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Swapfests: Good Sources of Used Test Equipment

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cookiejar
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CEO
Heathkit
cookiejar   10/25/2014 9:03:07 AM
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The CEO that decided to shut down Heathkit, on the basis that its business model was severely flawed, delt the human resources of the American technology sector a severe blow.

It is probably true that packaging a pile of individual parts and documenting their proper assembly is more expensive than having them automatically loaded off reels on to a board and flow soldered.   Ditto for debugging that board on the line, versus at home by a klutz.  That's the typical MBA's analysis.  Kill the company before it gets into financial trouble.

Heathkit's long survival was based on the DIY in so many of us, the drive to build something and see it come to life - to have the opportunity to understand how it works.  Despite the fact that many electronic devices were cheaper to produce, Heathkit still manged to be competitive because of its direct marketing.

Back in the day,  I got several youths into electronics design careers simply by giving them a Heathkit.  These days I find it far more difficult to mentor our youth.

It's sad to realize that although the tech revolution is upon all of us, one of the main institutions that got us there is dead. 

When our local Heathkit outlet had its closeout sale, the atmosphere there was that of a wake.  The deals were great, but there was no buying frenzy.  I realized we had all actually come to mourn.

 

 

David Ashton
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Blogger
Re: Heathkit V-6 VTVM
David Ashton   10/25/2014 5:53:41 AM
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@cookiejar.... Amen to your comments.  Any company which can provide documentation and spares for their old products greatly endears themselves and their products to me.  Fluke is one company I have had such experiences with (GREAT on documentation, not so great but very helpful on spares for 20-30 year-old-plus  bench DMMs).    Another one recently was Non-Linear Systems (NLS) - I recently got a digital panel meter of theirs out of an equipment that was at least 20 years old.  They only had a manual for a similar one on their website but on an enquiry, within a day sent me a manual for the exact model, which they still produce.  Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.

MeasurementBlues
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Blogger
Re: Heathkit V-6 VTVM
MeasurementBlues   10/24/2014 10:55:13 AM
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Cookiejar: "the only thing of value that engineers produce is documentation"

You really summed it up. I'll have to remember that line.

cookiejar
User Rank
CEO
Heathkit V-6 VTVM
cookiejar   10/24/2014 10:37:14 AM
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The 3rd meter down on the meter page is a Heathkit V-6 VTVM (Vacuum Tube VoltMeter)  It's not a VOM (Volt Ohm Milliameter) as it cannot measure current.

I built its grandson, the model V-7A, my first test instrument back in 1957.  It still works well as does all my Heathkit test gear.  All my EICO test gear died decades ago (mainly power transformers). 

I did a few upgrades to my V-7A through the years.  It's D battery for ohms was a bit of a pain, always having to reset 0 and F.S. as it's voltage varied depending upon usage.  I replaced it with a commercial black plastic blob power supply that fit into the D cell holder and was powered off the mains.  The Zero and ohms adjust pots were touchy and became a royal pain as they became noisy.  In the mid 60s, Heathkit upgraded these trimmers to multiturn pots which were a real pleasure to use compared to the single turn variety. I also replaced the plastic meter cover a few times which made the instrument look new again.

One of my great discoveries was that Heathkit had very low prices on its replacement parts, far cheaper than any electronics supply house.  Those trimmer pots were well under a buck each.  Even the Weston meters they used on these instruments were around $10.   I used them for some of my projects as their price was 1/5 of the jobber price.  Even in the '80s you could get KT66 audio output tubes for $3 each, when they were selling for over $30 elsewhere.  You had to tell them your Heathkit model number before they would sell them to you.  That was easy, as I had kept all my annual Heathkit catalogs which listed all the tube numbers for each model.

No doubt Heathkit was my main influence in going into my electronics design career.  Right after I built my first kit, an AR-3A shortwave receiver, I built the V-7A and their RF generator so I could align it and I've been addicted to electronics ever since.  I'm saddened that I couldn't give my sons the same joy and opportunity. 

Heathkit documentation was the gold standard for technical documentation, setting the bar very high indeed.  Their H150 PC compatible kit included a complete set of documentation - not only their clear assembly instructions but also a full tech description, including waveforms and description of the entire computer as well as the manufacturers' complete sets of data sheets for every I.C..  That was two 3" binder's worth!

Heathkit's quality documentation was also a major influence on my engineering career.  After all, the only thing of value that engineers produce is documentation.  It doesn't matter how well your prototype works, it's the quality of your documentation that defines how well it can be manufactured, tested, used and maintained.

David Ashton
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Blogger
Re: MMMMMM.....
David Ashton   10/22/2014 3:37:27 PM
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@MB....yeah....I can't stand those old round meters.....but Max can't seem to get enough of them.....whatever turns you on, baby.....

anon9303122
User Rank
Freelancer
Re: Indicators
anon9303122   10/22/2014 1:09:41 PM
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I was going to say the same thing about the VTVM.  I have the one my dad built over forty years ago.  Still works.  I think I will bring it to work and see if I can get the cal lab to 'calibrate' it and put it on a bench with a sticker and all.

vvc0
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Manager
Re: Magic Eye Tubes
vvc0   10/22/2014 10:40:17 AM
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There were a number of consumer grade radios which used the magic eye to aid in tuning a station as well. When you were "on channel", the eye would be fully open. Another example of a "peak" application which still had the "analog" feel (continuum of states between open and closed).

I was also thinking of two magic eyes for Max. Then the eyes could "glare" when necessary.

zeeglen
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Blogger
Re: Magic Eye Tubes
zeeglen   10/22/2014 10:12:07 AM
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@vvc0 His machine could easily then give him "the look".

How about two magic eye tubes that could wink?

For more old test gear that used magic eye tubes instead of mechanical moving pointers google 'heath capacitor tester' and scroll to images.  When the only indication needed was a null or peak the magic eye did the job nicely.

vvc0
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Manager
Magic Eye Tubes
vvc0   10/22/2014 9:48:49 AM
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I noticed a few pieces of equipment that had the old magic "eye" tubes. I had pretty much forgotten about these, but once the old memory was prodded I immediately thought of Max and his Inamorata Prognostication Engine. If he added the magic eye tube to his device, he could tell mood at a glance. His machine could easily then give him "the look".

MeasurementBlues
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Blogger
Re: MMMMMM.....
MeasurementBlues   10/22/2014 8:47:38 AM
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@David,

"Max would love to get amongst those meters."

Max could spend the whole five hours in this swapfest. Funny how so thing of Max as a digital guy but he likes these old analog meters.

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