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

Bill Degnan billdegnan at gmail.com
Mon Dec 7 12:23:54 EST 2020

Thanks Herb, a nice read.

On Mon, Dec 7, 2020 at 11:55 AM Herb Johnson via vcf-midatlantic <
vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:

> https://www.electronicdesign.com/communiqu/article/21148923/electronic-design-heathkit-an-employees-look-back
> 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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