Kits vs ready-made (was RE: Rebirth of IMSAI)

From: Richard Erlacher <>
Date: Wed Mar 24 18:16:55 1999

Kits appeal to a much smaller segment of the market. Here in the US,
selling kits offers a way to avoid having to meed stringent FCC
specifications for electromegnetic interference, among other things. For
that reason, if I were going to get into the business of selling a product,
I'd let the initial kit sales pay for getting past the FCC testing/approval
procedures. That way there would already be kit users out there to assist
and teach ready-built product users so I would not have to do that.

Kits are often more costly than ready-built products because kit builders
fix their mistakes, while you can't expect the user of ready-made stuff to
fix your mistakes. Tech support is a necessity, yet most kit builders don't
need it. Tech support is what costs when you're selling a ready-built
product for the home computer market.

What scares me about the notion of resurrecting the really old IMSAI product
line is that some of the designs, and this is more true of ALTAIR than of
IMSAI, by the way, took the characteristics of the logic family they were
using, mostly standard TTL, into consideration and would probably suffer
from glitches and other timing race conditions e.g. metastability if
current-generation and available pin-compatible HCMOS or LSTTL logic were
substituted. This probably wouldn't be too common, but I've done this (long
ago) when these logic families were new, and had mixed-to-poor results.
Mostly this was the result of placing a fast decoder where a slow one had
previously been specified, and mostly the result was not serious except
where one-shots (YUCHK!) and clocked logic were driven by it. This was
particularly true in DRAM circuit interfaces.

-----Original Message-----
From: Tony Duell <>
To: Discussion re-collecting of classic computers
Date: Wednesday, March 24, 1999 5:01 PM
Subject: Re: Rebirth of IMSAI

>> That's exactly why people don't build kits any more. The price so the
>> individual parts is higher than the cost of the commercaily assembled
>There are plenty of reasons for building kits other than the fact it
>might be cheaper than a finished product (and I agree, that's unlikely
>these days) :
>1) Most kits come with _much_ better documentation that the finished
>unit. It's rare to get an electronic kit without a schematic, for example.
>2) Since you assembled it, you know how to take it to bits for repair.
>3) You also know it was assembled correctly. Many finished devices that
>I've seen recently were full of dry joints, misfitted parts, etc.
>4) It's a lot easier to modify a kit.
>5) You probably learn something from making a kit.
>6) It's fun :-)
>In case you hadn't guessed, some of us _do_ still build kits, and do
>plenty of other things that make no financial sense at all ;-)
>> finished product. You need to find a surplus case that you can use.
>> would save a lot of money. Ditto the power supply and as many other parts
>> as possible.
>If I ever produce a computer kit (unlikely, as in the UK, kits have to
>meet the same EU directives as the finished unit..), I'd probably offer
>at least 4 versions :
>1) Docs only (you get to find all the components, etch PCBs, etc)
>2) Complete kit, including case, PSU parts, connectors, fixings, etc.
>3) PCB + components only. Everything that goes on the PCBs and nothing
>else. Well, I might include the mating parts for the connectors, but no
>off-board components, metalwork, etc.
>4) 'Rare parts kit'. PCBs + programmed ICs (EPROMs, PICs, etc) + any
>other chips that are hard to get.
Received on Wed Mar 24 1999 - 18:16:55 GMT

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