Gnomie Peter writes:

Chris,

You’re probably too young to remember the Heath Electronic Kits that were widely available. Heath was eventually bought by Zenith and ultimately went out of business [editor’s note: sort of. It’s all explained here]. But they offered all kinds of great kits ranging from meters to radios to digital clocks and even electronic organs and console TVs. The cost of buying the kit, I don’t think, offered much in the way of savings over buying a pre-built unit, but you got great manuals and learned a lot about how the unit was built and operated. Plus, it is also likely that the quality of the components was high. They often rated each kit by the number of evenings it took to build it.

I have built a few of the kits and really enjoyed doing them. So, I was chagrined when the company finally terminated. I still have a digital clock that I built back in junior high school or a little later. At that time, there were few ICs that were used in the circuit. I think only the clock chip was a then-state-of-the-art MOSTEK clock chip, but the rest of the circuit used discrete components. The display used a segmented plasma display. The clock still runs even today, despite a few cold soldered joints that had to be fixed about 25 years ago.

I view those Radio Shack kits as mere toys compared to the more professional and commercial quality electronic devices that were available back then. (The console TV assembled by the user rivaled a commercially produced model. complete with wood cabinet and test equipment.) Are you aware of any such producers of similar kits now?