Nostalgic Kits Central
The era of electronic kits started (with a few minor exceptions like Stancor) after the end of WWII. In 1947, Heath offered its first kit, a 5 inch ocilloscope. Heath rapidly grew and after a while, other companies embraced the kit business. None were as successful as Heath but they still played an important role in the industry. Perhaps, like me, you built some of those kits. The availability of inexpensive electronic kits and the learning process of building, troubleshooting and using them quite likely encouraged many to pursue a career in electronics. For others, it contributed to a hobby that had a lasting character. For all, there was a common bond of construction brotherhood. It was a wonderful time when we saved our money, bought and then built amazing electronic devices on kitchen or dining room tables, garage or basement workshops or wherever a safe space for all of those beautiful parts could be found. Not every kit worked the first time it was turned on. Many were built by those who had never used a soldering iron before. Evidence of this still exists today in some kits that been sold on the used market. Some builders lost interest due to a mismatch between kit complexity and builder skills. Many others learned from their mistakes and went on to build many more kits. This website is for all of those builders. Perhaps it will jog a memory. Hopefully a good one. To sort of paraphrase the immortal words of Cuba Gooding Jr. in the movie Jerry Maguire, "show me the kits!".
BTW - Heathkits were not just a U.S. phenomenon. After Heath reached a certain level of success, versions of the Heathkit product line were offered in the U.K. and Europe and there were differences. More about this in a future update. What follows are brief descriptions of the companies represented here.
Heathkit was a well known supplier of electronic kits from 1947 through the early 1990's (although no new kits were developed after 1986). An incredible number of kits were offered including test equipment, amateur and SWL radio, audio, televisions, computers, robotics, automotive and other items difficult to categorize. Not all of their product offerings were kits. In their later years, many items were offered as either kits or assembled. Some items were only available assembled. This site will focus just on items available in kit form. For now, the computer and robotics kits are not included. Heathkit is still in business but they now focus on selling Heathkit educational systems. When discussing electronic kit providers of the 20th century, Heathkit was the big Kahuna and is by far the largest part of this site. The best place to learn about the history of the company is in Chuck Penson's excellent book "Heathkit: A Guide to the Amateur Radio Products". There are a number of good Internet based information sources as well (see the Heathkit Resources page).
There were others who were perhaps a little less known. Among them were Allied Radio, EICO, EMC, Precise, Paco, Dynaco and Stancor. The purpose of this site is to attempt to document the kits produced by all of these companies via product tables containing pictures, specifications and clean schematics when available. Where available, the product tables will include links to other off site information resources.
Allied Radio (now known as Allied Electronics) is a company with a long eight decade history. It was founded in Chicago, IL. in 1928. Its purpose was to distribute radio parts for Columbia Radio Corp. By 1932, Allied was selling electronic parts by catalog. Storefront sales operations were established with the goal of selling to amateur radio operators and electronics experimenters. During WWII, Allied devoted itself to the war effort by handling government contracts and high-priority industrial needs. This was Allied's first real experience in industrial electronics. After the war, Allied continued to sell to the consumer and industrial markets. Sometime around 1962, Allied Electronics was created as a subsidiary of Allied Radio. In 1971, Allied was acquired by Tandy (now Radio Shack Corp.) and moved its headquarters to Fort Worth, Texas. Around 1981, Spartan Manufacturing acquired the company. In 1997, Avnet took over ownership. In 1999, Allied Electronics was acquired by Electrocomponents plc of the United Kingdom. Allied Electronics continues to sell electronic components by catalog and Internet ordering.
Allied Radio produced a line of kits under the Knight label. They were called Knight-Kits. Although not as extensive a line as Heathkit, they had many offerings in test equipment. Amateur radio, SWL, audio, entertainment and educational/experimenter kits rounded out their product line.
EICO, or Electronic Instrument Company, started life around 1945 in Brooklyn New York. Like Allied Radio, most of their kit products were test equipment although audio and some ham and CB products became another important part of their line. Their products were sold direct, through distributors, dealers and even through the Allied catalog. At some point in their history, they dropped out of the electronics business and got into the selling and mortgaging of commercial real estate. According to an article in Business.com, "The shareholders of the company have approved a plan of liquidation on May 28, 1999. The liquidation is expected to be complete by December 31, 2002."
EMC, which stands for Electronic Measurements Corporation, was a supplier of test equipment in both kit and assembled form. They were based in Westbury, L.I., New York. Their products were generally lower end technology with lower prices. Their slogan was "EMC gives more measurement value per dollar". EMC products were marketed through electronics magazines and some electronics stores. Their line was never as extensive as the other kit providers but they did fill a need.
Precise Electronics & Development Corp. was a company that marketed test equipment. At different times they were based in Mineola and Oceanside, N.Y. Their product line was small compared to their competition. In order to differentiate themselves, they added features not commonly found. Their oscilloscopes featured larger screens. Although I still own a model 630 signal generator, I haven't been able to find much information on this company. Some of their products were listed in the 1962 Allied catalog.
PACO was a division of Precision Apparatus Co. (a subsidiary of Pacotronics). They were a relatively small player in the kit market. As far as I've been able to determine, they only sold test equipment and Hi-Fi kits. Like EMC, they sold products in both kit and assembled form. They were base at 70-31 84th St., Glendale 27, Long Island, N.Y. If you have any information to share on this company and its products, I'd appreciate it.
Dynaco was a provider of quality audio kits. The company was formed by David Hafler and Ed Laurent in Philadelphia in 1954. It lasted until 1980. In 1990, a British company and affilliate of Panor Corp. called Marlborough Enterprises Ltd, acquired the name. An excellent history of the company is available here. Dynaco products were very good with regards to price/performance.
Stancor was a pre-WWII manufacturer of electronic components. They had an extensive line of transformers and chokes. In addition, they offered a series of amateur transmitter kits. I believe that their kit products were available from the 1930's through the late 1940's. As such, this company predates the other companies on listed here. My historical information on this company is sadly lacking. I solicit information on this company.
Conar Instruments Company was part of the National Radio Institute (NRI). NRI was a private correspondence school based in Washington, D.C. The name CONAR is derived from the first letters of "COmpany, NAtional Radio". Their role was to supply test equipment to NRI students and graduates. Their first kit went to market in 1962. The main focus of their offerings was radio and TV service test equipment but they offered other devices as well. They added Ham items over time. NRI ceased operations in 1999.
Unlike Heathkit, Amateur Radio was not a major part of either Allied or Eico. As far as I've been able to determine, EMC, Precise and PACO made only test equipment and Dynaco only audio gear. Allied and Eico did offer some historically interesting items for Hams and SWL's, however. Although Heathkit was arguably the most successful kit provider, many EICO products were of comparable or higher quality. It is probably safe to say that most of the knowledgeable kit buyers of the time considered the Knight kits to be somewhat inferior to comparable Heathkit or EICO items. In spite of this, many kits were sold and used. I built my first kit when I was in the 7th grade. It was a Knight-Kit Ocean Hopper receiver followed by an EMC 107A VTVM, Heathkit OM-3 oscilloscope, Precise 630 Signal Generator, Heathkit AA-32 amplifier, Dynaco Stereo 120 power amplifier and a PAT4A preamplifier. They were as much fun to build as they were to use. Unfortunately, the days of building kits like those listed in these pages are gone. Like many others, I miss the opportunity to buy and build a well engineered electronics kit.
Please note that I do not have any kit material for sale or trade. I provide this site as an informational service only. If you don't find what you need here, check out the links or do a search using you favorite search site.
Speaking of Links, you might be amused or informed by visiting my Boatanchors and BABE's site. It has pictures and info on my somewhat rare Hammarlund HQ-215 receiver. More important is the Boat Anchor Beauty Evaluator or BABE. Using the BABE, you can quantitatively determine the attractiveness of your boatanchors - really. I wouldn't joke about this.
If you have any information you wish to share, or corrections to suggest, please email me. I am striving for accuracy but things can go rong. I am happy to give credit for your contributions.
I have tested this site with Internet Explorer 6, Netscape 4.76 and 7.0, and Firefox 2.00. It seems to work fine. To print a picture in I.E. 6, right click on the picture and then left click on Print Picture. In Netscape, Mozilla or Firefox, right click on the picture then left click on Save Image As. Save the picture and then open and print from a Windows application.
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Latest site update: 26 Oct. 2008