Electronics History and News: Heathkit Finally Opens!

Heathkit logo (fair use)

A couple of years ago, rumors started to circulate that Heathkit was coming back.  Last December I posted about “The Great Heathkit Mystery” when the good folks over at Adafruit started poking at the Heathkit hornets nest and finally got them to talk:

Our friends at Adafruit Industries have been doing some sleuthing, and we agree- it’s time for an update. Happily, there’s plenty to report.

Exciting things are happening in the Heathkit labs. We’re pleased at the great feedback from our beta-testers on a range of quality products we’ve been actively developing. As you know, we had hoped to get several of these new products out for the Christmas market, but our team is creating so many new ideas that we’ve been slowed by the sheer work of creating patents (by law we must file them before we may sell our new products, or even advertise them). We remain hard at work, and as excited as ever to ship finished new products meeting Heathkit’s high standards.

The last ten months have given us nothing but rumors — including rumors of a Heathkit retail store. And we waited.

Until now.  I saw this “insider” email from Heathit on Dan KB6NU’s blog:

Dear Heathkit Insider,

“What I really hope Heathkit will produce,” a Silicon Valley colleague recently told me, “is a new radio kit with a beautiful finish, maybe in rosewood.” Something great to enjoy building and learn from, and also visually stunning, so he could put it in his living room and keep it forever.

Today, my friend gets his wish.

Exciting news. More on that in a moment.

Dan isn’t impressed (and quite frankly, neither am I) because this new radio kit isn’t really anything that he or I would pay that kind of money for (emphasis mine below on Dan’s quote):

So, what’s the exciting news? A new QRP transceiver? Maybe a shortwave radio? A new 100-in-1 experimenter kit for Makers?

Uh-uh. Sorry. The “exciting” news is a tuned radio frequency (TRF) AM band (yes, I said AM band) radio kit that costs $150. Not only is that crazy expensive for an AM radio, it doesn’t even come with a speaker. On top of that, there’s no soldering. You screw all of the components to the board. I’m speechless (well, figuratively, not literally).

The “new” Heathkit has also acquired the rights to the intellectual property of the “old” Heathkit manuals, so instead of bootlegging a PDF from the Internet you can now feel free to buy them.  Or you can just keep on bootlegging them.  I’m not going to tell anybody.

So what can you actually buy now from the “new” Heathkit besides an overpriced silent AM radio and a bunch of old manuals?  Not very much, so far, as shown on their Products page.  It all seems to be spare parts and upgrades for vintage kits.

I hope that they can stage a comeback and appeal to the multitudes of makers out there.  If they do this right, many people will learn a whole lot more than simply programming an Arduino or connecting up a Raspberry Pi.  If they do this wrong, they’ll disappear again.


Published from DFW, Texas.


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