Heathkit is back from the dead

Although now it’s impossible for a DIY nut to build electronics for less money than a factory, this wasn’t always the case. For 45 years, Heathkit produced inexpensive kits for just about everything. Heathkit closed it’s kit business in 1992, but now they’re back. They’re starting out with a few DIY kits at first, namely an ultrasonic garage parking assistant and a wireless swimming pool monitor.

Heathkit is calling all builders to submit their ideas for future kits. While this comeback rings of some other outlets with a rich heritage, Heathkit is still remembered fondly; Barry Goldwater jetted out to the Heath HQ twice a year for kits. Not many people are that attached to Realistic and Optimus gear.

If you’re wondering about the kind of stuff Heathkit offered, feel free to check out the 1984 catalog that features computers with 128kB of RAM available for only $1899.00 (yes, a very competitive price)

Tip ‘o the hat to [Jeffrey Bail (N1BMX)].

Comments

  1. chango says:

    Radio Shack selling more parts, now Heathkit is alive again. What’s next, new issues of Byte?

  2. David M. says:

    Neat. Looks like the look and feel hasn’t changed a bit though, straight out of the late 70s. Doesn’t change the concepts you’re learning one bit, but lets face it, gizmos are often sold because they “look cool”.

    I’ll be eager to see how this develops.

  3. The Cageybee says:

    Cool. Now all I need are a garage and swimming pool!
    ;-)

  4. iceguy says:

    If you look the catalog near the end, they even had an online catalog back in ’84

  5. fartface says:

    What they need….

    Bring back the HERO1 and the Microprocessor learning lab kits.

    Screw this garbage like a parking helper. GO right back to their heyday of real stuff that creates real engineers and gives real education instead of the toys that make someone learn to solder.

  6. Adam says:

    Heh, never heard of this before. Looks like I’ll be at the lab for most of this semester…

  7. Chuck Simmons says:

    I am so glad to see they are back! As a kid I really enjoyed getting Heathkit catalogs and looking at all the neat stuff.

  8. N1BMX says:

    Thanks for making an article from my e-mail.
    I hope that radio ops that read hack a day E-mail info@heathkit.com asking for amateur radio kits.

    I would love to build a 2KW amplifier or things like Digital SWR meters would be nice.

  9. JohnConnor says:

    If they started to produce kits for amateur radio folks like they did “back-in-the-day”, then maybe it would be a good start.

    Presently, only Elecraft is the only contender in that market niche.

    I still have my old Heathkit SB-104A HF rig right next to my Heathkit GC-1005 digital clock (both still going strong since I built them back in the late 70’s). Also had a Heathkit H-8, and H-11 computer. I regret having sold them.

  10. anyone says:

    this is great news! i still have my decade resistor box and assorted capacitance value box. use them all the time!

  11. ENKI-][ says:

    Here’s to hoping they produce new items in the Heathkit Hero line. I’ve wanted a Hero ever since I saw it pictured in a magazine.

  12. Cubby says:

    Good to see ‘em making a comeback. I’ve got a capacitance tester that my father put together back in the early sixties and it still works!

    Just need to get a user manual for it, which got lost years ago.

  13. Shadyman says:

    WINNING!

  14. veneficus says:

    I never heard of HeathKit before but good luck to them. Their current products are very overpriced though: $310 for a solar tracker, $490 for an analog 25MHz Oscilloscope. It looks like they are stuck in the past.

  15. [oceans76] says:

    Wow, back then you could get college credit from taking a Heathkit course.

  16. Allen Moore says:

    Back in the day, I built one of their oscilloscopes (5 MHz!), a 0-50V/1.5A power supply, and a digital clock. I sold the ‘scope while still at college, but am still using the power supply on my bench, and my son’s using the clock. The quality of their kits and instructions was superb.

  17. Tweeks says:

    HERO HERO HERO!

    Tweeks

  18. Jody says:

    This is awesome! Loved Heath stuff. I recently was given a 1970s Heathkit 23″ TV.
    I’m not sure of the policies of posting “sales” on here, but if anyone is interested in it, drop me a line at jodyathandh@gmail.com.

    everything is there and looks great, but the transformer has a little rust on it so I’m hesitant to plug it in without checking it out a little more.
    Manuals included (all 8 of them)hehe

    But yeah, it’s great to see Heath Kits are back!

    Heath Kit, Commodore 64 and Lego made me who I am today!

  19. Scott says:

    This is GREAT news, I loved Heathkit.

  20. turbochris says:

    haaa ha we had a Heathkit store on Long Island. It was closed by the time I had the means to actually afford any of their stuff. I did end up finding a nice Heathkit 2 1/2 digit NIXIE multimeter at a garage sale, the 1/2 digit was a neon bulb!it still works! An old friend built one of their TV’s a while back, part of the kit was building an oscilloscope to help finish the TV. My friend kept the TV but gave me the scope, it still works too! There was also Lafayette Radio Electronics on long Lsland, they became Circuit City. Fry’s is the closest thing to any of this right now near me( 2 hrs away….).

  21. N0LKK says:

    $1567.00 for a 25 MHz oscilloscope. In my opinion that kind of money would be better spent towards an education at brick,mortar tech school. Use their instruments, bread board, components. Hoping their instructors the the primary multi-media having worked in the field long enough to present the material well. I don’t see the new Heathkit home schooling company providing kit for Amateur radio gear, as the finished product would require license to use.

  22. KillerBug says:

    An education at a brick and mortar tech school? That is $20K+…and when you are done, you are left with 10-year old information, no tools, and no job prospects. (ITT proudly proclaims that about 25% their graduates from last year are now in Iraq because that was the only job they could get…while about 25% of them are unemployed, and at least 25% are working in non-tech fields…of course they say all these things in happier terms like, “Many of our graduates go on to work for the military and more than 75% of graduates found jobs within 12 months of graduation”)

  23. Jonathan Wilson says:

    I recon someone should go back and make the modern incarnation of the Heathkit H-series computers or the Altair 8800 or the other kit computers.

    Something with a fully documented ARM or AVR CPU, flash RAM and ROM, some sort of connectivity for input/downloading code/file transfers (most likely USB), VGA for display output, small audio circuit/speaker so the thing can make noise and so on.

    Something for people who want a computer where all the hardware is documented and where you can write directly in machine code if you are so inclined and with no OS to get in the way of talking directly to the hardware. Something that isn’t just an undocumented black box or a mess of custom kernel patches and userspace blobs that tell you as little about the hardware as the manufacturers can get away with.

  24. Ryan Mercer says:

    Awesome! :)

  25. Microguy says:

    Oh man!! HK was how I got my start in electronics (sort of). My folks bought me a SW radio kit inn the early 70’s. They figured instead of taking stuff apart to see how it worked, it’d be better to put one together!
    Worked great for many years. And I learned a lot, and it was the beginning of a life long career.

  26. dan says:

    It’s not impossible for the DIY nut to build cheaper than they can buy. not by any stretch of the imagination.

    It’s just that you have to be looking at high ticket items and be competent at what you’re doing.

    Sure, it’s near impossible for a DIYer to bring a product to market at less of a cost, but that’s not to say it’s impossible.

    Do you really think that you can’t build a pair of floor standing, bi wire reference speakers finished in real wood for less than the few grand a corporation will want you to spend?

    Do you really think that the DIYer can’t make the icuffs featured on hack-a-day a few weeks ago for less than their over $100 price tag?

    Do you really think that you can’t build a guitar amp, that will give an awesome sound for less than the cost of buying a Fender or Marshall amp?

    The parking sensor is a start. and it’s exactly on the right track.

    Now stick the sensors on a wire and make the LEDs beeps and you have a retrofit system that fits into cars that don’t have them built in from the factory.

    http://www.maplin.co.uk/4-sensor-wired-reversing-kit-265097

    like that, except when you build yourself you can do it a lot cheaper than the £50(GBP) that they are asking. -I know I drive a fairly modern car that just doesn’t have this. I have the choice of a £200 retrofit from a manufacturer, a £50 kit from Maplin, but if I’m going the kit route I’d rather self assemble and have it only cost £10. probably not even that!

    they need to be looking at their old catalogues (and their competitors at the time) and seeing what can be brought up to date for the modern world.

    example:
    guitar amps,
    stereo amplifiers,
    (guitar) effects units,
    disco lights,
    clocks for use in the home,
    weather stations…

    Fair enough, some of those things won’t be cheaper, it’s probably now impossible to build a multimeter cheaper than they can be made in huge factories, but sometimes that’s just not the point.
    Sometimes building stuff yourself isn’t about making it the cheapest, sometimes it’s about making it the best, or just the satisfaction of doing it.

  27. William Ward says:

    Hummmm, does this means that Don Lancaster will publish the “build your TV typewriter” again?

    Hummmmm, now I’ll need a KSR teletype machine!

  28. Bob Hill says:

    Neat. I still have both my Analog and Digital trainers (and use both for breadboarding, built in power supplies are quite convenient) and have many fond memories. First DOS computer was a Zenith Z158 and I have many memories of the Heath/Zenith products. I’ve got a HK sig generator that still sees a lot of test bench use.

  29. Tim Plummer says:

    The Heathkit Hero robot series to my knowledge are now owned by Robert Dooer http://www.robotworkshop.com Not sure that Heathkit can come back out with a Hero series unless they work out a deal with the one guy smart enough to buy up all the NOS parts and the name & printed material. Regarding the Hero 1, I’ve owned 3, really cool & in my opinion, high end tech for 80’s gear.

  30. Engineer Krause says:

    Hero resurrection with Raspi controller would be kind of awesome>?

    The other cool thing would be an FPGA computer that would emulate various vintage computers.

  31. rohmell brills says:

    Well, they didn’t last long… Looks like nobody wanted a parking or pool sensor.

    http://www.arrl.org/news/heathkit-educational-systems-closes-up-shop

  32. Chuck Vinson says:

    Heathkit may claim they are back, but that is pure BS. The two major HAM radio magazines in the USA (QST and CQ) appear to be skeptical at best. Heathkit leaves no contact page, email, phone number or anyway to find out who is in charge of things. The Michigan authorities also do not seem to have a listing of the owners or any online permit for business according to CQ magazine. As much as I like Heathkit products, why must the “new” company owners be so secretive? It smells very fishy.

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