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.
Adios, Radio Shack — shamelessly stolen from somewhere, I’m sure nobody remembers who to give credit to for this. I borrowed it from Adafruit.
Since the Dayton Hamvention, I have been kind of lax in visiting the blogs I like to visit so I have been catching up lately. This story is from the Adafruit blog on May 16. Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy in February and, as in all bankruptcies, they are leaving many creditors hanging–not only banks and such, but vendors as well… and not just the big vendors. Smaller hobbyist vendors like Seeed Studio and Parallax will probably take a loss as well:
To put this into perspective, Radio Shack only owes Apple $38,584.19.
Something to remember if you start a small company catering to the maker movement and decide to distribute through a large chain. Adafruit themselves managed to avoid losing any money in the process by declining requests from Radio Shack to sell their products:
A few years ago RadioShack contacted Adafruit in an effort to stock our products in their thousands of stores around the USA. This sounds like a dream come true but we decided to decline and focus on our online store and partners who could supply a retailer with Adafruit products.
I saw this over on the Adafruit blog today. I don’t know why they called it “How Does Your Smartphone Know Your Location?“, to me it explains how any GPS receiver works. But maybe I’m the only person left that uses a GPS navigator that is separate from my cellphone. I don’t know. But it’s interesting. Especially in how it describes the workings of an atomic clock.
Adafruit has a featured article on their blog about the current state of Heathkit. When I was a lad I got to tour the Heathkit company in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a short trip from where I grew up. Up until the early ’90s, Heathkit helped many enter the world of electronics, computers, and ham radio by allowing them to build their own equipment and learn how it works step-by-step. In 1992 that all ended when Heathkit closed their doors to the hobbyist market and attempted to stay alive by serving the educational market. That ended in 2008.
Well, last year came an exciting announcement that Heathkit was going to rebuild. We all held our breath, but one year later we’re turning blue. Lady Ada and the intrepid sleuths at Adafruit set to find out exactly who these people were and what they were up to, and their article went viral.
1 year ago to the day today (12/20/2013) a member of the “board of directors” CEO/President of whoever may or may not own Heathkit did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) – it’s unclear who they are, they would not say when asked and there is not any information on their FAQ page about the ownership. During the AMA, the person with the account “HeathCompany” answered in first person, described the “board” and the “CEO” but didn’t provide any details. The person did say “The CEO is avid musician and composer” and as far as the management team claiming to own Heathkit now, the person said they are: “Active in the industry 25+ years ago? Yes. Hams 25+ years ago? Yes.”
This could be bad. Apparently there are lots of counterfeit FTDI232 chips out there–these are the chips that convert your USB to RS-232 serial or TTL serial.
The folks over at Hackaday and Adafruit are reporting that the latest Windows update includes a driver that nukes fake FTDI chips. It doesn’t just keep Windows from using them. It bricks them, rendering them unusable. Ever.
I have a few USB to serial devices, both board level and consumer devices. Most of them came from reputable sources (Modern Device, Arduino, Picaxe, Tripp-Lite, etc) but I have a few Chinese imports from eBay that I expect to fail the next time I plug them in. Adafruit reports that it
… requires it suppliers to only use genuine FTDI chips. However, no matter what it’s always possible counterfeit chips could be used when you purchase products from anyone, anywhere. We’re double and triple checking all our products and suppliers as an added precaution.
I’m assuming SparkFun will also issue a note addressing their products as well.
(as an aside, the Tripp-Lite Keyspan USB Adapter is the best USB-Serial adapter I have ever encountered. It has worked on industrial Allen-Bradley equipment, my mobile Kenwood radio, and everything else I have plugged it into. If you’re sick of the USB-Serial adapters that only sometimes work, shell out a few more dollars and buy one of these.)