How it all began – my Heathkit radio

As you can read at the top of the Basic Electronics page, I started fooling with electricity and reading about electronics in the 6th grade. Now, this was in the mid-1950s when transistors were brand new and not yet used in consumer products. I did read about crystal sets and thought I’d like to build one but somehow it never happened.

My first project? In the 8th grade, I think. I saved up my allowance and bought a 5 tube Heathkit AM table model radio. FM existed but was hardly heard of in those days.

Heath (they’re still around – Heathkit.com) gave excellent instructions, starting with how to solder and including info on the components, color codes etc. The assembly instructions were step-by-step, detailed and easy for an 8th grader to follow. Each step had a box to check when you were done. I carefully followed each step, checking it off.

The last step was, go back and double-check each step. Well – I just knew I had been so careful that there were no mistakes, so I plugged the radio in and turned it on. It made smoke!

I went back, checked each step and of course found several errors. The good new is, once I fixed them, it worked. It became my bedroom radio – used it for years. By the way, I didn’t have an actual soldering iron, but the iron in my woodburning craft kit worked just fine. Used that for years, too.

I wish I had a picture of the radio. I don’t – couldn’t find one on line, either. Here’s a picture of my first piece of test equipment, though, a late ‘50s VOM (volt-ohmmeter) from Lafayette Radio/Electronics. No ICs, transistors or even vacuum tubes! I still have it. As a kid I mail-ordered a lot from Lafayette. Here’s a Wikipedia article about them – they went out of business around 1981.