[vcf-midatlantic] History-of article on Heathkit, must-read

Herb Johnson hjohnson at retrotechnology.info
Mon Dec 7 11:53:06 EST 2020


A senior executive of Heathkit, Chas Gilmore, is interviewed by Lou 
Frenzel of Electronics Design (a trade magazine). Lou himself is a 
former Heathkit executive. They both came up through engineering so this 
article is about technology development and sales.

The article describes now-vintage computing history at Heath. This is 
familiar to those of us over 60; thus it's a must-read for our younger 
colleagues. For those who question why those "ugly boxes full of cards" 
were every popular, or why people built ever computers instead of just 
buying them, here's the answers.

It also underscores the impact of the MITS Altair article and product in 
Jan 1975 - that broke the ice-jam at every company that previously said 
"nobody will buy a personal computer; there's no software; there's no 
use for it". It follows the history of why companies like Heath declined 
as computing became an industrial product and then a consumer product.

And, it describes the process for the famous Heathkit manuals. A 
"manual" is a like a papery-bloggy kind of thing, that described how to 
build a kit and how it worked, before the Internet and email. People of 
the era, actually wanted to learn all that stuff. They had plenty of 
time to read manuals, because they didn't have smartphones or NetFlix.

Components back then were large, simpler, and designed for 
hand-assembly, because robots hadn't taken over yet. And as electronics 
  then were expensive, they were designed for long-life and human repair 
(and not just discarded when boring). So the manuals helped with 
diagnostics, the art of figuring out WHY something didn't work. Repair 
was a real industry and career, in that era. Many tech schools and 
universities used Heath products for both value and cost, and as part of 
their curriculum.

In short, it's a window back in time, to answer those puzzling questions 
21st century people have, about the era of now-vintage computers through 
one major company. It concurs with my experiences around Heath products 
in the 1980's.

regards, Herb Johnson

Herbert R. Johnson, New Jersey in the USA
http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
preserve, recover, restore 1970's computing
email: hjohnson AT retrotechnology DOT com
or try later herbjohnson AT comcast DOT net

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