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

Duane Craps DBC1964 at cox.net
Tue Dec 8 07:57:53 EST 2020


Back when I got out of the Army, color televisions were pretty much a 
luxury item. I took a correspondence course on television servicing that 
included building a Heathkit  25 inch color television. Paid for by the 
GI Bill. As you completed each lesson they sent out the next assignment 
and the next kit of parts. We watched it for some time in its naked 
chassis before I ordered a nice console cabinet. There was a Heathkit 
store in Norfolk where I could get parts and they could test modules. 
The printed circuit modules all plugged in to chassis mounted molex 


On 12/7/2020 11:53 AM, Herb Johnson via vcf-midatlantic 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
sdɐɹɔ ǝuɐnp

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