Tuesday 15 November 2022

Ever Heard Of Heathkit's SS-8000 Digital Transceiver? .... Me Neither!

courtesy N8RS

The Heathkit SS-8000 was a unique synthesized HF transceiver (160-10m) originally designed as a kit in 1978. The reason that very few hams have heard of it is that it was never released … and only three were ever prototyped!

Robert Sumption, N8RS, is an ex-Heathkit engineer who worked on the project back in the late 70s. He recalls that after evaluating the project, it was deemed too complicated to be offered as a kit, since once built, most builders would not have the test equipment needed to align it properly. Consequently all three units were dissembled and sent to a local scrapyard!
Fast forward to 2015 when Bob came across all of the boxes of ‘scrap’ that someone had rescued from the scrapyard back in the day and the entire pile was now selling on eBay.
Would the SS-8000 live to meet it’s intended destiny? Bob describes this very challenging project in his six 5-minute videos.
Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

I hope you find the videos as interesting as I did. It seems that Bob has some terrific skills and a lot of patience!


Michael said...

I have, but probably based on the same origin story.

Heathkit's last ham transceiver wasn't a kit, or not by much, and was actually a Japanese rig, I forget what. It was clear kits were in the past.

Cliff - WA0JTW said...

It was a Yaesu something-or-other. Looked nice (saw one in a Heathkit store once), but I couldn't afford it.

Anonymous said...

I want one. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve. One guesses that the SS-8000 was to atone for the SB-104 fiasco. I operated an SB-104 a few years ago at UBC. I remember the 104's introduction in the Heath catalogs. This young red-blooded kitbuilder drooled. Good thing I couldn't afford it.

Inside the SB-104 was a shielded crate with equal size plug-in boards. Much like an old S-100 micro. The boards did not have gold edge fingers but pins and headers. In my specimen the pins had oxidized. The VFO was conventional despite the digital add-on. The variable cap in the VFO was also oxidized, so the CW note was rough on both receive and transmit.

By comparison, 1970s Japanese rigs like my Kenwood TS-520 avoided plug-ins. There were many boards in them, but they were hard-wired. The Japanese eventually developed a reliable header system so you could remove boards more easily.

The matching power supply was a simple circuit with 2 pass transistors and a huge heat sink. Two was considered enough for hams; early Icom synthesized HF rigs were sold with similar supplies -- only 2 pass devices for almost 20 amp capability.

That the SS-8000 was to be an Japanese offshore build doesn't surprise me. All the bad SB-104's coming in must have driven the Benton Harbor rebuild department verging on implosion.

UBC's SB-104 was donated by the E.E. department which had acquired it for some forgotten non-ham purpose. We stored it with the rest of the assets when we disbanded the UBC club in 2020.

- Dan VE7DES