Posts Tagged ‘Heathkit’

Heathkit Pipetenna

heathkit-pipetennaThe resurrected Heathkit company has launched a dual band antenna.  As much as I want them to succeed is this the best they can do?

They absolutely have to produce decent kits at decent prices or they will not survive. Their offerings so far do not exactly set the world alight. No, the offerings so far have not excited me. Years ago I started out with a Heathkit  Electronics Workshop. Years later I had an HW8 which gave me loads of contacts with small wire antennas.

Please, think of your potential customer base, think about prices, and look at your competitors. I have no doubt a few loyal USA customers will support you, but far far more is needed in the competitive world of the 21st century.

They ARE attempting a comeback, after all.

I'm sure many of you got the same email from Heathkit, either yesterday or early this morning. I had to admit that I thought it was going to be another one of those "We're still coming back!" emails, but this one had some substance.

It looks like the initial offerings are a table AM radio as well as some parts for already existing Heathkit products, namely the HW8, as well as their weather instruments.

Everything can be found here:

Obviously, it's a small fledgling offering, but every journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.  So before we make any harsh judgments, let's all take a deep breath, wish the new "Heathkit" well, and see how this all shakes out.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least !

Still M.I.A.

I still need these two QSL cards to complete the 13 Colonies special event for 2015.

Of course, it's kind of ironic that one of the two QSL cards that I need would be from the state that I live in - and that my original QSL request was sent to a town just two over from home. I guess I will have to re-send QSL requests to both New Jersey and Delaware.  However, instead of mailing the NJ one, I might just drop it off at the manager's mail box. He lives not far off the route I take to get back and forth from work every day. That way I'd be 1000% sure that he received it.

I've been e-mailing back and forth with my good friend Bob W3BBO. At a recent hamfest, he picked up these:

Yes, this is a Heathkit DX-60 and the accompanying HG-10 VFO. Well actually, he picked up the DX-60 at the hamfest. A friend supplied the HG-10 and advised Bob that it needed some TLC, and that if he could get it working, that he could purchase it at a super reasonable price. Bob has succeeded in getting it to work and he e-mailed me this morning that he is in the process of homebrewing a cable to get the output of the VFO into the DX-60.

That reminded me of a much earlier time, when I had these in my Novice station.

My Novice transmitter was a Drake 2-NT that I had purchased through Burghardt Electronics. I had purchased the Globe V-10 VFO from John Kakstys W2FNT who lived in Linden, NJ which was not too terribly far from East Brunswick, where I was living at the time.  My receiver was the Heathkit HR-1680, which was my very first Heathkit build. That it worked without a hitch the very first time, upon firing it up, still amazes me to this day.

Anyway, I had the transmitter and I had the VFO. What do I do with them? That was the quandary for me at the time. This was 1979, after all. There was no Internet, no Google. I had no Elmer with whom I could speak, other than the instructor who taught the license class I had attended (and I never got his home telephone number). So it was either get the information I needed from a book, QST or go with my gut and improvise.

I improvised.  There was a two conductor cable coming from the output of the VFO.  The 2-NT's crystal socket had two holes for where you would plug in a crystal. I figured that the output from the VFO had to go there - it just seemed reasonable to me. So I took a junk crystal, pried the bottom part off, which left me with a base and pins. Then I soldered the two wires coming from the VFO output to the crystal base pins. I plugged it in, hoping the 2-NT wouldn't know the difference between a crystal and a VFO.  I took a deep breath, muttered a prayer and turned everything on.  I half expected it to blow up, taking me along with it, or to somehow electrocute me.

It didn't.

I connected the 2-NT to a dummy load and adjusted it for the lowest output power I could (see, QRP even way back then, I just didn't know it yet!).  Then I turned on the HR-1680 and keyed the 2-NT to see if I could hear anything.

It worked!

I had successfully hooked up my VFO to my transmitter and did not harm myself or anyone else in the process. Much to my parent's delight, I didn't burn down the house, either!  I used that setup for a lot of QSOs and enjoyed the heck out of it.  After I upgraded to General and bought some equipment capable of doing SSB (silly boy), instead of selling off my Novice station, I donated it to the Handi-Hams, who were pretty much a new organization back then. I guess they must have been desperate for equipment donations at the time, as they gratefully accepted it - homebrewed VFO cable patch job and all.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


heathSome of you might remember me talking about the return of Heathkit.heathheath

There has been a lot of mystery surrounding the status of Heathkit, as they popped up a couple of years ago and announced that they were returning.  There was a survey posted online for a long time asking people what they wanted to see from a new Heathkit.  The new Heathkit management hosted a Q and A session on Reddit speaking more about their plans to return.  Then, nothing.  No announcements, no news.  There was brief mention in December when the folks at Adafruit (a company that supports the MAKER community) were briefly in touch with the new Heathkit, and were told that things are still progressing, and there will be no information on what the products will be until they are ready.  All through this, I have been skeptical, as many people would be, since we have heard this story before.

Now, there are changes over at  They are clearly gearing up for products, and support.  They have even started an eBay store where they are selling parts, and some classic equipment.

Cross your fingers.

–Neil W2NDG

Will the mighty Phoenix arise?

OK, by the time you read this, I guess this topic will be old news. The blogosphere and the Twitterverse have been abuzz with the news that “Heathkit is back!”

Channeling my inner Captain Picard, no one would like that “to be so”, more than I. I loved Heathkit and cut my Novice teeth on building their kits. In addition to a ton of Amateur Radio gear, I also constructed various clocks, scanners and other pieces. My stereo system was just about entirely high-end Heathkit. The only parts that weren’t were the speakers and the turntable. And yes, knowing what the age of the average Ham is, I don’t want to see “What’s a turntable?” comments in the comments box! By the time Heathkit was coming to an end, I had qualified for, and was a member of their Master Builder’s Club. All told, I probably built about 25 or 30 pieces of Heathkit equipment for myself and for others.

But let’s not get all excited, running around at 100 MPH with our hair on fire. There’s a lot more to resurrecting the company other than an announcement on a Website and a new survey. This rumor has come up before, with a lot of anticipation and drooling, only to have our hopes dashed on the rocky shores of wishful thinking.

However,  I was always of the opinion that if Heathkit could have just held on until the age of the Internet – well ………! Heathkit e-mail reflectors, Heathkit user groups, Heathkit forums. I know that these Internet groups exist in various iterations today; but not for an active Heathkit.  It would have been tremendous! (Elecraft squared?) If Heathkit does indeed make like a Phoenix and truly rises from the ashes this time, it will be in large part due to the Internet.

It’s alive I tell you ……. it’s ALIVE !!!!!!

On the other hand, if Heathkit hadn’t demised ……. Whither Elecraft, Sierra, Hendrick’s QRP Kits, Steve Weber, Small Wonder Labs and the myriad other fine kit companies and club kits that are or were out there? Would the “Maker Movement” be doing as well today? Was Heathkit’s demise part of the catalyst for the birth of these companies and the Maker Movement? I am guessing, that in the end, it will prove to be a symbiotic relationship. The aforementioned companies might not have come to see the light of day had Heathkit not gone out of business. On the other hand, Heathkit may owe its reincarnation due to exactly the success of those companies, whose efforts have revitalized the kit business. The “Circle of Life”, as it were.

Whatever happens, if Heathkit does come back as a force, don’t expect that “what was” will necessarily “be”.  Heathkit has a lot of credibility and good will in its name, but that only goes so far. Hams are a peculiar breed with outrageous expectations, at times. However Heathkit comes back (if it does at all), it will find the marketplace to be a totally different landscape from when they first left us. They will have to compete and will have to have a good business model. Relying solely on their name alone is not an option.

The good news, is that from the questions on the survey (which I completed yesterday), I think they realize that, to some degree.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

100 years ago

Last night, I received an e-mail from Bob W3BBO about an item he saw in The County Hunter News.  The article was written by Bob Voss N4CD, and it concerned a book written 100 years ago, entitled  “Bert Wilson, Wireless Operator“.  The book has been made available through Project Gutenberg.

The book was available in various formats, including kindle format.  Bob and I are both kindle owners and avid readers, especially (although not exclusively) when the topic is Amateur Radio.  I downloaded the book last night and began reading it today.  Even though the book is 100 years old, it is a fun and easy read. It’s not terribly long, and I’m already a third of the way through.
You do have to keep in mind that this was written in 1913.  The author, J W Duffield makes an early mention of “the unfortunate accident and loss of life” that happened “last year”. Of course, he’s referring to the Titanic, without directly mentioning the ship by name.  The language is a bit different, with a lot of “By Jove”s, “Great Scott”s appearing throughout.  Friends are referred to as “fellows” and there’s a lot of back slapping that occurs instead of the “high fives” that we have become so accustomed today.  Further examples – baseball teams are referred to as “nines” and ball fields as “diamonds”, all fitting descriptions, but all very old-timey. There are also some very un-PC descriptions of things in there, so if you’re offended by that kind of thing, please be aware. We are talking 1913, here.
But as I’ve mentioned before, it is a very entertaining little story. I can only imagine that the target audience back then was the same audience for which the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift books were written in my younger days.
In fact, if you go to Project Gutenburg and type in “wireless” into their search box, there are a couple dozen various books that you will be led to.  Some appear to be fiction, while others definitely are not.  But they are all free and readily available to be downloaded for your reading pleasure.
The other thing that I wanted to mention is that there’s another unbuilt HW9 up for bid on eBay:
A couple of weeks ago, John AE5X mentioned an auction for one of these.  That kit ended up selling for close to $2000.00.  This one is up to $305.00 with 5 days to go.  I am pretty certain that any unsuccessful bidders from the first auction learned a lesson about holding their cards closer to their vests.  I am predicting that bids will probably (and I mean probably, but I might be wrong) not move much until right before the end of the auction in an attempt to keep the winning bid lower than the $2000.00 neighborhood.  It will be interesting to see how much this unbuilt Heahtkit will end up selling for.
Almost makes me want to buy a K2 and just stash it away somewhere for my kids to sell in about 30 or 40 years.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

The Johnson 275W Matchbox Antenna Tuner

I had purchased a Johnson Matchbox from an estate a while back & decided that while I was home with the flu I would open it up and check on its condition.

The Johnson Matchbox is found most commonly in two versions, the smaller “275W” unit and the larger Kilowatt Matchbox. Why did I use quotation marks around 275W? Well, these units were manufactured back in the good old days when men were men and transmitting voice meant using AM, not single side band. The conservative rating of 275W of AM translates into roughly 800W of peak SSB  (Not really but close enough so you get the idea)

Unlike many who own a Matchbox I was hoping to keep it 100% original and that it would contain all its original components, including the antenna change-over relay and wiring for the high-impedance receiver antenna connections. I plan to use this Johnson Matchbox with a Heathkit AT-1 transmitter and Hallicrafters SX-25 receiver so the inclusion of an antenna change over relay and 300 Ohm receiver connections will make life MUCH easier. Something I didn’t realize until I had the unit apart (There are a LOT of screws holding this thing together) is that there is also a receiver control contact on the relay to break HT and mute the receiver during transmit which will work with my SX-25.

An initial inspection showed that the only modification was a small piece of plastic wedged into the relay contacts that held the relay in the transmit position. It was easily removed and the relay coil and contacts tested for continuity. The contacts seem a bit dirty which, from the little I have read online, seems to be a common problem.

Once the relay contacts and band-switch are cleaned I will button the unit back up and connect it to the loop antenna I have recently run around the eaves of the house. The loop has been a huge improvement to the long-wire and magnetic antennas I have run in the past, at least as far as reception goes … but that is a topic for another post.

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