I am interested in acquiring and preserving old Heathkit computers, including
the H-8 and H-11 machines described below. I am also interested in peripherals
and documentation, including the H-9 video terminal and the H-10 paper tape reader
If you have any of this equipment that needs a new home, please send me an e-mail!
[The following article appeared in the July-August 1977 issue of People's Computers magazine.]
(You can click here to see advertisements for these machines.)
Welcome to the home computer field, Heath Company! We're looking forward to your promised quality, service, and software support. And how about lower prices (see below) while you're at it?
Since 1926, when Ed Heath marketed his $199 Parasol airplane kit, Heath Company has been selling a wide variety of consumer electronic products, usually in kit form. Product categories have included Amateur Radio, hi-fi components, test instruments, auto and marine accessories, black and white and color TVs, as well as general consumer and educational products. And now Heath, a division of Scheumberger, Ltd., has announced its new line of home/personal computing products for hobby, home, educational and small business applications.
Many people are excited about the equipment, for the manufacturer has a half century reputation for quality, reliability, and service. Successful assembly of their kits frequently has been accomplished by persons with little or no electronic skills and knowledge. Instruction manuals have been thorough and accurate to meet the needs of such customers. Buying a Heathkit computer means you can expect that an accurate manual and optional educational materials will be available. Heath's attention to support, service and education are welcome additions to the computer field where some estimate 80-90% of kits never become operational.
Each of Heath's kits are trial-built by at least 100 people ranging from experts to first-time kit builders before they are presented to the public. Heath spokesman claim that 'anyone' can build their kits. With Heath's reputation behind it, perhaps so. They've been busily training service representatives to deal with their computer line, and their reputation for service and troubleshooting support will doubtless be maintained in this area.
The company has made a strong committment to providing back up for its computer line in the form of software, complete documentation and service support, self-instructional programming courses, and a Heath Users' Group (HUG).
Their new line is built around two systems, one an 8-bit machine using the 8080A microprocessor, and the other incorporating Digital Equipment Corporation's (DEC) LSI-11, a 16-bit computer. System-compatible peripherals now include a TV-type terminal, a paper tape reader/punch, a cassette-player/recorder, a 'hard copy' printing terminal, and serial and parallel interfaces. Input/output interfaces, additional memory, and supplementary software packages complete the initial product offerings, which will be available by September.
The H8 is built around a wired and tested CPU board containing an 8-bit 8080A microprocessor. It is designed for turnkey operation; a programmable speaker provides audio feedback as to whether you've performed an operation correctly (short beep) or not (long beep). Its intelligent front panel has a 9-digit 7-segment octal display and a 16-key octal keyboard.
The H8 features a built in 1K x 8 ROM (Read Only Memory) that contains a monitor program designed to permit you to load or store a program by pushing a single button. Register and memory contents can be dynamically displayed while a program is running.
Heath considered using the S-100 bus, but rejected it in favor of an in-house design. The 'Benton Harbor' or 'BH bus' as it will probably be known, uses 50-pin connectors. The motherboard has 10 slots. Interrupts are on-board; data and address locations are in easy-to-remember numeric sequences. The built-in connection power supply can handle up to 32K of memory and two input/output interfaces. Bus specifications will be published soon.
The H8's multi-tasking capability was demonstrated to those attending a June 1 press party at Heath Company headquarters in Benton Harbor, Michigan. As a game of 'Hangman' ran on a video display, the LED front panel display played a game of 'Chase' and the programmable speaker provided 'musical' accompaniment. Meanwhile the system monitor kept monitoring.
The H8 software package that comes with the system includes BH ('Benton Harbor') BASIC; an editor, TED-8; an assembler, HASL-8; a debugger, BUG-8 and the panel monitor, PAM-8. Extended BH BASIC is available at extra cost. System features include lower case output capabilities, command completion (e.g. you type just the first few letters of a command, then the system completes the command for you), tape handling and syntax error detection during input. BH BASIC, an adaptation to Dartmouth BASIC, includes PEEK, POKE, PIN, OUT, sin, cos, log and a user function to permit access to machine language routines. In BH BASIC all arguments are expressions; it runs in 8K. Extended BH BASIC, which runs in 12K, also includes strings and a number of other unique functions. Heath plans to make available source listings for the monitor and the input/output routines for BH BASIC's floating point package.
The H11 is based on DEC's 16-bit LSI-11 processor which gives it the operating characteristics of a standard PDP-11 minicomputer; its instruction set is virtually identicall to other PDP-11 computers. The system features a wired and tested CPU with 4Kx16 dynamic RAM, a compact switching power supply, a built-in cooling fan, a built-in monitor program and a 12-slot back panel providing room for 6 boards (each takes 2 slots).
Each H11 system comes with a complete DEC system software package containing an editor, PAL-11 assembler, linker, on-line debug package (ODT), input/output executive, BASUC and FOCAL. H11 purchasers may join DECUS (The Digital Equipment Computer Users Society), a clearinghouse for the more than 28,000 worldwide members who wish to exchange programs and information. The DECUS library contains about 800 programs which can run on the H11.
The H11 as presently configured will support up to 20K of memory; expansion is planned. The current H11 is paper tape oriented.
Heath's product line includes interface and memory boards as listed in the 'Heathkit Prices' table. In addition, a number of other peripherals are available.
The H9 is an alphanumeric video terminal which will work with any digital computer. The system uses a 67 key ASCII upper case keyboard with an 80 character, 12 inch CRT. Other features include cursor control, a batch mode, a plot mode, and a format option to display four 20 character columns of text. Baud rate is selectable from 110 to 9600. Standard serial interfaces include EIA, 20mA loop, and TTL input/output.
The H10 is Heath's paper tape reader/punch unit. It will function with any digital computer; standard one inch wide rolls or fanfold paper tapes are used. Tape is read at 50 characters per second (cps); the punch operates at 10 cps. The read and punch units may be operated simultaneously, H10 features include a copy mode for tape duplication, a built-in heavyduty power supply, and a stepper motor for reliable reader tape drive. The interface is standard parallel TTL.
Heath offers DEC's LA36 DEC Writer II as a 30 cps hardcopy device. Features include the ability to handle forms from 3 inches to 14 7/8 inches wide, 128 ASCII upper/lower case character set, half or full-duplex control and parity check on output. The printing head is designed so that the last printed character is always visible. The 20 mA current loop interface is standard. A fanfold paper option and optional EIA interface are available.
A GE tape cassette player/recorder is offered by Heath as a mass storage device for their 8080-based H8.
A 6800-based trainer to teach machine language programming and interfacing will be available in October at a cost well below $200.
Heath now has underway a number of self-instructional courses to accompany its computer line; several will appear as programmed instruction workbooks. A BASIC course is now almost complete and should be available in October at a cost of about $30; additional workbooks will be available at low cost. The 6800 trainer course to teach machine language programming and interfacing will also be available in mid autumn. Its approximately $90 price tag will cover the course plus the components discussed in the course.
Assembly language courses for the H8 and H11 should be arriving in late 1977 and early 1978, respectively. Heath has contracted with Dymax to write the H8 course, so some familiar folks are working on it: Don Inman (author of People's Computers' Data Handler series), Bob Albrecht (founder and former editor of this publication and author of its 'Tiny BASIC' series) and Jerry Brown (author of Instant BASIC). These courses will cost about $40-50 each, with additional workbooks available at lower cost.
HUG, the Heath Users' Group, will perform a number of educational functions, including exchange of information and programs. Heath plans to publish minor software revisions through HUG; major revisions will be available at a modest fee. Membership in HUG will be by subscription.
In the near future, Heath plans to develop applications software and produce educational courses, perhaps using computer-assisted instruction. We can look forward to floppy disk system for the H11, and a printer. Many ideas for future development are being considered, including plug-in ROMs and a single-box system -- (e.g. CRT, CPU, floppies and keyboard in a signle package.)
Heath undoubtedly is moving in the right direction, with its emphasis on software, service and education. Future developments will depend in part on the wishes of Heath's customers; company spokesmen say Heath's way of doing business has long been characterized by an attitude of 'the customer will tell us what's wanted.' Do customers want to be able to buy completely assembled systems? FORTRAN? PASCAL? Applications software for small businesses? Anything is possible. Heath makes a welcome addition to home computer business.
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Last updated February 5, 2005