Is Heathkit back?

-May 28, 2013

Most hams and EEs of a certain age remember fondly their first Heathkit. Everybody had at least one Heathkit. For hams, their products made it possible to get on the air with a decent-performing radio at a fraction of the cost of ready-built radios from Drake, Swan, and the rest. Even when Kenwood, Icom, and Yaesu got into the market, there was still space for Heathkits, but they seemed to get distracted with other things, went through a series of acquisitions by conglomerates, and eventually faded away.    

A few years ago, maybe 10, someone showed up at the Dayton Hamvention with a couple of truckloads of what appeared to be old inventory of Heathkits. The hams swarmed over the trucks and I think everything sold out. If you check eBay, you’ll find some unbuilt Heathkits there for really high prices … I guess there is a lot of nostalgia out there.

Recently someone sent me a link to Heathkit.com and hinted that I should look at the page source. I did, and buried in there was a “Hmm, what’s this?” comment and a link to a survey here. Cool!

It appears that someone took over the Heathkit.com Web domain recently.  I don’t know who it is, but it seems to be someone in Michigan, possibly with ties to the original company. Their (long) survey asks a lot of questions about what kind of kits you might buy if Heathkit were to offer themthings from home entertainment to ham gear to educational products and all manner of things in between. Personally, I’d like to see a solid-state HF-6M legal-limit amplifier for $2000 or less. I think it is do-able. Power tubes are getting too expensive.  A handful of 300W solid-state pallet amplifiers, clean 50V switching supply, and output combiner/filter is all it takes. I’d wind the toroids.

I’d like to see Heathkit get up and running again. When my kids reached the age where they were curious about how things work, I tried to find a kit for them to build. With Heathkit gone, the available kits were just not quite up to the same levelthe instructions were photocopied, not printed, and the drawings of how things should fit were pretty poor quality. But both kids built their own little FM radios from these kits, learned to solder, and got the thrill of turning an inanimate jumble of little pieces into something that performed a useful “living” function. Alas, this did not lead either one to a career in electronics or engineering. Maybe it would have been different if the kits were Heathkits.

So go to the Heathkit survey, give them some ideas, and maybe we can turn some youngsters into engineers. Or get access to some replicas of kits we built when we were young.

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