Chuck Penson's Third Edition of "Heathkit: A Guide to the Amateur Radio Products" is out

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by W7UUU, Sep 15, 2021.

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  1. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Younger hams often do not understand the older ham enthusiasm for's a helpful perspective...

    1) circa 1970 and before, retail rigs were American made and (generally)very expensive ;
    2) hams had a tradition of building;
    3) you could save roughly 30-150% of equivalent retail rig prices by building the heathkit 'equivalents' or similar offerings. For example: SB-102 => KWM-2; SB-220 => Drake L4-B, etc.

    AFTER 1969, Japanese manufacturers came into the American market at far lower prices, with, in general, good quality. And before that, the WEIGHT of the rigs ('boat anchors') often made the cost of Asia to US shipping prohibitive; PCB construction and solid state portions of radios radically diminished the weight and size of transceivers;

    EVENTUALLY heathkit had no advantage price wise, feature wise, nor quality wise compared to the Japanese offerings. When the emphasis was on those who enjoyed BUILDING kits, rather than those who were OK on building--but wanted to save MONEY also, the role of Heathkits diminished rapidly.

    Now the situation is more complex than this, but these are the main points.

    In modern term. Heathkits from , say 1970, would be equivalent in price to most mid-tier Japanese transcivers today-- and those are assembled and with more features and better performance than the Heathkits.. Yes; it is far cheaper today to be in ham radio than 50 years ago!

    Chip W1YW
    AC0OB, K7LZR, AD7SK and 4 others like this.
  2. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Well stated, Chip. The era Heathkit really hit its stride (under David Nurse, for the most part) - the 1960s and 1970s, was the perfect time to bring the "value add of building it yourself to save money" - it was very possible indeed to achieve great performance at a significant saving by building it yourself.

    The failed Heathkit SS-8000 kit (just too complicated for hams to build) that became the SS-9000 "factory assembled kit" really spelled the doom of Heathkit in the ham world outside of accessories. According to Chuck's book, Heath Co. wagered $3 MILLION on that transceiver project, and in the end sold them off at a huge loss. They had overreached and under achieved - their era was over.

    M1WML and W1YW like this.
  3. KQ1V

    KQ1V Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    They are making Heathkit again?!?! Nah, I am just fooling ya. I was lucky to pick up an assembled Heathkit o-scope at the Braintree Drive-In Flea in '82... had lots of fun with it too!

    Much like Radio Shack (e.g., Tandy, Micronita, & etc.) kits, if there were money (i.e., "profit") to make RS and Heathkit would never have closed. Consider how electronics developed from tube to transistor, military surplus being modified; nowadays everything is micro-electronics on (mostly) one board. Disposable. Not to say people had/have a passion for kits.

    I will admit I am a Moto Operator, and not a fix-it or build-it type. Heathkit: before my time, and not my interest; however, nice to see a fella with passion to author three books.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2021
    M1WML likes this.
  4. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Notice that it's SPOCK at the microphone on that picture:) Hihi!
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  5. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Sure looks like him - I can't find any corroborating reference but the resemblance sure is there. It would certainly have made sense.

    M1WML and W1YW like this.
  6. KC8UD

    KC8UD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've always been a fan of Heathkit from building my DX-60 in the late 1960's and building my SB-102 in early 1970's. Was sorry to see them go away. But it looks like the name Heathkit is trying to come back. but good grief, look at those prices. Not much going on there in amateur radio yet. It's certainly not what it used to be.
    M1WML likes this.
  7. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Oh, that's pretty much a red herring. "They" first announced their "come back" around 2015 and it was covered in great detail here on QRZ. Someone just bought the rights to the name, a garage full of oddball old Heath parts, and sourced bits to make a "no soldering" AM radio (that lacked a speaker or volume control) and a J-Pole made from Home Depot plumbing parts, selling for $149. Add in a few tee shirts, mugs and mousepads, and that's about all there ever has been. Not once did they ever even come forward and reveal the "buyers", their real plans, or even their connection to the original Heathkit. It's a "done to death" topic from years ago and there's really nothing to see there.

    Heathkit is truly in the past. But with books like Chuck's, the Heath fans in ham radio can still see what it was all about, and the products were made in such huge quantities that we'll have a many-years supply of such gear to source, restore, and put on the air.

    K7LZR, NF6E, M1WML and 2 others like this.
  8. DO1FER

    DO1FER Ham Member QRZ Page

    Blaupunkt was sold in 2008. After a short journey through different hands, only the label left. So when you buy a new Blaupunkt product today, its just the label anymore. Its similar to the HeathKit, only history.
  9. NN2X

    NN2X Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I recall in 1980, when I was attending college, and seeking work (Part time), my first job was repairing test equipment, (Like the 8566 HP Spec An), and my Manager saw I was struggling to repair the equipment. He gave a book from Heathkit, (Study guide), After a few weeks, all came into place, and I was repairing the equipment at top speed! Of course my Ham Radio experience (Extra class) helped plenty, and FCC License. (1ST Class)

    After passing my BSEE, I found my lane, and went into Satellite communications and all fell into place...But I owe credit to my struggling times comprehending more advance technology to Heathkit (Study guides)!

    DE NN2X Tom
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  10. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    So here I sit, in my easy chair looking out at our five acres of brown and dry, with the very first rainy day we've seen in over 3 months; I've started reading Chuck's new book essentially cover to cover and wanted to take a break and just thank Chuck for this work!! Having read most of the previous two editions over the years, this newest edition (with Chuck's intro dated July 2021, so obviously "hot off the presses"!) is just delightful to read. It's not dry and dull like so many technical texts, but rather reads like a story in so many ways.

    A detail that only caught my attention just in the last short while, is there not one but THREE separate indexes (indices for the pedantic linguists :p )... a Model Number index, a Product Type index (where you can search out transmitters vs. transceivers etc.), and a Chronological Index - which is a really fun index - you can quickly scan year by year to see which new products appeared that year, and what year that product was discontinued. But regardless which index you start with, every product listing then points to the page in the book to read about it. It's VERY serendipitous in how it's laid out - and really fun to use! I know that sounds silly - a "fun index" but it IS fun!

    Anyway, back to my tea, the rainy day, and the funnest new ham radio book to hit my attention in years.


    [Those with good eyes will note "Today I am a Ham" on the table beside me... but that's a story for another time @W9JEF :)]

    me and book.jpg
    K7LZR, WD4ELG and W9JEF like this.
  11. WA7ZZE

    WA7ZZE Ham Member QRZ Page

    It’s actually “only” $46 to Canada but PayPal isn’t smart enough to separate it out. It only allows me to use one price for international shipping. I always refund the difference. It’s a very heavy book— 3.5 pounds.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2021
  12. HB9EPC

    HB9EPC Ham Member QRZ Page

    j'ai construit beaucoup de Heathkit et certains on transités pour du dépannage dans mes mains, magnifique époque ...
  13. VE2GCE

    VE2GCE Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    You should consider having a reseller in Canada. $46 is still a lot of money for shipping.
  14. KL7IS

    KL7IS XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for the post, just ordered one to go with my SB-220.
  15. AD7SK

    AD7SK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I never owned anything from the House of Heath, but I used to ride my bicycle over to there and look at all their wonders.W1YW is dead on target - being a Ham was very expensive in the 1960s - 1970s. All the WWII/Korean war surplus gear had been picked over and bought up, DoD was trashing more gear instead of selling it off, American gear was very expensive and the Japanese gear was just making inroads into the market.

    Technology changed in the 1970s and 1980s, making kits increasingly problematic to build with the new components. Now, I am somewhat surprised that lead solder is allowed to be sold, along with soldering irons and PCB infused capacitors in such a litigious marketplace.

    I'll be buying the books as a reference and as a time when Hams were able to enjoy building and operating their gear. My FTDX10 is far more advanced than any Heathkit transmitter/receiver, but it doesn't have the emotional connection that the old Heath stuff did.

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