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BOOK REVIEW:Heathkit -- A Guide to the Amateur Radio Products, By Chuck Penson, WA7ZZE
BY RAY BINTLIFF, K1YDG
From Antique Radio Classified
(Copyright 1996 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)
If you have ever owned a piece of Heathkit ham equipment, Heathkit -- A Guide to the Amateur Radio Products by Chuck Penson is sure to bring back pleasant memories of Amateur Radio in simpler times when much of the equipment on the operating desk could be built from kits. You can almost smell the hot soldering iron as you read. On the other hand, if you are a potential purchaser of some used Heathkit gear, this book will be equally valuable as a buyer's guide.
Heathkit covers ham radio equipment produced by Heathkit from 1952 through 1992. As you might expect, receivers, transmitters, transceivers and linear amplifiers are covered. But, ancillary items such as keyers, phone patches, antenna tuners, monitor scopes and ham-related test equipment are included as well. Many old favorites, including the "Cantenna" dummy load, appear in the book. As Penson states, "It's hard to go to a flea market and not see one Cantenna."
The author provides a brief description of Heathkit's origins but does not dwell too long on this subject that has been well documented by others. However, he does describe in impressive detail Heathkit's entry into the ham radio field and its long string of successful products. Alas, he also describes the demise of Heathkit's kit business. Photographs of some of the individuals responsible for Heathkit's success, along with short descriptions of their contributions, make this book more than straight technical stuff.
A GUIDE TO AMATEUR RADIO PRODUCTS
It is obvious that Penson has done a superb job of researching material for this book. The text is loaded with facts about Heathkit and its amateur radio products, but his writing style keeps the reading easy and interesting. The bulk of the book, a section titled A Guide to Amateur Radio Products, is devoted to photographs and descriptions of various Heathkit ham gear. One of the outstanding features of the book is the high quality of its photographs. The photographs are larger than those found in most equipment guides. As a result, the photos show useful detail of front panels and other equipment features.
This section of the book is easy to use since it is arranged in alphanumeric order by model number. Most models are described on one page, while some descriptions run two pages. There is never more than one model covered on the same page. Consequently, a given model is easy to locate, and there is never any confusion regarding which photograph goes with which text. The descriptions follow a standard format in that they include the manufacturing dates, original price, and the product's weight and size. Another useful bit of information is a listing of related products -- a list of earlier or later models that perform the same function. For example, the Model CO-1 code practice oscillator (1959 to 1967) lists the HD-16 (1967 to 1974) and the HD-1416 series (1975 to 1991) of code practice oscillators as related products. Using this related products information, it is easy to trace the restyling and design improvements introduced over the years. It is also interesting to track the price increases that occurred.
Equipment descriptions and specifications are supplemented by useful information such as the technical problems and shortcomings of a particular model, problems to look for when buying a used item -- including undesirable modifications, Heath's engineering changes and variations that may be found in a certain model, and recommended modifications. The author also rates the rarity of the various models from common to rare.
BUYING AND COLLECTING
One section of the book, "Buying and Collecting Heathkits," is devoted to practical information in cluding a buyer's checklist. Guaranteed to make you chuckle is a paragraph about flea markets with a translation of "flea-speak" responses to the question "Does it work?"
The book also contains two useful indices: (1) an index arranged by model which lists equipment type, notes/specs, first year made, last year made, and last price; (2) an index arranged by equipment type (e.g. amplifier, antenna, etc.) that provides the same information contained in the model index. The "Product Reference" section of the book, arranged in model number order, contains references to articles in CQ and QST magazines that deal with such things as product reviews, modifications and product announcements. The "Product Timelines" section contains a chart that depicts the production periods for each Heathkit model.
The book is so crammed with practical information that it is not possible to include all of its features in this book review. The production quality is equally good. However, one glitch did occur -- page 144 was omitted from the bound book and has been inserted as a loose-leaf page.
Do I like the book? You bet! It is both entertaining and instructive. Heathkit - A Guide to the Amateur Radio Products is published in paperback by Electric Radio Press, Durango, Colorado. Priced at $24.95, this book is softbound in an 8" x 11" format and contains 248 pages. Copies may be ordered from the publisher, A.R.C., and other A.R.C. advertisers. Be sure to check with the suppliers for ordering and shipping information.
(Ray Bintliff, 2 Powder Horn Lane, Acton, MA 01720)