|Re: Remember Heathkit|
Message #20 Posted by Garth Wilson on 6 Nov 2011, 9:58 p.m.,
in response to message #19 by bill platt
They never totally went out of business (see http://heatkit.com ) but they quit making kits in '92. (They are starting back into the kit business now.)
I have to disagree with their reasons for quitting. They said kitbuilding was no longer possible for the hobbyist because of SMT, while the truth, especially back then, was that most things could still be done in thru-hole, and there are plenty of areas of electronics that can still be carried out that way today. As for compactness, many of the products were, as I used to like to say, packed tight with empty space. For those, whether TVs, stereos, non-mobile amateur-radio equipment, etc., making it really small was irrelevant.
Heathkit also said the kit builder could no longer save money by assembling it themselves; but saving money was not the issue with most of the kit builders in my observation. If the same thing could be gotten in a non-kit form from another company, they were frequently paying more to get the same thing in a kit version, and they knew it; but they wanted the experience that went with it. Although I had about 20 Heathkit products at one time, I never thought of Heathkit as being the way to save money. They did however have some rather unique products I didn't know any other way to get. They could have taken advantage of that niche-market situation.
The most complex Heathkit product I ever assembled was a compact portable 20MHz dual-trace triggered oscilloscope which could run on an internal battery. It really was too much. I got 80% or more of the way done and basically gave up and let it collect dust for a few years before I got it back out and decided to finish it.
There are some amateur radio kits today from other companies, and it looks like Heathkit has decided to get back into it. It will be interesting to see what happens, since a company is basically the people, and all the ones who were there in the 70's are undoubtedly gone.
Edited: 6 Nov 2011, 9:59 p.m.