We Will Not Let You Fail
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 by W6AZ

You may not recognize that slogan. It belonged to The Heath Company, makers of the legendary Heathkits for decades. My first ham radio transmitter was a DX-20 Heathkit (about $36 in 1959) that I assembled myself.  It worked perfectly from the first moment I turned it on after I finished the kit building process.

Heathkits helped grow the ranks of ham radio operators considerably. Their gear was affordable, simple proven technology, not fancy, but stuff that worked. There were two keys to the success of this company: (1) their products were affordable and (2) the assembly and operating manuals were outstanding. They were so well written, that even a fourteen year old boy was able to build one without a single problem in the entire process. 

Take a look at the Heathkit manual for the DX-60B transmitter, a product from 1967. This one is typical of all of their manuals. It includes sections that give the specs of the rig, a description of its circuit, a full parts list, the exact step-by-step procedures for building the rig, with very detailed drawings and clearly written instructions on what to do. If you didn't know how to solder, no problem, they had a chapter (p.8-9) devoted to teaching you the ropes on soldering.  Take some time to look over the manual. Doesn't it make you want to grab a soldering iron and start building?

Just do what the manual said to do and the equipment would work. They wouldn't let you fail. If it didn't work, you could ship it to the factory in Benton Harbor, Michigan and they'd fix it for a "minimum service fee." I don't know how much that fee was, because the kits I built always worked and I didn't know anyone else who ever had one that didn't work.

I grew up with these manuals as the standard in my mind for ensuring that technology was properly conveyed from the experts to the beginners. This is a VERY high standard, but it was a huge part of the success of Heath, as well as the growth in the ranks of ham radio operators.

Watch this video to see what Steve Jobs thought about Heathkits & their manuals (3:57 to 8:24).

Steve Jobs 1995 Interview .

"It gave one an understanding of what was inside a finished product and how it worked because it would include a theory of operation. But maybe even more importantly it gave one the sense that one could build the things that one saw around oneself in the universe. These things were not mysteries any more." - Steve Jobs