Electronics kit – a package of electrical components used to build an electronic device. Generally, kits are composed of electronic components, a circuit diagram (schematic), assembly instructions and often a printed circuit board (PCB) or another type of prototyping board.
Electronics kits – Many older engineers first became interested in electronics through hobbies in their youth—assembling kits, participating in amateur radio, or engaging in other experiments.
- Heathkits – products of the Heath Company. These were very popular in the 1970s and 1980s with electronics hobbyists. Their products included electronic test equipment, high fidelity home audio equipment, television receivers, amateur radio equipment, electronic ignition conversion modules for early model cars with point style ignitions, and the influential Heath H-8, H-89, and H-11 hobbyist computers, which were sold in kit form for assembly by the purchaser. By the early 1990s, Heathkit was out of business.
- Raspberry Pi computer – bare, inexpensive, all its input/output connections exposed. Download free operating systems and install them on a standard SD memory card
- Arduino – an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board. Arduino can be used to develop interactive objects, taking inputs from a variety of switches or sensors, and controlling a variety of lights, motors, and other physical outputs. Arduino projects can be stand-alone, or they can be communicate with software running on your computer.
- SparkFun has a step-by-step soldering page with important tips and video instructions. Specific instructions for assembling a RS232 Shifter Board Kit, but apply to soldering generally.
- how to solder (.pdf) – extensive information about soldering. Diagrams, detailed instructions, comprehensive notes, suggestions
- set of soldering videos from NASA – six steps to great soldering. Part of the Radio JOVE receiver kit information.
The introduction of printed circuits was a big improvement for electronics kit manufacturers and builders. The PCB simplified the wiring for the kits. Most of the work for the builder was done. To build the kit, most of the work consisted of soldering components to the appropriate location on the circuit board. The board had holes for the component wires to go through. Then the wires were soldered in place, making the electrical connection between the component and the printed circuit. The results were better and the builder was happy with the results.
What’s the problem?
In the 1960s electronics products were expensive. Many people with basic hobby skills, were willing to buy a kit that needed to be put together. They had the time and the interest in doing the work to get an entertainment center, television or computer for less money than buying these at the store.
- Ask – At this time, most electronics equipment consisted of components that were connected by wires. What part of the assembly could be completed by the kit-builder? How much did this reduce the price?
- Imagine – Did home-builders and hobbyists have the skills to do the work? Was the final product as good as or better than what was available to buy in stores? Did people want to do the work?
- Plan, Create – Determining that this was a good idea, companies like Heathkit, sold complete kits that included all the components and detailed instructions for assembling and testing the product. Stores provided help. Clubs and classes taught the skills necessary for the work.
- Improve – When electronic kit-building was most popular, many people built electronics products that were much more advanced than anything available in stores. The popularity declined when electronics designs and manufacturing improved and products sold in stores were better quality and cheaper than the kits without the work.
- component – a distinct part or element of a larger system
- Printed Circuit Board (PCB) – a thin plate on which chips and other electronic components are placed. Computers consist of one or more boards, often called cards or adapters.
- motherboard : The principal board that has connectors for attaching devices to the bus. Typically, the mother board contains the CPU, memory, and basic controllers for the system. On PCs, the motherboard is often called the system board or mainboard.
- electronics, components, circuit diagram, schematic, printed circuit board (PCB), amateur radio, electronic testing equipment, high fidelity (hi-fi), audio, receiver, memory card, micro-controller, switch, sensor
Challenges for you to work on…
- find information about an electronics project or kit based on the Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
- Heathkit – Heath Company has restarted Heathkit®. High-quality kits, educational systems and instructional products always have been a major line of Heathkit’s business, and we remain committed to education and the joy of building and learning as an important Heathkit® value and contribution. — 20-December-2013
- Open Systems – Reflections on the Heathkit and other open systems of days gone by. Author talks about Heathkits