Sunday, December 22, 2013

Heathkit "Ask Me Anything" Session

A member of the board of directors of the newly forming Heath Company gave an "Ask Me Anything" session on on December 21, 2013. I thought I would post a short summary and a few thoughts on the session.

Some people were frustrated by the reddit user interface (one of the issues, for example: you need to refresh the web page to see new results), the slow pace that questions were being answered, and the lack of many specifics in the answers. Some people left after an hour, however the questions continued to be answered for almost three hours.

Here are some of the key points that were mentioned:

  1. They seem to want to do this on a big scale and cover most or all of the traditional Heathkit product lines.
  2. They plan to focus on more complex kits (much as they did in the past).
  3. They want to revive some original kits, possibly updating them.
  4. They want to move into new areas such as 3D printing.
  5. They hope to introduce a few kits in the first half of 2014.

On the plus side it is good to see some information coming out from the new Heathkit. They seemed to be excited and are exploring a lot of new opportunities while being true to the values of the original Heathkit.

On the minus side they was a distinct lack of details: nothing about specific kits and no time frames other than the first half of 2014. Nothing really new was mentioned that was not already covered
on their web site.

When asked about 3D printing, the response included the statement "We have some ongoing negotiations in this area right now." That implied to me that they may be partnering with some existing manufacturers rather than building all of their expertise in-house. This could significantly reduce their time to market. The original Heathkit did this, one example being the Thomas electronic organs they sold as kits.

In conclusion, I would say I am still cautiously optimistic about the "new" Heathkit. Some attendees were asking whether they should hold off on a planned purchase and wait for Heathkit. I would encourage people to be patient and not expect much to develop until at least this summer.

Finally, they announced a little contest. To honour founder Edward Heath there is a cache hidden in the city of his birth (Brooklyn, NY). It is within arm's reach of a photo they posted. Inside is a passphrase and a set of instructions. The first fan to send the passphrase will receive one of the first kits signed by the Heathkit team.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Heathkit Test Equipment Model Number Scheme

In my last blog post you may have noticed the Heathkit model numbers for the various shortwave receivers. Three were in the AR series, four were GR models, a couple were SB, and the last two Heathkit made were designated with SW. We also had the GC-1 and GC-1A. There seems to be some pattern here but not a very consistent one.

While researching my book Classic Heathkit Electronic Test Equipment I spent some time looking into the commonly used model series for test equipment.

Over the years Heathkit used various product naming systems. Other than some early accessories, they followed a system that used one to three letters indicating a major product line, followed by a unique number. For example, the IM-18 denoted an instrument in the IM (meter) series. During the heyday they had a pretty consistent product naming scheme. The table below lists the major product series. Some units, particularly test equipment, could be bought either in kit form or assembled. Some of the product lines indicate factory assembled or "wired" versions. For products that were offered assembled only, they were sometimes branded as "Heath", particularly in the later days when they were out of the kit business and the units were part of an educational product. Often the wired and kit versions used similar model numbers, such as SM-1212 and IM-1212, but this was not always the case.

Series Description
numbers Adaptors and probes
AG Audio Generators
C Condenser Checkers
ES Power Supplies
ETI Instruments from Educational Series
EU Malmstadt-Enke Instruments
EUW Malmstadt-Enke Instruments (wired)
G Signal Generators
GD Grid Dip Meters
IB Impedance Bridges
IG Signal Generators
IM Meters
IN Component Substitution Boxes
IO Oscilloscopes
IP Power Supplies
IR Chart Recorders
IT Miscellaneous Testers
O Oscilloscopes
OM Oscilloscopes
PK Probes
PKW Probes (wired)
PS Power Supplies
S Electronic Switches
SG Signal Generators
SM Factory Assembled Versions of IM Series
SO Factory Assembled Versions of IO Series
SP Factory Assembled Versions of IP Series
T Signal Tracers
TC Tube Checkers
TS TV Sweep/Alignment Generators
TT Tube Testers
VC Oscilloscope Calibrators

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Summary of Heathkit Shortwave Radios


In this blog post I'll give an overview of the different models of shortwave radio receivers that the Heathkit company offered over the years. The scope only includes the models that were intended for shortwave broadcast listening and not radios that could receive amateur radio bands only. I also consider only those were offered as kits -- Heathkit resold some fully assembled radios from companies like Panasonic and Zenith toward the end of the kit era.


Heathkit was well known as a manufacturer of electronics in kit form. Their product line included amateur radio, test equipment, and various consumer products. By building a piece of electronics you could save money and gain the satisfaction of having assembled it yourself.

A large part of their product line was shortwave and amateur radio equipment. At any given time Heathkit typically offered several shortwave receivers in different price ranges.

The models described here cover the range of years from 1949 to 1990.


The table below (click to enlarge) summarizes the models of radios, listing their prices, the years over which they were offered, and the key characteristics and features. I'll briefly discuss each of the radios individually.

Some entries in the table are somewhat arbitrary. For example, under BFO I list "Y" if the radio could receive CW or SSB transmissions, even though technically in some cases the design used a product detector rather than a beat frequency oscillator (BFO). In general, more features tended to be reflected with higher prices, but the features don't tell the whole story. The better and more expensive receivers also tended to have better specifications (sensitivity, selectivity, stability, etc.)

The selling prices varied over the years that the models were offered and in the country in which they were sold (Heathkit issued separate catalogues in Canada, for example, with prices in Canadian dollars). In the table I've attempted to list the retail price in US dollars in the year the model was first offered. I've also included prices converted to equivalent 2012 dollars, taking inflation into account, so that prices can be compared fairly.

The table above (click to expand) shows diagrammatically the years over which the models were offered. The longest running models were the SW-717 and GR-81, both offered for 12 years. The AR-1 and GC-1 were only offered for 3 years each, but had similar models replace them (the AR-2 and GC-1A respectively). The greatest number of models were offered from the mid-1960s to early 1970s with as many as six different models on the market during some years.

Assuming the dates are accurate (and sometimes Heathkit stores sold models not listed in their catalogue), then no SWL receivers were offered in 1983. I have a Spring/Summer 1983 catalogue which confirms this.


In this section I'll briefly run through each model, mentioning some key characteristics.


This was the first shortwave radio Heathkit offered (other than some early "all-wave" receivers before Heathkit really got seriously into the kit business). Introduced only a couple of years after Heathkit's first kit product, the O-1 Oscilloscope, it was a basic shortwave radio utilizing six tubes and covers the AM broadcast band up to 20 MHz in three bands. It had no built-in speaker, no headphone jack, no BFO, and no bandspread. It featured a phonograph input and tone control, features that no later radio would have. The metal case was optional and cost an additional $4.50.


This radio was an improvement over the AR-1. Looking similar, it added a built-in speaker, bandspread, BFO, RF gain control, AVC, noise limiter, and headphone jack. The cabinet was now wood but was still an optional extra.


Third in the AR series, this was similar in appearance to its predecessors. The tube count was reduced to five but with no loss of features. It covered four bands. It had better selectivity that the AR-2 and also supported an optional Q-multiplier to further improve selectivity. The wooden cabinet was still optional.

The AR series were the least expensive radios offered, selling for the equivalent of just over $200 in today's dollars. It is rather astounding that today a basic desktop computer can be bought for this price.


This was sold as part of a course on basic radio. The course EK-2A covered basic radio concepts and built up a two-tube regenerative receiver. Course EK-2B continued the course and expanded the radio to a 6-tube 2-band superhet receiver that could receive the AM broadcast band and shortwave from 3 to 10 MHz. It has a BFO and speaker. The case was an optional extra. Unlike the AR series, which had silver front panels, the EK-2B looked more like the traditional Heathkit blue styling.

GC-1 and GC-1A

Dubbed the “Mohican”, these can be considered the same model as there were only very minor differences between the GC-1 and GC-1A versions. This was Heathkit's first all solid-state receiver, and is believed to be the first all solid-state shortwave radio on the market. It featured five bands with a calibrated bandspread for each ham band and the 11 meter Citizen's Band. With it's 54 inch telescoping antenna, carrying handle and battery pack with 8 C-cells, it as considered a portable radio. There was an optional AC power supply that was installed in place of the battery pack. Most remaining units have the AC supply but have lost the battery pack.


The last of the vacuum tube receivers, this was considered Heathkit's top of the line radio. It sported five bands. Features include a speaker, crystal filter, product detector, S-meter, and dial light. A somewhat strange and unique feature is a morse code key jack that can be used to practice morse code. The plastic front panel cracks easily -- almost all units I see up for sale on eBay have cracked panels to some degree.


This was a basic receiver (less than half the price of the GR-54 made during roughly the same time period). It offered 4 bands with a BFO, bandspread, and S-meter. Sensitivity, selectivity, and stability were not as good as GR-54. Also suffers from the same front panel cracking as the GR-54.


This was a solid state portable unit that was smaller than and considered a replacement for the GC-1A Mohican. It featured six bands and is double conversion on the highest band. It has a crystal calibrator, telescoping antenna, and carrying handle. It can run on built-in rechargeable NiCad batteries (most batteries have failed by now but can be replaced with new ones) as well as 120 VAC or 12 VDC.


The is a three tube regenerative receiver, the only one Heathkit offered other than the EK-2 which was sold as part of a basic radio course and became a superhet receiver at the completion of the course.

A regenerative receiver is based on the idea of increasing the gain of a circuit by coupling the output of an amplifier back to it's input so that the signal passes through the stage many times, increasing the level of amplification. It originated in the early days of vacuum tubes where the gain of a single amplifier stage was not very high. If the gain is too high the circuit oscillates, so a regeneration control is provided to adjust the level of feedback. Typically feedback is performed using a small coil in the tuning circuit called a "tickler coil", with regeneration controlled by a variable capacitor or resistor.

For receiving amplitude modulated signals, the receiver is most sensitive when the regeneration level is adjusted to just below the level where it oscillates. CW (morse code) and single sideband signals can be received by increasing the regeneration until the circuit oscillates. This acts as a beat frequency oscillator that mixes with the input signal so it can be heard.

As regenerative receivers go, this is a little better than some as it has a bandspread switch, headphone jack, metal case, and a decent audio output level. Compared with higher end receivers the radio is not very sensitive or selective, suffers from hum, and is tricky to adjust. Tuning is not very accurate. However, for 20 to 30 dollars it was an affordable way for someone to get introduced to shortwave listening and the satisfaction of building a radio yourself.


This preceded and was similar to the GR-64. It is a 4-tube general coverage receiver featuring four bands. Features are what would be expected in a radio of this price range. It could optionally accept the GD-1 Q-Multiplier to improve selectivity.


The SB series was Heathkit's high end range of amateur radio equipment. It competed with commercial equipment from Collins, and was very successful. The SB-310 was developed by modifying the SB-300 amateur radio receiver to receive shortwave bands. Like the SB-300, it is not a general coverage receiver -- it receives nine shortwave bands. Like the SB-300, it sports many high end features and is head and shoulders above the lower cost Heathkit receivers in terms of performance and ease of use. This came at a cost though, selling for the equivalent of over $1800 in today's dollars.


Just as the SB-310 was a shortwave version of the SB-300, the SB-313 is a shortwave receiver adapted from Heathkit's SB-303 amateur radio receiver. Features and appearance are very close to the SB-310, but unlike the SB-310, which uses tubes, it is full solid-state.

This is Heathkit's most expensive shortwave radio, slightly more expensive than the SB-310 when converted to in today's dollars.


This radio can be considered a solid-state replacement to the GR-64. It has the basic features expected of a radio in this price range. This was the last Heathkit SWL receiver to sport the traditional slide rule dial. It was on the market for 12 years, some of that time as Heathkit's only shortwave radio offering.


This was the last shortwave radio Heathkit offered as a kit, being sold up until the time that they left the kit business. It is a dual conversion design and features a digital display and was in the brown colour scheme that Heathkit was using at that time.

While expensive, it was not particularly feature rich or stable, and was not a particularly popular model.


Heathkit offered a wide range of shortwave radio kits over the years, spanning a wide range of features and prices. Many of these old radios are still in daily use listening to shortwave stations from all over the world. Additional information can be found in the references listed below and on many Internet web sites.


1. Shortwave Receivers Past & Present, Third Edition, 1998, Fred Osterman

This comprehensive book has listings of over 770 shortwave receivers made from 1942 to 1997 including all Heathkit models.

2. Heathkit A Guide to the Amateur Radio Products, Second Edition, 1995, Chuck Penson

This book covers all of the Heathkit amateur radio equipment including shortwave receivers.

This is a shameless plug for my recent book, which focuses on Heathkit's test equipment products but includes a section on the EK-2B and the accompanying course.

I own seven of the radio models listed in this article and have made YouTube videos describing each of them, as well as some videos about test equipment and radios made by Heathkit and other manufacturers.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Steve Jobs and Heathkit

In my book Classic Heathkit Electronic Test Equipment I mentioned under Heathkit trivia that Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs built some Heathkits as a teenager. I found this link to a full video of a 1995 Steve Jobs interview as well as this transcript. Here is the portion of the discussion where he mentions Heathkit:

I got to know this man, whose name was Larry Lang, and he taught me a lot of electronics. He was great. He used to build Heathkits. Heathkits were really great. Heathkits were these products that you would buy in kit form. You actually paid more money for them than if you just went and bought the finished product if it was available. These Heathkits would come with these detailed manuals about how to put this thing together and all the parts would be laid out in a certain way and color coded. You'd actually build this thing yourself.

I would say that this gave one several things. It gave one an understanding of what was inside a finished product and how it worked because it would include a theory of operation. But maybe even more importantly it gave one the sense that one could build the things that one saw around oneself in the universe. These things were not mysteries any more. I mean you looked at a television set you would think that "I haven't built one of those but I could. There's one of those in the Heathkit catalog and I've built two other Heathkits so I could build that."

In related news, my book is now available from and most country-specific Amazon sites like and (but unfortunately, not This will give the book much wider exposure although I'd prefer people order from as Amazon takes as much larger commission from the authors.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Updates

My new book Classic Heathkit Electronic Test Equipment has been well received and is well on it's way to meeting my goal of selling over 100 copies before the end of the year. I've received many positive comments from the first purchasers of the book.

I've created a spotlight page on with information about the book as well as some relevant links. I've also created a web page for errata and updates on my home page. I expect will be offering some kind of sale for Black Friday/Cyber Monday with possible discounts, so watch their site for updates.

I also spent some time on my YouTube channel, adding some categories, a welcome video, and graphics. I'm continuing to make YouTube videos of Heathkit equipment there, most recently on the IT-17 Tube Checker, GR-81 Economy SWL Receiver, IP-17 Low-Voltage Regulated Power Supply, and IM-2215 Portable Digital Multimeter.

Finally, I got some some nice coverage on Bill Meara's SolderSmoke blog. I have followed his podcast and blog for several years and encourage you to check it out. You may also find his book SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics of interest. I purchased a copy and really enjoyed it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My New Heathkit Book Has Been Published!

My blog postings here have dropped off in the last six months or so because I have been busy on a project which has now been completed. I am proud to announce the release of my new book Classic Heathkit Electronic Test Equipment. It is now available for purchase here. You can get all the details on the book at that site as well as place an order for it. I hope some of the readers of this blog find the book of interest.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

8080 Disassembler

I've ordered an Altair 8800 replica computer from Briel Computers. While I'm waiting for it to arrive, I've been reading up on the 8080 microprocessor, the Altair 8800, and CP/M operating system.

For fun I wrote an 8080 assembly language disassembler to help understand 8080 machine language and in preparation for playing with some 8080 assembler programs. I also used it as an opportunity to get more familiar with the Python programming language. It's the first significant program I've written in Python and it was relatively painless to code.

You can get the source code here. The program reads a binary file specified on the command line and produces a disassembly. It requires Python 3. It has been tested on Linux but should work on any platform that supports Python. See the source code for more details.

Here is some sample output using the first example program in the Altair 8800 manual:

% ./ ex2.bin 
0000            org     $0000
0000  3A 80 00  lda     $0080
0003  47        mov     b,a
0004  3A 81 00  lda     $0081
0007  80        add     b
0008  32 82 00  sta     $0082
000B  C3 00 00  jmp     $0000
000E            end

I implemented a number of options to control the output format such as the start address and whether to show the hex bytes or just instructions.

I'd say about one third of the effort was coding, one third was entering the table of 8080 instructions, and one third was learning how to do various things in Python, like reading a binary file and manipulating strings.

If is free software released under the Apache License. Give it a try if you are interested.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Heathkit HW-8 Update

Heathkit HW-8 with Headphones and Code Key
The Heathkit HW-8 QRP Transceiver I bought on eBay arrived safe and sound. It was well packed with the original box inside. The radio is very clean and has had no modifications done to it. It seemed to be basically working out of the box. It included the original manual with fold out schematic and pictorial pages. It even came with one of the two original plastic alignment tools!

Original Box, Manual, and Alignment Tool

According to a hand written note in the manual some the front end toroid coils were assembled incorrectly (in the wrong locations). Looking at the manual and the radio confirmed it. It also appeared to be not as sensitive on the 3.5 and 7.0 MHz bands as it should be. I removed the toroids (which was quite a job as the PCB needed to be partially removed to get at them) and reinstalled the coils correctly. Someone had installed an extra capacitor on the bottom of the PCB across 40M trimmer cap to compensate for the inductance of the wrong coil; I removed that too.

Top Cover Removed Showing PCB
The mystery is, who figured out that the toroids were wrong - the original builder or someone later? Kudos to whoever figured it out, but why didn't they fix it? Anyway, after 30 plus years the radio is now working as it should.

Rear Panel
After the fixes and doing a full alignment it seems quite sensitive on all bands. It is quite selective when set to Narrow selectivity, good for situations when there are several nearby CW stations being received. It is simple to operate and while it isn't full break-in, it is pretty close.

Front Panel
As I speak, it is on the bench and receiving a very strong signal from W1AW's evening code practice on 40 meters. I'm looking forward to trying it out on the air and seeing if I can make some contacts. I'm also planning to do an in-depth YouTube video about the radio.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Unbuilt Heathkits on eBay

Heathkits, especially the amateur radio kits, are pretty popular items on eBay and typically sell for more than they did new back in the day when Heathkit was still in business.

I recently saw an unassembled HW-8 offered on Bay. As I write this, the auction still has four days to go and is up to US$455.
An Unbuilt Heathkit HW-8 Transceiver

Unassembled kits are the holy grail of Heathkit collectors. The opportunity to get your hands on an unbuilt kit is exciting. As you can imagine, these don't come up often as very few people would have purchased a kit years ago and never built it. There are likely some fakes out there as well, i.e. a unit that may have been all or partially assembled which is then disassembled and sold as an unbuilt kit.

I took a look at unbuilt Heathkits that have sold on eBay over the last few months to see what I could glean. Here are the items with the highest selling prices over the last few months that I found:

Complete Heathkit HW9 QRP Station – UNBUILT Unassembled Kits $1,958.56
Unbuilt Unassembled Heathkit SB-104A Ham Transceiver $1,720.74
RARE UNBUILT Unassembled Heathkit 200 Watt Amplifier KIT AA-2010/2004 4 Channel $1,701.65
NIB Unbuilt Unassembled Heathkit SB-104A Ham Transceiver unopened boxes $1,500.00
Heathkit HW-101 Radio Transceiver, unbuilt, rare $1,450.00
Heathkit SB-230 HF amplifier kit, unbuilt, unopened $1,325.00
Unassembled / Unbuilt Heathkit HW-101 Amateur / Ham HF SSB Transceiver Kit $1,300.00
Unbuilt Heathkit SW-7800 Receiver $1,111.00
Unbuilt BELL HOWELL Heathkit Oscilloscope TVM Sine/Square Generator/Power Supply $813.20 (no bids)
Heathkit rare unbuilt Vacuum Tube Voltmeter IM-18 $711.00
Vintage Heath Heathkit TA-16 Combo Guitar Amp Unassembled Unbuilt NOS Rare $700.00
Heathkit rare unbuilt Vacuum Tube Voltmeter IM-28 VTVM Unassembled FREE SHIPPING $695.00
Unbuilt Heathkit AR-1219 AM/FM Stereo Receiver Complete Unassembled Kit $688.90
Unbuilt Heathkit HW-9 HF Multi-Band QRP Transceiver $608.00
Heathkit SP-2 Stereo/Mono Tube Preamp Kit unbuilt Preamplifier SP2 $599.00
NEW! Unbuilt / Unassembled Heathkit HW-9 Deluxe QRP Transceiver Kit $595.00
New Unassembled / Unbuilt! Heathkit HX-1681 CW Amateur / Ham Transmitter Kit $587.83
Heathkit PS-23 Power supply, unbuilt, rare $500.00
heathkit Unbuilt IG 102 RF Signal Generator $500.00 (no bids)
Unbuilt Heathkit SA-2060A High Power Roller Inductor Antenna Tuner $500.00 (no bids)
UNBUILT . . Vintage1970s Heathkit ID-4001 Weather Station Kit . . UNASSEMBLED $431.00
UNBUILT . . . 1970s Heathkit SB-650 Digital Display Kit . . . UNASSEMBLED $417.93
New Unassembled / Unbuilt Heathkit GW-32D CB Citizens Band Transceiver Kit $379.95
Huge Lot of Unbuilt Heathkit SB-104 Parts $378.50
Unassembled / Unbuilt Heathkit GW-32A Citizens Band CB Transceiver Kit $355.00
NEW Unbuilt / Unassembled! Heathkit GR-740 40-Channel Scanner Kit $348.93
Unbuilt HEATHKIT IG-5280 RF Signal Generator Unassembled+EICO Knight-Kit Surveys $331.20
 Unbuilt Heathkit ETA-3400 Memory I/O option for ET-3400 - Unassembled in BOX $310.00
Unbuilt Heathkit ETA-3400 Microprocessor Expansion Accessory Unit For ET-3400 $300.00
 Heathkit ET-3400 Microprocessor Trainer UNBUILT $295.00
Unbuilt Heathkit - IT-5283 signal tracer- new in box - unassembled $268.00
Heathkit kit Digital Alarm Clock (Unbuilt kit from 1977 - in the original box) $264.00
Unbuilt Kit Eico 635 Tube Tester Vintage NOS partial build Heathkit $256.56
Unbuilt Unassembled Heathkit SB-634 Station Console UnBuilt Heathkit !! L@@K !! $255.00
Heathkit kit Digital Alarm Clock (Unbuilt kit from 1977 - in the original box) $255.00
Heathkit ET-4200 Laser Trainer Unopened, Unbuilt $250.00
Heathkit IM-4100 Frequency Counter Unbuilt Kit $235.50
1 Vintage HEATHKIT Unbuilt Model IM-2420 512 MHZ Frequency Counter Kit $233.01
Heathkit Gc-1108 Digital Alarm Clock- Opened, Never Taken Out Of Box, Unbuilt $230.00
NEW! Unbuilt / Unassembled Heathkit HWA-9 Band Pack Kit for HW-9 QRP Transceiver $227.50
Heathkit Gc-1107, Digital Alarm Clock, Unopened, Unbuilt, Sealed $225.00
New Unassembled / Unbuilt! Heathkit HP-23A Power Supply Kit $213.51
Automotive-Heathkit Exhaust Gas Analyzer Model CI-1080 (UNBUILT!!!) $212.50

From this data I can make a few observations. Amateur radio equipment seems to be the most popular, followed by test equipment. No surprises here -- these were Heathkit's bread and butter. These units are still useful for what they were originally intended for. By contrast, a Heathkit computer from the 1970s or 1980s, for example, is not very useful as a computer and only appeals to retrocomputing nostalgia buffs, so these typically don't have as high a value.

Probably the HW QRP series (HW-7, HW-8, HW-9) are selling for the most relative to their original selling price, although the sample size here may be too low to be significant.

The third most popular category appears to be general items like clocks and weather stations which are still useful today and have a big nostalgia value.

The real question that comes to mind when one imagines buying one of these, is whether you would actually build the kit, or keep it as an investment to sell in the future. Or (perish the thought) part it out as separate pieces to sell individually. Personally I don't plan to spend my money at the prices these are going for but it's fun to think about it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Scored a Heathkit HW-8

I have been looking for a transceiver in Heathkit HW QRP series to round out my collection of Heathkit amateur radio equipment. I settled on looking for an HW-8.
The Heathkit HW-8
The HW-7, first in the series, had a number of issues and limitations. The HW-8 was a much improved design.
The Heathkit HW-7
The HW-9, which came later, is much rarer, and had the brown color scheme of the last generation of Heathkits with I don't find attractive. There is an HW-99 which is even rarer, is in the brown scheme, and is said to suffer from some serious drift problems. It is also not a QRP transceiver.
The Heathkit HW-9
I scored an HW-8 on eBay which was in great condition. It came with the original manual and even the original box! Interestingly, while it came from Phoenix, Arizona, the box indicated it was from the Heath Company store in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. That is where I grew up and got my ham radio license - I made many visits to that Heathkit store admiring the ham radio, computer, and other kits.
Heathkit HW-8 with original box and manual
I also ordered a CD version of The HW-8 Handbook from QRPARCI, which has a collection of articles on HW-7, HW-8, and HW-9 that were published over the years.

The major features of this rig include:

  • 4 band operation (80, 40, 20, 15) on the low end (CW portion) of each band
  • about 3 watts of output power
  • VFO controlled
  • solid state
  • direct conversion
  • CW only
  • requires an external 12V power supply

I'm looking forward to the unit arriving, doing any needed restoration, and getting it on the air. Because it is solid state, it will make a good candidate for trying out some portable operation using battery power. I hope to give that a try at some point this summer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

HW-16 Restoration Complete

I've finished restoration of the Heathkit HW-16 transceiver. It needed the power supply caps and resistors replaced (a couple of the resistors were open). A cap kit from HaySeed HamFest Co. did the trick.

The 6GE5 final tube also had an open filament and needed to be replaced. The last problem was an open RF choke which I was able to fix. After doing the alignment, the receive and transmit functions are working fine. I even hooked it up to my HG-10 and confirmed that it works using an external VFO.

The only remaining task is to possibly get a vinyl overlay to replace the front panel. Hayseed Hamfest is not currently manufacturing them but is planning to resume soon.

I'm currently making a YouTube video that will show the unit operating and discuss the restoration in more details. I'll post a link here when it is available. Update: The Youtube video can now be found here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

More About the Abandoned Farmhouse Adventure

I mentioned here earlier that I ported my Abandoned Farmhouse Adventure  game to the Raspberry Pi and got it into the Pi Store as a free download. Here are some more details about the game and how it was developed for people that may be interested.

The program was written in the C programming language, consisting of just over 800 lines of source code. I originally wrote it in March 2012 as a game for the Replica 1 Computer, a replica of the first computer, the Apple 1, offered by Apple Computer in 1976.

The Briel Replica 1 Computer
On the Replica 1 it was compiled using the CC65 compiler which supports the 8-bit 6502 microprocessor used by the Replica 1 (and Apple 1). It took me a few evenings and weekend mornings to design and write the game. The game had to fit within the hardware constraints of the Replica 1: a one MHz 8-bit processor with only a few kilobytes of memory and only text output.

I did most testing of the game on a Linux desktop system using the GNU gcc compiler, as it was faster and easier to build and debug than on the Replica 1.

The game was announced on the Briel Computers forum and made available to any Replica 1 or Apple 1 computer users who wanted to try it.

I've been following the Raspberry Pi since it's early development. With the announcement of the Raspberry Pi store, I thought it would be fun to get an application in the new store. The adventure game was already running on Linux so getting it on the Linux-based Raspberry Pi should be straightforward. Porting it to the Raspberry Pi involved adding lower case text (the Apple 1 could only display upper case text). I also removed some code that was specific to the CC65 compiler. Most of the work was figuring out how to publish an application in the Raspberry Pi app store, and waiting for it to pass through the application approval process.

Screen Shot Of The Game
For people trying the game, I won't give a solution or any spoilers, but here are a few hints. I suggest drawing out a map on a piece of paper and making notes as you play the game. Pay attention to any messages, like needing food or water, as these will soon become important in the game. Not all items in the game are necessarily needed to solve it; some may be red herrings. The game will take some time to solve. Keep at it. If you get frustrated, set it aside for a while and you may think of some new insight into how to solve it.

I would really like to hear from you if you solved the game, or even if you played it but did not complete it yet. As I write this the game has had 361 downloads but no one has actually reported completing the game. I don't think I made it too hard, but it is difficult as the developer to stand back and assess how challenging the game is.

I have been planning to make a version of the games with a Qt-based graphical user interface on it, which would be less like a retro text adventure game but more playable by people accustomed to modern GUIs.

Early Prototype of GUI Version of the Game
The game is open source and published under an Apache license. The source code can be found here. You are free to share, port, or modify the game subject to the terms of the Apache license. If you are really stuck solving the game and are at all fluent in C code, you could look at the source code to get some hints. Much of the code is data-driven and could be used to implement an entirely different adventure just by changing the map, strings, and some of the logic that handles special actions.

Finally, the farm described here is based on a real farmhouse where my father lived many years ago, right down to the layout of most of the rooms. And I also have a grandson who was almost three years old at the time I wrote this. It is interesting to think that in a few years he may come across this game in which he appears and maybe play it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Heathkit HW-16 Restoration

My next restoration project is a Heathkit HW-16 transceiver. This is a CW (Morse code) only transceiver made from 1967-1976 by Heathkit. It puts out about 90 Watts of power on the 80, 40, and 15 meter amateur radio bands. The transmitter is crystal controlled but supports the HG-10 external VFO.

Front View of Radio as Received
The unit I bought on ebay is in reasonably good shape. It has some rust, and is not working. Early indications are that has some open resistors in the power supply, which is very common for these units.

Rear View
So far I have done some cleaning and initial inspection. I will be replacing the power supply filter capacitors and resistors using a kit from Hayseed Hamfest. It also appears to have a bad transmitter final tube, so I will need to order one of those (they are available from some tube suppliers and ebay).
Top View With Cover Removed

I also plan to replace the rusted front panel with a vinyl overlay from Hayseed Hamfest.

Chassis After Some Cleaning
I'll report more here as the restoration proceeds.