Someone gave me another GR-2000, so I have lots of spare parts. Each transistor and IC is socketed, so troubleshooting is a snap. I was also lucky enough to live near a Heathkit retail store and visited often.

  46. LARRY says:

    The catalog shown above was the first one I ever ordered from! Built my Novice receiver the HR-1680 in December of 1978. Built a lot of Ham radio gear – a HW-8, an SB-104A, various accessories. Also built alarm clocks, scanners, test gear and my entire stereo system from Heathkits. Towards the end of their reign, I was a member of the Master Builder Club. No one will ever take the place of Heathkit; but I have to admit that Elecraft comes pretty darn close!

  47. Back in the early 1980s when our sons were in their teens, I built my one and only Heathkit, a digital multimeter with a very nice case, for my electrical engineer husband for Father’s Day. He’s now retired, but it still works and he still uses it.

  48. Anonymous says:

    My first Heathkit was a regenerative all-band receiver that didn’t work. I was about 11 years old at the time, got my mom to drive me back to the Heathkit store in Jericho, Long Island and the guy behind the repair counter took me in the back and pointed out (and fixed) a bunch of bad solder joints and voila! Learned a lot from that store.

    After that, over the years I build two Heathkit keyers, a phone patch and an SWR bridge. I bought an HW-8 used and still have a used SB-220 that is about 30 years old now – still works but needs a new relay, which I have but haven’t gotten installed yet.

    John K3TN

  49. I have a photo of me, about 1953, with my arm around my recently completed Heathkit Oscilloscope. The thrill of creating a working, useful, device from a pile of parts has never left me. If you want to use the photo (taken by Martin Lesser, Sweden) contact me and I will try to provide a good scan of the image.

  50. Anonymous says:

    I have Heathkit to blame for a lifetime broadcast career that started in my teens. Experience building a DX-40 amateur radio transmitter and midnight oil helped me pass the FCC First-Class Radiotelephone commercial license at 16. When that particular sunspot cycle died down, I built a high powered 6 and 2 meter Seneca VHF transmitter and had a ball with 120 watts on phone in those pre-repeater days. To get the chicks, nothing would beat my Heathkit stereo unit with a revolutionary center channel speaker and when the kids came along and needed color cartoons, Heathkit came to the rescue with a bullet proof color TV set kit. I couldn’t even get away from Heathkit at work since the currents for my TV weathercast came from a Heathkit Weather Station that I lost the right to construct when the station’s Chief Engineer pulled rank. After Heathkit finally got into retail stores they had the best “candy” stores in town.
    Heathkit did get some competition, but my experience building a VHF Converter and a VTVM from competitors left a lot to be desired.
    It was a sad day for me when the kits from Heathkit died.

  51. navionguy says:

    When I was eight my father was on medical leave from the Army for six weeks. To fill his time, he bought and built a Heathkit TV. I was so fascinated by the idea you could do that, I sat by his side and watched every step. From there, he and I would together build a digital calculator, darkroom timer and digital clock. The best was when he bought electric an throttle for my train layout and I was allowed to build it myself! Now I work as an engineer and still build electronic kits in my basement.

    Thanks Dad!!

  52. That catalog you’ve posted really brings back memories! That’s the very catalog I drooled over when I first became a ham, back when I was ten years old. Little did I know that four years later my folks would give me an HW-8 transceiver kit for Christmas.

    I built that kit as fast as I could. It took a few days, but I loved every minute of it. It worked the first time I turned it on! It was late in the evening, but I picked up the phone and called my friend to quick get on the air. We had a CW contact, and he said it sounded great.

    Then came the best contact of my life. I went in search of a “real” contact, one that wasn’t set up. Lo and behold, it was with a station in Invercargill, New Zealand! From my home in St. Paul, MN, that was just about as far away as you could get. I’ve had flashlights that put out more power than that little HW-8, but there I was, sending and receiving Morse Code with a station nearly 9,000 miles away! What a rush. I still have that HW-8, and it works great after all these years.

  53. Donald Ziems says:

    Sadly, Heathkit closed up shop just as I was entering preschool, so I didn’t have the opportunity to build any of their kits.

    However, a family friend of mine generously allowed me to have his Heathkit oscilloscope (can’t recall the part number) as I started my electrical engineering education. To this day it still works great, and if something does break (short of the CRT or some other tube), I’ve got the full schematics to repair it. Can’t do that with modern scopes for sure!

  54. Donald Ziems says:

    Sadly, Heathkit closed up shop just as I was entering preschool, so I didn’t have the opportunity to build any of their kits.

    However, a family friend of mine generously allowed me to have his Heathkit oscilloscope (can’t recall the part number) as I started my electrical engineering education. To this day it still works great, and if something does break (short of the CRT or some other tube), I’ve got the full schematics to repair it. Can’t do that with modern scopes for sure!

  55. Donald Ziems says:

    Sadly, Heathkit closed up shop just as I was entering preschool, so I didn’t have the opportunity to build any of their kits.

    However, a family friend of mine generously allowed me to have his Heathkit oscilloscope (can’t recall the part number) as I started my electrical engineering education. To this day it still works great, and if something does break (short of the CRT or some other tube), I’ve got the full schematics to repair it. Can’t do that with modern scopes for sure!

  56. Donald Ziems says:

    Sadly, Heathkit closed up shop just as I was entering preschool, so I didn’t have the opportunity to build any of their kits.

    However, a family friend of mine generously allowed me to have his Heathkit oscilloscope (can’t recall the part number) as I started my electrical engineering education. To this day it still works great, and if something does break (short of the CRT or some other tube), I’ve got the full schematics to repair it. Can’t do that with modern scopes for sure!

  57. Milo says:

    I would like to respond to all the comments expressing the regret of the passing of Heathkit.  I built about two dozen Heathkits (plus other kits) “back in the day”, and for many years, I too sorely regretted their passing.  However, over the past few years, through the Internet, I have discovered, that while no one has, nor ever will replace Heathkit in all their glory, there are many, MANY small outfits that provide anywhere from one or two, to dozens of all kinds of different kits.  And a few of them are every bit and more sophisticated as the top Heathkits.  Few of them match the in-depth quality of Heath manuals, some have terrible documentation or even no documentation.  But the point is, kit building is not dead.  The main difference is, instead of having hundreds of kits in one place like Heath, they are spread out among dozens and hundreds of developers all over the world, and tied together through the Internet.  It has been my opinion for a long time that besides the much touted foreign competition being the reason for Heath’s demise, I believe it was also two things; Heath tried to be too many things to too many people, from scooters to expensive home electronic organs. They stretched themselves too thin leaving behind their first love.  Secondly, they became too big for their own good.  That is, they became too big to move quickly with changing market trends.  Now, kits are coming back, but Heath was not flexible enough to survive through those times until now.

    Actually, Heathkit IS coming back. Though not as many of us would imagine.  Check out heathkit.com.  They are supposed to be coming out with some home-based kits later this year (2011), and some amateur products by the end of the year.  Time will tell whether it is good enough to take off again.  Who knows?  Maybe they can reinvent themselves after all these years.

  58. mnkelsner says:

    You too can build a Heathkit Check out http://WWW.HEATHKIT.COM

  59. mnkelsner says:

    You too can build a Heathkit Check out http://WWW.HEATHKIT.COM

  60. Geary says:

    I have built the GR2000 back in 1978 with my girlfriend (now my wife). Great memories of dates just soldering the PCB on my dad’s dining room table. The TV was retired to the bassement back in the early 90′s after they got a 32″ (WOW! back then) Sony. Now I have to get rid of it since the house being sold. Still have all the documentations, any takers?

  61. Wes says:

    I built two kits when I was in high school in 1964, the Knight-Kit (Allied Radio) KA-25 vacuum-tube stereo amplifier and Heathkit’s first color TV, the all-vacuum tube GR-53A.

    I was very happy with the color set. It didn’t work right the first time, but after I found an errant solder splash on the underside of the video board and removed it, the set worked fine.

    It was fun learning to do the picture tube setup with the built-in dot-bar generator, but their hokey deguassing coil which ran off a low voltage tap on the power transformer was not strong enough to really demagnetize the CRT properly. I had to borrow a regular coil from the school district AV shop where I worked part time.

    The set was approximately the equivalent of RCA Victor’s CTC-12. It had a 21-inch round color tube. The picture was just a little bit softer, but the color was beautiful. UHF was an optional extra I didn’t buy and there was no remote control available, it was strictly manual operation.

    I still have the set, but it hasn’t been run in years, so it would probably take a dedicated restoration expert now to get it running again. The CRT was still good the last time it was turned on as I recall.

    I watched a lot of color shows on that set and listened through the Knight amplifier (the Heathkit had a special audio output jack just for that purpose–just mono though, stereo TV was still years in the future).

    Although Heathkit is long gone, for those who love electronics, it seems there are still plenty of opportunities to tinker with various electronic projects. And there is so much more to tinker with. Just having the internet and computers is something we never dreamed of in 1964!

  62. Rollie says:

    Remember it well. I built a number of kits but the best one was the AR1560 Stereo. When I finished I turned it on and it was GREAT, great sound and quality. I took it back to have the techs put it on the bench for testing, they said it was the best soldering job they had seen, and everything was in spec according to what the manuals stated. I still have it today.

  63. John says:

    I built quite close to 30 Heathkits: amateur radio (SB-102 and power supply, remote antenna switch, wattmeter, cantenna, monitor scope, station console, etc.), computer (H8, H19, 5 1/2 and 8″ disk drives, etc.) as well as an AM/FM radio, fishfinder, etc. I have “fond” memories of those old phenolic circuit boards; if you touched the same solder joint more than two or three times, the metal would lift away from the phenolic (!) Always loved going to the local Heathkit store (aka, the drool factory) to see what was new. I also built a GR-1902 19″ “portable” television that, after over 26 years, appears to have finally given up the ghost; at least, I can’t trace the problem to root cause, and don’t know how much more time I want to spend on it.

  64. lisa says:

    I remember my father building a heathkit tv back in the 60′s. No surprise for a man who loved tinkering more than anything. These days when I mention heathkit, no one knows what I’m talking about. My father would spend hours in his ‘workshop’, a bedroom in our house that he converted to ‘his shop’. Hearing a baseball game on the radio takes me back everytime. That’s what he did, listen to Orioles games and tinker in his shop.

  65. Michael Gross says:

    Just found a slide picture of the Heathkit color TV that I put together in the late ’60′s. Boy does it ever look nice in its all wood cabinet. The picture was beautiful also after doing all the necessary adjustments. I also put together a remote (wired) for the set but never was satisfied with its workings. Before this color TV I put together a black and white TV put out by Transvision which also had a beautiful picture so I was ready for this Heathkit job. Remember a lot of other kits put together but not exactly what they were (old age) but do remember having a lot of fun (educational as well as pride).

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