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Author Topic: speaking of Heathkit building...  (Read 13614 times)
KD0REQ
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« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2013, 10:54:23 AM »

"lifetime 3" Heathkit Educational Systems bought the farm doing the education kit thing.  all of a sudden some grants and Federal money ended, and HES cratered.

maybe sex ed?  to steal broadly from (John) Tracy Kidder, "Fully excited Millie Amp moaned, 'Ohm, ohm, ohm'."  don't know if the electromotive force is with them here, though....

(( the book was Soul of a New Machine ))
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KE3WD
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« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2013, 12:28:25 PM »

Marketing history shows that big success usually comes from breaking paradigms, not following them. 
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N8NSN
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« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2013, 03:37:24 AM »

For those that think the old kits came "cheap", consider what a dollar bought back in heath's prime.

In 1969 you could get an "entry level" HW-16 and HG-10 VFO for about $145.  Factor that for inflation and suddenly that's a $900 beginner's rig in today's dollars.  There is no way in hell I'd ever pay $900 for a POS like an HW-16 when for that kind of money I could buy a metric shack in a box brand new with a warranty.  Things have changed since the 1960's.  There's no need to build a kit to save money anymore.

So what exactly should heathkit sell?  In this day of $50 HT's and $500 HF rigs it's going to have to be something you can't already buy.  I would guess there are those that would build a kit just for the sake of exercising their ability to read and follow instructions, but I can't see a company surviving on that business model. 

There are other kit outfits that do move product.  Hendricks, KD1JV and a number of the QRP groups.  I don't think any of them generate any serious revenue though.  Certainly not enough to fund a staff of engineers, support people and a facility to house them in.  Could the market support another Elecraft-class kit supplier?  As far as I'm concerned, Elecraft kit quality and instructions beat anything Heath ever put out.  They'd have to step it up quite a bit.

Maybe the nostalgia route is the way to go.  You can't buy a brand new HW-101 or whatever and maybe there's enough green box fans out there that would love to build reproduction kits, drift and all.  Mostly mechanical assembly, with simple alignment.

Then there's facets other than ham radio.  Maybe robotics and other tech kits might get some traction.  In this day of "STEM" perhaps there's ways to market educational kits to schools.  That'd be a source of revenue that might sustain what I would consider the sideline/niche market of ham radio kits.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM



Always practical... You're absolutely right, Mark.
Well, the dream of fostering the excitement of opening a big box full of parts, visualizing the end result, and hours of bench folly: got away with me. I guess that's why restoring old gear can be fun. This I enjoy.

But absolutely: a DX-60A, HG-10, and HR-10 set up would likely cost upwards of 1K. The market for this would be purely nostalgic based.

It was a nice dream.
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KE5GV
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« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2013, 10:59:41 AM »

I took the survey as well.  In the 60s, I built a number of Heathkit(s); transceivers and test equipment that was ham radio related.  Still have some of it and it still works.  However, when you consider the capabilities associated with contemporary ham radio transceivers, the packaging and manufacturing methods being employed and what's coming out of China, then it becomes very difficult for me to imagine how the owners (of the Heath and Heathkit trademarks) are going to be able to assemble "kit" products that will compete with current offerings.  They couldn't possibly be considering "classic" Heathkit designs and the reason is obvious.  Do a Google search on the term: "Vaccum tube manufacturers" and you'll come up with a list of companies that make physical tubing, not electronic vaccum tubes.  That's how far away "classic" Heathkit designs are from a possibility.  The stuff coming from China is so cheap that I just can't see how they could put together kits, or even finished products, that could compete on the basis of price and performance and still allow enough profit to re-invest in future technology for such a business.  I wish them luck and I wouldn't mind having a ham shack populated with equipment that was two-toned green, but I just can't see it happening.
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AC2EU
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« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2013, 11:40:41 AM »

I took the survey as well.  In the 60s, I built a number of Heathkit(s); transceivers and test equipment that was ham radio related.  Still have some of it and it still works.  However, when you consider the capabilities associated with contemporary ham radio transceivers, the packaging and manufacturing methods being employed and what's coming out of China, then it becomes very difficult for me to imagine how the owners (of the Heath and Heathkit trademarks) are going to be able to assemble "kit" products that will compete with current offerings.  They couldn't possibly be considering "classic" Heathkit designs and the reason is obvious.  Do a Google search on the term: "Vaccum tube manufacturers" and you'll come up with a list of companies that make physical tubing, not electronic vaccum tubes.  That's how far away "classic" Heathkit designs are from a possibility.  The stuff coming from China is so cheap that I just can't see how they could put together kits, or even finished products, that could compete on the basis of price and performance and still allow enough profit to re-invest in future technology for such a business.  I wish them luck and I wouldn't mind having a ham shack populated with equipment that was two-toned green, but I just can't see it happening.

Have them built in china with Chinese parts and import them. Works pretty well for walmart!
The performance will be as good or better then most "classic" Heathkits  anyway.  Grin
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W5CPT
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« Reply #20 on: May 29, 2013, 03:28:08 PM »

I for one am looking forward to seeing what is going to happen.  I took the survey and by the depth of it I think whoever is trying to resurrect the brand is at least doing their homework on what people want.

The stumbling block is that Heath can not survive on just the Amateur Radio market.  They will have to get others involved.  The old Heath built clocks (remember the Time Cube?), stereo equipment, and other household type items.  Without a larger clientele "it ain't gonna happen".

Clint - W5CPT -
   
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KASSY
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« Reply #21 on: June 01, 2013, 09:34:52 AM »

Would this appeal to anybody under 50?  Seriously, I ask this.

I have used Heathkit equipment and none of it impressed me.  Any of the Hendricks QRP radios works better, looks better, has better user interface, is easier to tote portable, than a Heathkit HW-9.  My friend's HW-101 is hard to listen to because of the ringing filters.  I use a Heathkit amplifier only while being very wary of the next time it will arc.

Heathkit is not the only kit company that ever was, and to me the name carries no cachet of quality or value. 

But I'm young.

I wonder if the primary appeal of Heathkit is to those who are maybe 70 or 80 today and wish they could have afforded a Heathkit back when there were fewer kit companies than today?

When I think of kits I'd like to build, a K3 or a Weber ATS come to mind.  Not a Heathtkit.

But then I'm not old.

- k
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KASSY
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« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2013, 10:32:29 AM »

Marketing history shows that big success usually comes from breaking paradigms, not following them. 

Probably not important here.  Nobody enters the ham radio market seeking "big success".  They're just trying to keep their families fed and are content earning a median income.  In ham radio, it appears to be functionally succesful, to:

- Do something people want
- Maintain an excellent record for customer responsiveness
- Don't shoot for the moon

While there are companies that shoot for the moon and win (Elecraft), most who shoot for the moon (first product is an HF transceiver with all the bells) fail.  Patcom, for instance.  DZKit appears stillborn.  Hilberling who?  What happened to Kachina?

The accessory companies who continue to add new product, respond to customers, delete old products - these companies seem to thrive, even if they have no real "home runs". 

Heil Audio
West Mountain Radio
LDG
HamGadgets
K1EL

All of these companies are known for products that do the job they're intended to do, and respond FAST to customer inquiries.  They don't promise the moon (except Heil on occasion) and none deliver the moon.  They deliver what they promise - is it not a marketing paradigm to "under promise and over-deliver?"

- k
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WD4HXG
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« Reply #23 on: June 02, 2013, 07:14:42 AM »

FYI

This is the current info on the domain holder of the Website www.heathkit.com

Registrant:
Heathkit Company
   2024 Hawthorne Ave
   St Joseph, MI 49085
   US
   Domain Name: HEATHKIT.COM
   ------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
   Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
   Administrator, Domain      heathkit-domain-name-mgmt-13@yellow-tulip.com
   Heathkit
   250 Monroe Ave NW
   Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2250
   US
   209-256-3061 fax: 209-256-3061
   Record expires on 07-Dec-2013.
   Record created on 08-Dec-1995.


I was trying to determine if this is an offshoot
of the person (Don Peterson) who bought the
Heathkit legacy manuals and exerted claims
to copyrights of the legacy documentation.
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N2EY
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« Reply #24 on: June 03, 2013, 06:09:33 AM »

Would this appeal to anybody under 50?  Seriously, I ask this.

I have used Heathkit equipment and none of it impressed me.  Any of the Hendricks QRP radios works better, looks better, has better user interface, is easier to tote portable, than a Heathkit HW-9.  My friend's HW-101 is hard to listen to because of the ringing filters.  I use a Heathkit amplifier only while being very wary of the next time it will arc.

Heathkit is not the only kit company that ever was, and to me the name carries no cachet of quality or value. 

But I'm young.

I wonder if the primary appeal of Heathkit is to those who are maybe 70 or 80 today and wish they could have afforded a Heathkit back when there were fewer kit companies than today?

When I think of kits I'd like to build, a K3 or a Weber ATS come to mind.  Not a Heathtkit.

But then I'm not old.

- k

You have to remember a couple of things:

1) Any kit is only as good as the skill of the builder.

2) Any old rig may have problems simply from age unless it has been properly maintained.

3) Comparing what could be done with the technology of, say, the 1960s to that of, say, the 1990s is a bit lopsided.

4) Ham gear used to be a lot more expensive (when adjusted for inflation). In their time, Heathkits often offered a good value for the money.

What really killed off Heathkit was changing technology. Back when electronics required a lot of manual labor to assemble, a big part of the purchase price was the cost of paying somebody to assemble the dern thing, so a kit could save the builder big money if s/he didn't count the assembly time as a cost.

But as PC boards replaced point-to-point wiring, and automated assembly, wave soldering and finally SMT came of age, the labor cost dropped to the point where the savings became minimal for most stuff.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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KASSY
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Posts: 166




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« Reply #25 on: June 03, 2013, 03:40:34 PM »


You have to remember a couple of things:

1) Any kit is only as good as the skill of the builder.

2) Any old rig may have problems simply from age unless it has been properly maintained.

3) Comparing what could be done with the technology of, say, the 1960s to that of, say, the 1990s is a bit lopsided.

4) Ham gear used to be a lot more expensive (when adjusted for inflation). In their time, Heathkits often offered a good value for the money.

73 de Jim, N2EY

I don't doubt any of that but with respect to #1, 2 and 3, the best kit builder still cannot build a kit that performs better than the design allows.

When I compare designs, I do look at similar vintage products.  I used an SB-303 (I think it was) receiver, owned by the same ham who owned a similar-vintage (1950s actually), and lower cost, Drake 2B.  The Drake was more stable, had more filter options, rang less on the CW filter, had a functional noise blanker and with an external option, even had a notch filter.......it was beter in so many ways.

But this is sort of not important, IMO.  More important is this: if you are so young that Heathkit was never part of your particular nostalgia, does the name carry any value?    Would someone in their 30s today, given a choice of cars to buy, find any preference for the name Packard?  Since it was not part of teir youth, why would this name be special in any way?

Because, as I see it, that's the only reason to care - the name.  In any other way, a company named "Heathkit" is simply going to have to offer products taht appear to be a better value and/or perform better, than many of the already-extant fine kits on the market.  And there are far more now, I think, than when heathkit was in its heyday.  They have much stiffer compeitition today, why would the name give them any advantage?

- k
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KE3WD
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« Reply #26 on: June 03, 2013, 04:03:59 PM »

If someone hits the right combination, they could call it anything they want and it could still be successful...
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KASSY
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Posts: 166




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« Reply #27 on: June 04, 2013, 09:11:01 AM »

If someone hits the right combination, they could call it anything they want and it could still be successful...
Exactly my point.  The name does not matter at all.  Someone paid big dollars for the name Heathkit, and will receive no value from the name.  Their success will depend 150% on whether their offerings are competitive.  The name makes no difference.

- k
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KD0REQ
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Posts: 950




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« Reply #28 on: June 04, 2013, 02:05:11 PM »

the address goes to Miller, Johnson et al PLC law firm.  I say it taht way because the minor partners have changed at some point, there are several similar listings in Google.

many possibilities abound.  they have a buyer.  they want a buyer.  they are trying to assess whether there is value in the name or the reborn company for completing the liquidation.  maybe a partner is thinking of doing a reorg.  maybe they need to know how many dumpsters they need to order to finish the case and send out final billing.  maybe somebody thinks it would be a good name for a Chinese restaurant in the mezzanine, and they're trying to find derogatories.

maybe nobody has updated the whois, and the registration is floating.

maybe AC5UP tossed out their files from his garage last week....

Don Pederson, the manual magnate, is out of California.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2013, 02:07:54 PM by KD0REQ » Logged
N2EY
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Posts: 3880




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« Reply #29 on: June 05, 2013, 06:48:53 AM »


You have to remember a couple of things:

1) Any kit is only as good as the skill of the builder.

2) Any old rig may have problems simply from age unless it has been properly maintained.

3) Comparing what could be done with the technology of, say, the 1960s to that of, say, the 1990s is a bit lopsided.

4) Ham gear used to be a lot more expensive (when adjusted for inflation). In their time, Heathkits often offered a good value for the money.

73 de Jim, N2EY

I don't doubt any of that but with respect to #1, 2 and 3, the best kit builder still cannot build a kit that performs better than the design allows.

Agreed! My point was that often a particular example of a kit won't live up to the design because it was built poorly.

When I compare designs, I do look at similar vintage products.  I used an SB-303 (I think it was) receiver, owned by the same ham who owned a similar-vintage (1950s actually), and lower cost, Drake 2B.  The Drake was more stable, had more filter options, rang less on the CW filter, had a functional noise blanker and with an external option, even had a notch filter.......it was beter in so many ways.

Some history:

The Drake 2-B is actually from the 1960s, and yes it was and is very good. The SB-303 is from the 1970s and was a solid-state replacement for the SB-301 - but by all accounts wasn't as good a receiver as the '301. To really make a same-vintage comparison, the 2-B should be compared with the SB-300, predecessor of the SB-301.

Even then you don't have a fair comparison because the SB receivers can transceive with their matching transmitters (SB-400, SB-401) but the 2-B has no matching transmitter.

Doesn't really matter. Suppose you found an SB-301 that was well built, and discovered it was better than the 2-B in every way. Both would still be 40+ year old receivers!



But this is sort of not important, IMO.  More important is this: if you are so young that Heathkit was never part of your particular nostalgia, does the name carry any value?    Would someone in their 30s today, given a choice of cars to buy, find any preference for the name Packard?  Since it was not part of teir youth, why would this name be special in any way?

Because, as I see it, that's the only reason to care - the name.  In any other way, a company named "Heathkit" is simply going to have to offer products taht appear to be a better value and/or perform better, than many of the already-extant fine kits on the market.  And there are far more now, I think, than when heathkit was in its heyday.  They have much stiffer compeitition today, why would the name give them any advantage?


I agree on all that except that there is more competition today. Back-when, there were a lot of major ham gear kitmakers - Eico, Johnson, Knight-Kit, to name three. They offered a variety of products, often very good.

But your main point is what matters. Even us old codgers who remember Heathkit as it was in its best times know that all the new folks have is a name. They have no design team, no products, no facility, no reputation.

Some hams would just LOVE it if somebody could offer some of the old kits again. Trouble is, many of the parts used back then are unobtanium in large quantities today. Many of the designs wouldn't pass muster with FCC today. Safety and liability concerns with some products would give the legal beagles nightmares. Some of them could undoubtedly be redesigned around 2013 reality - but the overall cost would be prohibitive.

If somebody wants the Heathkit experience in 2013, all they need to do is buy an Elecraft kit. Except that the Elecraft stuff is much better performing!

Or they can do what some hams have done: Find an old Heathkit, take it all apart, clean up the good parts and replace the bad, then build it again. A lot of work, but so what?

73 de Jim, N2EY
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