Talk:Heathkit H11

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Computing  
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Computing, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of computers, computing, and information technology on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
 

Not a home computer[edit]

The H11 was not marketed to the same sorts of people that bought VIC 20's or Atari 600's. The H11 was not a "home" computer product. You could have taken a VAX "home" too. The H11 didn't hook up to a TV, didn't use cassette tapes, didn't have BASIC in ROM, was horrifically expensive compared to the 6502 machines. It was lower-priced than a regular PDP 11 and sold through a hobbyist-friendly channel, but you can't seriously argue this was marketed to the same folks who later bought TI-99s.

So, just in case you're an encyclopedia reader who wonders why this machine is in the "home computer" category...it isn't, except in the mind of some editors, who'se purposes in classifying this machine in the "home computer" category eludes me. Categories are supposed to be useful. --Wtshymanski (talk) 03:55, 3 July 2011 (UTC)

Once again you're edit-warring because the world has got it wrong and only you know best.
This was a home computer. It was probably the most expensive (Heathkit were never cheap) and most aspirational home computer of its day. I doubt many were sold. I saw the ad in their catalogue, but knew I could never afford one myself. As you say, it wasn't a great gaming machine. Yet this was still a home computer - read their own marketing [1], "the world's most powerful microcomputer comes home" and "the H11 is the best home computer you can buy.". Yes, this was an expensive home computer for specialist hobbyists, not the hoi polloi - but even geeks live in homes. If it wasn't a home computer. then I would ask you who else was going to buy it? Were businesses rushing out for a bargain PDP-11 and having the office receptionist solder it up in their lunch break? Andy Dingley (talk) 07:27, 3 July 2011 (UTC)
I agree, and thank you for finding the original Heathkit ads to back it up. The H11 was intended for the high end of the developing "home computer" market, and was promoted as such. It didn't exactly conform to the developing feature set for other "home computers", and it didn't appeal to the VIC 20 or Atari 600 buyers, but in 1977 it wasn't clear what features a home computer must or must not have. For example, nobody had decreed that BASIC must be delivered in ROM, and Heathkit chose to deliver it on paper tape initially. The Heathkit H11 was not a runaway commercial success, but it was a computer that was sold for use in homes, and it actually did see such use (I remember seeing occasional articles in the computer hobbyist magazines). By contrast, people did not take home a VAX, which was brand-new in 1977, and the size of a double-width refrigerator even before adding peripherals. Let's not rewrite history by insisting that all automobiles must have had gasoline engines, just because such engines have become the most popular later on; remember that electric cars were initially very successful, and may become very common once again. Reify-tech (talk) 13:34, 3 July 2011 (UTC)
Raised at WP:Administrators'_noticeboard/Edit_warring#User:Wtshymanski_reported_by_User:Andy_Dingley_.28Result:_31h.29 Andy Dingley (talk) 07:41, 3 July 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────

From the 1977 Heathkit catalog: "The new Heath/DEC H11 personal computer combines the advanced performance-proven hardware and software of the famous LSI-11 with Heath's expertise in kit design and documentation to bring you a personal computer of almost incredible power and performance. Equivalent commercial versions of the H11 would cost literally $1000's of dollars more!"

From An advertisement on the back cover of the February 1977 issue of Interface Age magazine: "Computer hobbyists have always wanted the power and speed of professional machines. But they've had to settle for less. Professional machines were too expensive. Not anymore. Now there's the Heathkit H11."

From Why you should consider a sixteen bit microcomputer: Heath company's guide to selecting a 16 bit micro and an introduction to the LSI-11-based H11 computer: "..low cost computer for personal computing..." and "...compatible with both the H8 and H11 computers as well as most other hobby and personal computers...". --Guy Macon (talk) 16:50, 3 July 2011 (UTC)

In addition to the above, I would like to comment on Wtshymanski's edit summary:

"Didn't hook up to a TV and cassette deck, didn't have ROM BASIC, not much like the other machines in the category"

Many home computers of that era did not hook up to a TV: Commodore PET, COSMAC ELF, Altair 8800, Kaypro, Osborne...

Likewise with cassette decks; home computers that shipped with standard floppy drives tended to not have cassette interfaces.

Likewise with ROM Basic: home computers that shipped with standard floppy drives tended to not load BASIC from a floppy disk.

None of these are features that make a computer a home computer. What makes it a home computer is the fact that is was marketed as a home computer. Other good indications are recipe programs and K12 educational programs. Guy Macon (talk) 19:12, 3 July 2011 (UTC)

Call it whatever you like. Any computer you could fit through the door was a home computer. I'm sure there were VAXes taken home and used for recipe files. And no doubt Seymour Cray had one of his machines in the garden shed in case he needed to solve a Jumble puzzle. However, the VIC 20 and TI 99 and Coleco Adam and C 64 and similar machines were not aimed at the same sort of user as the H11. The H11 had to be *assembled* - not the usual thing stuck under the Christmas tree. Kaypros and Osbornes and such were light-weight business machines, not aimed at the home market. (Yes, there were games written for the Osborne but even by the unsophisticated standards of 1981 they were not anything like the games of a real home computer, which had color and sound.) This was a distinctive class of machine and we're revising history if we pretend that in those days different market segments had very different hardware. In 1977 it took so much geekcraft to make a computer work that you could hardly compare any of the machines of that year to the home computers of a couple of years later. --Wtshymanski (talk) 19:46, 3 July 2011 (UTC)
Got any literature showing crays or VAXen marketed as home computers? Again (although I am at a loss as to why you didn't understand this the first time) what makes it a home computer is the fact that is was marketed as a home computer.
Re: "just solder 3000 connections and away you go", clearly you didn't bother reading the links I provided. If you had bothered you would have read this:
"Fully Wired and Tested KD11F Circuit Board. The "heart" of the LSI-11 is the standard DEC LSI-11 microcomputer board. The 16-bit CPU functions are contained in 4 silicon gate N-channel MOS LSI integrated circuit chips for high reliability and superior performance. The 4096-by 16 read/write MOS semiconductor memory is composed of LSI 4K dynamic RAM chips for fast access time with low power consumption. The board is fully wired and test to facilitate kit assembly and provide greater reliability and less chance of error."
Please consider the possibility that someone else may know something about a subject rather than assuming that you are always right and everyone else else either agrees with you or is obviously wrong. Guy Macon (talk) 20:33, 3 July 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────

User:Wtshymanski blocked for 31 hours for 3RR violation at Heathkit H11. He removed the Category:Home computers from the article four times in 24 hours. --Guy Macon (talk) 03:23, 4 July 2011 (UTC)

Wtshymanski's reasons for why this isn't a home computer[edit]

Fron the edit-warring page:

In the article List of home computers we define it as "... in this list a "home computer" is a factory-assembled mass-marketed consumer product, usually at significantly lower cost than contemporary business computers. It would have an alphabetic keyboard and a multi-line alphanumeric display, the ability to run both games software as well as application software and user-written programs, and some removable mass storage device (such as cassette or floppy disk )." The H11 was not mass-marketed, it was sold in tiny volumes to electronics hobbyists. It was not factory assembled, it required some skill to assemble all the pieces. It didn't have an alphabetic keyboard or multi-line display - you had to buy a separate terminal for that. And it didn't come with any kind of mass storage, you had to buy separate disk drives (or a paper tape reader) for that. It certainly wasn't priced like a 1980's home computer either - by the time you put together all the pieces to make it other than a fancy light-blinker, you'd have spent as much as on a small car. But let's call it a "home computer" to suprise and delight our readers. --Wtshymanski (talk) 21:54, 5 July 2011 (UTC)
  • First off, you're using another article's defined list criteria as a reference for this article. No, WP is not WP:RS.
  • Secondly that article takes an unreferenced POV position over its definition - a definition that you created. It is unreferenced, and particularly for machines of this early age, it takes a quite unrealistic definition of it.
  • The specific features cited to make a "home computer":
    • alphabetic keyboard
    • multi-line alphanumeric display
    • Software:
      • games
      • application software
      • user programmability
    • Mass storage on removable media, through either:
      • cassette
    or
      • floppy disk
Surprisingly, being marketed to homes does not appear on this list.
Home construction is not ruled out. Many machines of this period were sold in kit form, even those beyond the Mk 14 or Microtan levels of hex kaypads and single-line LED displays. The Ohio Scientific Superboard and the related Compukit UK101 were good examples. The ZX80 was sold as a kit too.
For the rest of this claimed list, the H11 demonstrates all of these features.
There is one aspect here where the H11 is unusual, in that it uses a separate terminal for its keyboard and display. This is not that unusual for these early machines and it's certainly not enough to rule it out. Andy Dingley (talk) 09:13, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
The definition that Wtshymanski lists above as justification for his edit warring was written by none other than Wtshymanski! ( Diff ). Guy Macon (talk) 13:38, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
The whole *point* of consumerizing a product is to simplify the consumer experience. "Building a Heathkit" to start using a product is not a typical consumer experience. Henry Ford didn't make his fortune selling assemble-it-yourself kits to consumers.
I would have thought "being marketed to homes" was subsumed under "mass market consumer product" (durr!) but maybe this isn't clear enough? Commodore probably sold more VIC 20s in an average week than the entire production run of H11s. With a home computer, you plugged it into the wall socket, unscrewed the rabbit ears, borrowed your sister's cassette deck and away you went. WIth the H11, *first* you had several evenings of assembly to go through, *and* you ordered a teleprinter or terminal, *and* you had to buy the $325 punch or the disk drives, *and* you were buying minicomputer sofware from DEC at minicomputer prices - to get the functionality that a TI 99 had out of the box.
Care to estimate what the mean time between opening the box and a scrolling display of "Sister Stinks!" enlessly scrolling down the screen was, for the case of a home computer and the case of the H11?
The machines in the "List of home computers" fit under the defintion given under that lists's lead section, with the notable and singular exception of the Honeywell "Kitchen Computer" which is only an "honorary" home computer. It was stone useless in the home, of course, but it gets on the list because it was the first one "marketed to homes".
I don't recall William Shatner or Bill Cosby shilling for Ohio Scientific or any products like that. At least the ZX80 kits were advertised in consumer publications.
Do you not remember the extraordinary claims made for home computers at the time? There was a strong implication that if you didn't give up TV watching time to the 6502 box with a cartridge slot, little Junior would grow up semi-literate at best.
I think it's extraordinarily Wikipedia-ish to cling to the word "home" in one ad, instead of looking at the actual product. --Wtshymanski (talk) 13:49, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
Please provide documentation backing up your repeated claim that the H11 was an assemble-it-yourself kit requiring the user to spend several evenings soldering 3000 connections and not, as the 1977 Heathkit Catalog says, "Fully Wired and Tested."
In the 1970s Heath was selling some products as full kits, some products either as a kit or completely assembled and tested at the factory, and some products with assembled circuit boards and a build-it-yourself chassis. The phrase "Fully wired and tested DEC KD11F board" indicates that the H11 was one of the latter, but may have also had a fully assembled version. Guy Macon (talk) 15:08, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
Also, please stop referencing the definition in the "List of home computers" as if it proves something. We know you wrote that definition yourself. Guy Macon (talk) 15:08, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
In reference to "Please provide documentation ...": About midway down the linked ad it says something like "Heath documentation is second to none. You get illustrated step-by-step instructions on how to build the kit, thorough explanations of the software and comprehensive operating instructions. " Is anybody reading the ad all the way to the end, or just till we find the bit that supports our prejudices? --Wtshymanski (talk) 20:03, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I guess I, like many a hapless Wikipedia user before me, was mislead by the opening sentence which currently reads "The Heathkit H11 Computer was an early kit-format personal computer introduced in 1977." And the famous ad that defines it as a home computer also says "So now a low-cost kit gives you the speed, power... " It's not a kit, then? Why not fix the article to accurately describe what it was that Heath sold then, isntead of shooting at me? Heathkit calls it a kit in the very ad that I'm being beaten with. ( Maybe it wasn't an exercise in board-stuffing, more like dropping a motherboard into a case, but still not ready to go as soon as it was unpacked.)

OK, so what is a home computer? Is it useful, for the purposes of the encyclopedia, to segregate IBM PCs and Kaypros and TI 99s? Or should we just lump them all together? The List of home computers article was critcized for lacking a definition of what was a home computer -I provided the text, but if I hadn't, someone else would have. Should we not be internally consistent in applying membership of classes? Or is every page sui generis? --Wtshymanski (talk) 17:05, 6 July 2011 (UTC)

Yes, of course I read the entire thing. What part of "with assembled circuit boards and a build-it-yourself chassis" and "offered either as a kit or completely assembled and tested at the factory" are you having trouble understanding? Have you ever built a Heathkit? Have you ever ordered one assembled and tested at the Heathkit factory? I have done both.
You don't get self-publish a definition without any sources on one Wikipedia page and then try to use that definition as evidence in a content dispute on another Wikipedia page. You know better that that.
I am still waiting for that documentation backing up your repeated claim that the H11 was an assemble-it-yourself kit requiring the user to spend several evenings soldering 3000 connections, a claim you make despite the 1977 Heathkit Catalog saying ""Fully wired and tested DEC KD11F board." Guy Macon (talk) 20:05, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
Oh, Guy, Guy, Guy...lighten up. 3000 was a SWAG. It truly doesn't matter how many solder joints you had to make to get your H11 to light up. So you dropped a wave-soldered board into a box instead of stuffing LSI's and blobbing solder everywhere on the board. Is this really a consumer-targeted machine? The essence, the quiddity, of it all was that a C64 was ready to play video games or help you master the world of cryptic BASIC syntax errors as soon as you plugged in all the pre-made cables; whereas the H11 generaly had to be built. Consumer product, vs. hobbyist product. And even if you ordered a ready-made H11 (costing more than its contemporary Apple II), you still had to buy all the peripherals for it before you could do what a real home computer came ready to do out of the box (possibly borrowing your existing TV and cassette player). You couldn't GET any of that DEC software into the box without a paper tape reader, at least, (you probably needed the disk drives if you were going to get software from any other DEC installation,) and you had to have a terminal to talk to the brute. (Where did a 1977 consumer go to get paper tape, I wonder? I've never seen it on the shelves at Staples.) You can buy a bicycle down at WalMart or Canadian Tire, or you can go to a dozen different shops, pick up frames, deraileurs, wheels, seats, etc. and assemble a bike - one is a consumer product, the other is a hobby. Does any of this make sense or am I insane? Do you truly not see a difference, no matter how slight, in how an H11 was supposed to make its way into the world vs. the way things like a Commodore 64 made their way?
Really, I'd like to drop all the Apple II, TRS 80 Mod 1, and Commodore PET from the main-stream of "home" computers; when these things were introduced, only ...let's say..."enthusiasts" thought they wanted a computer at home. It wasn't until a little later that the mass market really got going. Oh, and I've linked the hard words in the defintion at List of home computers. --Wtshymanski (talk) 20:44, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
If your personal definition of home computer is going to exclude the Apple II, the TRS80 and the PET, then it's an indication that it's very, very broken as a definition. Andy Dingley (talk) 21:11, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
Guy: yes, it was a kit. The CPU board was preassembled but other parts were not. Much the same way that the color TV kits were very definitely kits, but they came with preassembled and prealigned tuner and IF boards. Quite a few fewer solder connections here than in the color TV, but a kit nonetheless. Jeh (talk) 20:59, 6 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks! Do you know if it was also one of the few products that Heathkit sold either as a kit or as a finished product, or was it the more usual kit only type? Guy Macon (talk) 06:00, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
I think that was covered by the quotes above - but I too remember it being offered assembled (for more $, of course). I'd love to see the kit assembly manual; I doubt that there was much electrical work to do on the kit other than the power supply, the front panel buttons, and maybe the serial interface connector. They would no more have had the kit builder wire-wrap a Q-bus backplane than hand-solder a dense board like the LSI-11/03 CPU. Jeh (talk) 08:06, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
On the larger issue of whether this is a home computer - I think W. has a point in that it was definitely not a "home computer" in the same way that just about anything else named in this thread is a "home computer." Yes, it was marketed as one, but only the most optimistic marketing department would have thought for a second that it would ever compete well in that space. I'm quite certain (because I heard it from former DEC marketing people) that the vast majority of H11's were bought by industrial users who otherwise would have had to spend $3000 or more for a PDP-11/03 (and who ran software on it that they already had). Certainly, though, a few were sold to the same sorts of "intense hobbyists" who built Altair 8800's from kits (even before there were any peripherals for them).
I agree with W. in that I think there is a valid distinction to be made between computers intended for that market and computers like the Commodore PET and TRS-80 and Apple 2, which were much more in the way of "turnkey" machines. And then you could argue for a third category, the "mature home computer", that market starting with the IBM PC and the first Mac. The question is, would these be useful categories that would help the average reader, or just points that would be useful to add to the articles? Jeh (talk) 08:37, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
Compare the dates though. This was a machine of the late '70s, before the home computers described here that are mainly those of the early '80s (and see the Soviet equivalent, 8 years later). If we compare it to contemporary machines, it's no more trouble to assemble it and the peripherals are similar. The cost is largely because it was a floppy disk machine, at a time when this really was an unusual feature in a home machine, owing to the cost. Andy Dingley (talk) 09:03, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
It was not a "floppy disk machine" for the $1295 kit price; the floppy drive was an optional accessory (if I remember right it cost $3000!). Anyway, the point remains that kit-form contemporary machines like the Altair 8800 and the Imsai 8080 were (like the H11) a very different sort of "home computer", with a much smaller and much more technically oriented market, than the PET, TRS-80 and Apple 2 -- and those were different again from the IBM PC and the Mac. Sure, they were all sold to home users and could therefore be called "home computers" in a broad sense. But finer distinctions than that are completely supportable. As yet another point, consider that games and application software for the H11 were practically nonexistent, unless you count what you could buy from DEC or get from DECUS (whose distributions were mostly on 9-track tape). Even the Altair and Imsai (once you had a floppy and had them running CP/M) were far more usable in the home. Jeh (talk) 11:04, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
make that "home-use-oriented application software". e.g. for CP/M you could get Electric Pencil for a word processor. For the PDP-11 you could get... hm.... TECO and Runoff, and Runoff only if you had the floppy drive and were running RT-11. What I'm getting at is that the H11 was completely ignored by the rest of the home computer software and add-on hardware industries. Jeh (talk) 14:32, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

{{outdent} I'd forgotten about tape! My only hands-on with DEC machines was one course in 1978 where we used a (PDP 11/44? I think; row of fridge-size cabinets..) for signal processing in BASIC (pick the wrong algorithm and you could waste your whole lab slot doing one run on one data sample), and later we had a PDP (11/83? It was 20 years ago...) running the Melt Shop which I only got to reboot once (it was the IT department's baby to maintain, though it gave little trouble). I don't think Heath offered a tape drive. In 1977, it wasn't exactly commonplace to ask for a computer for Christmas - that had changed dramatically by 1987 or even earlier. --Wtshymanski (talk) 13:18, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

Compare with Elektronika BK[edit]

It's interesting to compare the features on the Elektronika BK with the H11. Clearly by 1985 even the Soviet Union recognized you had to have a keyboard, ROM BASIC, and a cassette interface if you were going to ask Ivan Sixpak to give up 4 month's wages for a "home computer". (And of course today if you spent 4 month's wages on a computer...it would be pretty flashy by 1977 standards or even by 1985 standards.) --Wtshymanski (talk) 13:58, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

Arbitrary Dividing Lines[edit]

There is a basic problem with any line of argument based upon a feature or aspect that is claimed to be prove that a computer is or isn't a home computer. The problem is that the dividing line is subjective and arbitrary. For example, if we say "home computers use a TV as a display, non-home computers have a dedicated display that is included with the system" that make a Commodore C64 a home computer but not a Commodore Executive 64. If we use as a criteria "has an interface allowing you to save programs on a standard cassette deck", then an Apple II is a home computer but not a Commodore C64 (it used a special digital-only cassette deck only available as a separate purchase from Commodore) All such feature-based distinctions are a matter of opinion, and thus will forever remain unsourced and a matter of argument and controversy. What can be sourced is whether the ads for the computer used phrases such as "for the home", "in the kitchen", "helps you run your business", etc. Guy Macon (talk) 18:59, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

Well, yes, but the features can be enumerated fairly easily. It's not hard to distinguish a consumer product from a hobby or specialist product; you would't classify a Toyota Corolla in the exact same category as a Unimog or a McLaren F1 car, no matter that they all have 4 wheels. A home computer was meant to be sold to peole who weren't going to make learning about opcodes and logic levels a full-time hobby; people who expected to use the computer for something other than learning about computers. A KIM 1 took so many add-ons to let it balance checkbooks or process words that you got a fair education in the details of the technolgy before you could use it for anything else. A C64, even if you had to drive back to the store to get a Datasette, was still a consumer item that didn't require knowledge of a vast amount of technical arcana before you could use it. It was "productized", or "consumerized" in a way that evena fully-assembled H11 would not be. I don't think the H11 was sold to the same sort of people; and I don't think Heath in their heart of hearts really expected that people would be giving their children $3,000 worth of Heath gear under the tree at Christmas even if they did say the PDP 11 was "coming home". In 1977 it was a bold new idea that one could even *have* a computer in the home. It wasn't until a few years later that the ultra-cheap 6502 and Z80 machines made the first wave into homes, and really an actually useful home computer had to wait until Windows machines got cheap enough that there was no longer a distinction, at least in terms of feature set, between a home machine and an office machine. --Wtshymanski (talk) 21:22, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
Actually, cars are a particularly illustrative case: a Honda Civic that doesn't get any more customization than a bumper sticker is a consumer product, but if you spend as much again on manifolds, tires, nitrous, etc. - suddenly you have a street racer, that is a hobby machine, not a (stock) consumer product. You can buy a Dell from a Web page and never open the case, or you can add hardware, overclock, add colored lights to the case - consumer product vs. hobby.
The reverse process, aside from the example of computers, could be something like photography - this did not become a consumer activity until it was productized. No doubt the people who'd been travelling around with wet plates and mobile darkrooms looked down their noses at Mr. Eastman's invention, but the level of effort required to make a picture declined by a couple of orders of magnitude after the point-and-shoot, roll film camera (with mail-order processing) came out. Word processing with an H11 wasn't quite like making a Daguerreotype, but it was a long way from point-and-click. --Wtshymanski (talk) 21:37, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
So your point (which you've changed, once again) would now appear to be that anything based on a PDP-11 can't possibly be a home computer, because it doesn't balance checkbooks out of the box and it does assume that you're going to learn programming in order to drive it.
There are two obvious counter-examples to this: firstly the Soviet PDP-11 clone. Secondly the BBC Micro. That was about as "home computer" as it gets, certainly as much as it got in the early '80s, yet it was still seen first and foremost as something to learn programming on (and for supporting evidence, see the massive BBC tie-ins with this machine). In the early 1980s, the assumption was that "home users", or at least their children, wanted to learn to program. Andy Dingley (talk) 21:48, 7 July 2011 (UTC)
Have I changed my point? I don't think so. The internal architecture has little to do with the suitability of a processor for a mass market machine, as far as I can see ( that's why we all know what segment registers are!). Something based on a PDP 11 could well be a home computer if it was a mass-market consumer product. (I wonder why DEC didn't get into personal or home computers in a bigger way?) Note that the Soviet PDP-ski has a video output, a keyboard, and a cassette interface right out of the box; you had to buy several seperate things ( and more importantly, know that you needed them) to get the same functions in an H11. Also notice that the BBC Micro and Soviet machine came assembled. I don't know how many H11s Heath sold (no-one does?), or what market they had in mind; it would be interesting to read how someone at Heath decided this was a desirable addtion to their kit range. An H11 was much more like an Altair or other S100-type machine than a household product; look at the case, for example - that's industrial looking, not an asset to any home decor (though at least it didn't have the rows of blinking LEDs like an Altair). --Wtshymanski (talk) 14:27, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

Catalog prices[edit]

According to the catalog pages posted at [2]:

  • H11 system unit, assembled, $1,595 (43 pounds shipping weight)

(You guys didn't tell me it came with FOCAL (what's FOCAL?) and BASIC, as well as an editor, assembler, loader, and debugger. Oh wait, they come on paper tape..)

  • H10 Reader/Punch (kit price only shown) $350

(Oh, wait, how do I plug it in? I see, a standard TTL parallel port...gues I'd better order...)

  • H11-2 Parallel Interface Card, assembled $150

(Where do I see what the BASIC is reading out? Oh, I want a keyboard and screen...guess I'd better order...)

  • H9 Terminal, fully assembled $675

(oh, I need a serial port to plug in the terminal)

  • H11-5 Serial Interface, fully assembled $150

Total value of the deal is $2,920, but Heath will knock off 5%. (Scaled to the average wage of 1978, that's probably nearly as proportionately expensive as the Elektronika BK ). And if I want the full gallon of 32K of memory and dual 8 inch floppy drives, that will only add another $4590 to the package price. That would be a $7500 system. That's more than a car (in 1978).

Yep, this is obviously aimed at the home user. Save up your paper route money, you're going to buy your own home computer...some day. --Wtshymanski (talk) 15:01, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

According to Household income in the United States, the 50th percentile household income in 1979 (year after the H11 catalog prices above) was $38,649 in 2003 dollars; that's around $25,000 in 1979 dollars. A full-up H11 is about 3 months total income, and can't print until you buy the:
  • LA 34 Decwriter (fully assembled, $1495). --Wtshymanski (talk) 15:15, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Glad to see that you are now using the word "assembled." I accept your apology for all your previous arguments about how difficult building a kit is for the home user.
So in 1977 a H11 system unit, assembled, cost $1,595 and had no monitor, printer, disk drives, etc. In 1976 an Apple I with 4K of RAM cost $666.66 - no keyboard, no monitor, no storage (cassette interface was an extra-cost add-in board), no printer, no case - just a bare board. In 1977 an Apple II cost $1,298 with 4 kB of RAM and $2,638 with 48 kB of RAM - but you did get a keyboard and a case. If you wish to claim that a H11 is not a home computer based upon it being expensive, you have to exclude the Apple II as well.
Or we could talk about the Apple Lisa - first introduced in 1983 at a cost of $9,995 US$ ($21,693.67 in 2009 dollars).
Now of course there are significant differences between an Apple II and a Heathkit H11, but price (like availability fully assembled), is not one of those differences. As has been explained before, you can compile a list of attributes to use to include or exclude computers from the "home computer" category, but your list will be forever be arbitrary and unsourced. Whether a computer was marketed as a home computer, on the other hand, is easily sourced, verifiable, and non-controversial.
Again, please consider the possibility that someone else besides you might know something about a topic, and please reflect on how often (zero?) you have ended up changing your mind because of someone else's arguments. What are the odds of one person always being right? Guy Macon (talk) 14:34, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
How else does one put a kit together than by assembling it? When you had to make solder connections to listen to radio, radio was a hobby; it wasn't a consumer product until you could buy a radio that didn't require soldering. An Apple II in 1977 is still a machine for an enthusiast, but at least once you brought it home you could plug it into your TV and cassette recorder and pretty much do personal-computer things with it (write BASIC programs, play games, etc.). At the same price point, I think the H11 gave you a pilot light and two reset buttons. I don't think we're really all that far apart; someone who seriously expected to sell computers to non-technical household users would make sure that the consumer would be able to use the machine for something other than running up the electric bill without purchasing as much again in extra hardware. Clearly Heath didn't expect to sell a lot of these to persons other than hobbyists, as is clear from the same ad that you keep beating me over the head with. If the H11 is a home computer, why isn't an Altair? --Wtshymanski (talk) 14:54, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
The differences between an Apple I and an Apple II are highly illuminating, aren't they? Which one is the "home" computer candidate? Which one is th excuse for endless catalog shopping to buy all the bits needed to make it actually do anything? An Apple II is a lot closer to a "home" computer than either an Apple I or an H11. --Wtshymanski (talk) 16:05, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
The distinction is that the Apples, the Altair, and the H-11, were all intended to be purchased for use by hobbyists at home, as opposed to intended for business use. That is what makes them all "home computers." Wlindley (talk) 13:43, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
There are "hobby computers" and "home computers". Hobbyists will put up with all kinds of inconvenience and expense that a less technical user will not tolerate. Restoring a '57 Chevy today is a hobby project, but buying a minivan to haul the kids to soccer practice is a consumer product purchase ( a "personal automobile", to coin a phrase.) (In 1957, the '57 Chevy would not have been a hobby car!) Not too many households bought Altairs for checkbook balancing and recipe files. The folks at Mattel, Commodore, Radio Shack, Texas Instruments, etc. seemed to have a pretty consistent idea of what features needed to be in a "home computer", most of which were missing out of the H11. Notice all the things present on the Apple II that didn't exist on the Apple I - consumer goods come in cabinets and don't have wires all over the table top, for one. Oh well, at least the H11 could fit through the door and ran on single-phase power. --Wtshymanski (talk) 14:04, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
Looking back from the perspective of 2011, you may be right; but from the contemporary perspective of the 1970s, there was every expectation that a "computer for home use" would only be of interest to the highly technically proficient. Remember, Touch-Tone (tm) telephones and microwave ovens were futuristic curiosities and few had seen a laser outside of a laboratory. "Home computers" and "hobby computers" in 1979 were interchangeable terms. The H-11 was sold as a home computer and, if you peruse the pages of BYTE magazine at the time, it was expensive but far from atypical. Wlindley (talk) 20:37, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Even from a 1977 perspective an H11 didn't look as much like a home computer as did a Commodore PET. The PET at least let you load and save programs, had a keyboard and screen, and had a ROM BASIC. Whereas the H11 required at least one expensive peripheral and interface card to load paper tape BASIC or any of the utility programs packed with it, and required an expensive terminal. The consumer actually didn't get anything usable as a computer for $1295, whereas the H11's contemporaries at least lit up and did things right out of the box. --Wtshymanski (talk) 21:50, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

Good thing the category isn't "home computers that are useful out of the box" then. Rather than piling on an endless list of features that seem to you to prove that a computer is or isn't a home computer, how about addressing the argument that any such list is a subjective and arbitrary matter of opinion, and thus will forever remain unsourced and unsourceable. What can be sourced - and thus meets Wikipedia's quality standards - is is whether the ads for the computer marketed it as a home computer, a business computer, or a hobbyist computer. Guy Macon (talk) 00:15, 12 July 2011 (UTC)
But of course all knowledge is subjective; we are each trapped in Plato's cave. You can deconstruct the periodic table as a social convention, if it pleases you. --Wtshymanski (talk) 13:22, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Home computer redux[edit]

And again the edit warring starts, even after a block was doled out. After perusing the various vintage advertisements for the kit, I can see that this computer was clearly and consistently marketed to the home hobbyist. All other arguments fall away in the face of that truth. It was a home computer. Binksternet (talk) 02:38, 6 September 2011 (UTC)

See above. Still the wrong category. --Wtshymanski (talk) 03:37, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
What does the category "Home computers" mean? "Computers that were marketed as turnkey machines for home users" (like the PET, the TRS-80, etc.), "computers that were marketed to hobbyists", or "computers that were actually bought and used a lot at home"? The H11 was definitely not marketed as a turnkey machine for home use and there was essentially no software for home use for it either. It was very clearly a hobbyist's or enthusiast's machine. I notice that the Altair 8800 and the Intel Imsai 8080 aren't in the "Home computers" category either (and they were used in far more homes than the H11, and there was a lot more software for home use for them too). Maybe the real problem is that there's not a "Hobbyists' computers" category. Jeh (talk) 07:05, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
How about "home computer" meaning "Computers that were marketed for home use", no more or less than that. Not introducing arbitrary distinctions about whether disks were required or excluded, or whether self-assembly was a bar to it (Or are you planning to exclude the ZX-80 too?) Andy Dingley (talk) 22:07, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
So then the Altair 8800 and the Imsai 8080 should be added to the category—along with of course the Honeywell 316, as there is absolutely no question that it was marketed for home use. Jeh (talk) 22:56, 6 September 2011 (UTC)
Do you have any evidence that the Altair was ever aimed at being a home computer? (I know little of the Imsai) This is why I don't see "hobbyist computer" as a simple replacement for these easrly computers. Home computers were targeted at the home, even if this was barely credible - remember those cassette-based chequebook balancing programs and recipe databases? Unworkable, but an unworkable home computer all the same. Of course the Honeywell 316 wasn't a home computer, but the Kitchen Computer certainly was. Just as much as Ford's atomic concept cars of the same time were still automobiles, rather than spaceships or jet aircraft. Andy Dingley (talk) 00:30, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm awestruck by the scholarship here. Let's see..here's the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics off my bookshelf. Skimming the article..."Altair 8800 Minicomputer", no less....There we go. "The era of the computer in every home-- a favorite topic among science-fiction writers -- has arrived! It's made possible by the Popular Electronics/MITS Altair 8800, a full-blown computer...", yada yada,...65000 subroutines at one time (but they'd all be 1-byte "return")...."The computer is a complete system." (glad you think so, Messers. Roberts and Yates) "The program can be entered via switches located on the front panel, providing a LED readout in binary format."
Whole bunch of technobabble about instruction sets, registers, etc. then on page 36 we get to "Some Applications for the Altair 8800 Computer". Let's see. Programmable scientific calculator. Nope. Multichannel data accquisition system. Nope. Automatic control for ham station. Hobby, but not home-computer-ish. Sophisticated intrusion alarm system with multiple combination locks (only till the power flickers, but houses need locks). Automatic IC tester - not a home computer application. Whole bunch more applications..."Automatic controller for heat, air conditioning, dehumidifying" - well, houses have AC. But I need not worry. They used the word "home" in the article, therefore by the consensus logic of Wikipedia this MUST be a home computer and should immediately be added to the category.
But seriously...just because you can get it through the door, doesn't make it a home computer. Lumping the H11 in with *clearly* household oriented machines such as the PETs and TRS80s and later, the C64, is including a steam locomotive in with the Model Ts - yeah, it's wheeled transportation and one guy can drive it...but it's not really in the same market. --Wtshymanski (talk) 02:50, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Of course the Altair was aimed at home users rather than the professional market. It premiered as a kit in Popular Electronics magazine, which was an electronics hobbyist publication, not aimed at pros at all. Later, after the computer hobby specialty magazines like Byte and Kilobaud and Interface Age had sprung up, it was most certainly advertised there (as was the H11); it was not advertised in, for example, Datamation. Same for the Imsai, which was essentially an Altair clone. Jeh (talk) 06:10, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Right. It's either a home computer or a professional computer, there's no conceivable third category we could possibly imagine. I'm sure the keeper of the family budget was delighted to spend $400 in 1975 dollars on something that, once soldered together, would provide such massive utility around the house. What was that again? Oh, right, the automatic IC tester thing---clearly a useful household appliation. There *was* no "home computer" market segment in 1975, it would be as if you were talking about home video recorders in 1958. ENIAC was too big to fit through the front door. But are we *sure* the Antikythera device was never a decoration to some wealthy merchant's front parlor? --Wtshymanski (talk) 13:44, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
I am not convinced that we cannot create another category—Hobbyist computers—to solve this impasse. A good number of sources identify the 1975 Altair, for instance, as the first or at least an early influential "hobbyist computer":
The "hobbyist computer" is identified by many observers as a type. I don't see why should not do so ourselves. Binksternet (talk) 14:50, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── That category could collect a lot of machines that were never really intended to hook up to the cassette recorder and home TV set. But that would be a sensible solution to this problem. --Wtshymanski (talk) 15:03, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
Or does that category overlap and duplicate what we already call "Early microcomputers" ? --Wtshymanski (talk) 15:00, 8 September 2011 (UTC)
The PDP-11/03 (DEC's packaged version of the LSI-11/03 board with Q-bus chassis and power supply) would be an "early microcomputer" but it was not sold for home use nor pitched at hobbyists. But it's an H11 except for the need to assemble the H11's box. Jeh (talk) 07:40, 9 September 2011 (UTC)

Words not Bytes[edit]

It's 32K *words* not bytes - so at least in theory you could run e.g. the UCSD Pascal System I.3...IV.X on it. (Andy) — Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.4.246.165 (talk) 12:59, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

I concur with Andy; PDP-11 specs are in 16-bit words. Adjusted article accordingly. – 2*6 (talk) 23:00, 3 January 2017 (UTC)

But why don't we just list the quantities in the far more widely-understood bytes? Jeh (talk) 23:16, 3 January 2017 (UTC)
The contemporary common unit was the machine word, rather than the byte. Especially when word lengths were evolving from 8 to 16 bits, the common comparison was to equate words rather than bytes, even though this gave an apparent disadvantage to the longer word machine (it takes twice as many chips to provide "32K" of memory). Just look at the sources used here. Andy Dingley (talk) 00:08, 4 January 2017 (UTC)
Until the mid-60s the "contemporary common unit" for the frequency of radio stations in the US was the kilocycle, not kHz. And you can find plenty of old references that show that usage. But we use the SI units in our articles, even articles about stations that were first licensed in the "kilocycle" era (most of them, anyway). Nor do we list the sizes of ancient objects in "cubits" regardless of how many contemporary references use that unit. The contemporary common unit for data storage now is the byte. WP:MOSNUM does not support the use of any base units for quantities of information other than the bit or the byte. Jeh (talk) 03:50, 4 January 2017 (UTC)
Kilocycles are the same unit as kilohertz, merely an alternative name. So there's no loss if one name is used rather than the other.
Also, radio isn't limited to the US and UK practice was instead to identify by wavelength. So are you suggesting that UK radio station articles for "Fabulous 208" should be renamed to Nachtsender 1212? Andy Dingley (talk) 11:51, 4 January 2017 (UTC)
Obviously not, any more than I would insist that the station here that IDs as "Jazz 88" should be described in our text as "Jazz 88.3". Nevertheless we still say it broadcasts on 88.3 MHz. A station name (or "moniker") is what the station calls itself, as opposed to how we describe it. For stations from the "wavelength" era the claimed wavelength should be in the article but a translation to kHz or MHz should follow in parens. Jeh (talk) 01:39, 5 January 2017 (UTC)
The question on how to specify this memory specification seems to boil down to consistency within the Wikipedia versus consistency with original documentation. The article yesterday was wrong; it stated the maximum capacity was 32 kb. Why was it wrong? My presumption would be that the author who wrote that found some original documentation or advertising, saw "32 k", and it did not even occur to them that it would mean something other than 32 kb. Assume now that we changed this Wiki article to say "64 kb". Later, a Wiki user happens to do further reading, and they see "32 k" again. We have just confused them on behalf of our own self-focused "consistency".
I have over-simplified to make my point. What is actually seen externally is more complex. Specs are more likely to say "32k x 16", "32 kwords x 16 bits", or in the context of everything else speaking of a true 16-bit processor, simply "32 kwords". I don't know how the original author got any of those twisted to "32 kb", but they did. My thoughts while editing the article was to avoid confusion by including the capacity in both words and bytes. Words were listed first to imply that is how it was originally spec'd. That said, I won't go into editor rage mode if someone simplifies it to only "64 kb", but I pre-question the wisdom of that decision based on the confusion which has already occurred. – 2*6 (talk) 20:41, 4 January 2017 (UTC)
" My thoughts while editing the article was to avoid confusion by including the capacity in both words and bytes. Words were listed first to imply that is how it was originally spec'd." I think this acceptable as long as the spec in bytes is sure to remain. Perhaps an embedded comment to that effect is in order. Jeh (talk) 01:39, 5 January 2017 (UTC)