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The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Electronics Kits

Engineering will never outgrow hobbyists

3 min read
The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Electronics Kits
Photo: Terry Perdue

Many older engineers first became interested in electronics through hobbies in their youth—assembling kits, participating in amateur radio, or engaging in other experiments. But I have wondered whether or not students entering engineering today had the benefit of similar experience.

The 1970s and 1980s were great times for electronics hobbyists. Heathkits were hot items, often newer and of better quality than commercial equivalents, featuring the latest hi-fi stereo equipment, for example. I remember poring over the catalog and rationalizing why I had to buy the newest widget. There were two memorable moments associated with each Heathkit—opening the packaged kit, and finally turning on the finished product. In between was kind of messy, but I thought that the world would always be like that: soldering individual components and connecting wires onto circuit boards.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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