The Heathkit Mystery

Heathkit is a company that requires no introduction. From the mid-40s until the 90s, Heathkit was the brand for electronic kits ranging from test equipment, HiFis, amateur radio equipment, computers, to freakin’ robots. Their departure was a tragic loss for generations of engineers, electronic tinkerers and hobbyists who grew up with these excellent and useful kits.

Although Heathkit is dead, 2013 brought an announcement that Heathkit was back in the biz. A Facebook page was launched, a Reddit AMA was held, and the news was that Heathkit would rise from the dead in the first half of 2014. It’s now Christmas, 2014, and there’s no sign of Heathkit anywhere. Adafruit has been keeping a watchful eye on the on the (lack of) developments, and the only surprising thing to report is that there is nothing to report. There has been no new announcement, there are no new products, the “official” Heathkit website hasn’t been updated in a year, and no one knows what’s going on.

Adafruit has decided to dig into the matter, and while they’ve come up with a few items of note, there’s not much to report. A trademark for ‘HEATHKIT’ was filed October 27, 2014 – two months ago. An email was sent to the attorney of record and there has been no response.

This trademark was granted to Heathkit Company, Inc., incorporated in Delaware. Searching for any companies in Delaware using the Heathkit name returns exactly two results: Heathkit Company, Inc., and Heathkit Holdings, Inc.. Adafruit is probably going to pay the $20 to the Delaware Department of State to get the detailed information that includes Heathkit’s tax assessment and tax filing history.

The last bit of information comes from a whois on the heathkit.com domain. The relevant contacts have been emailed, and there are no further details. The Heathkit virtual museum was contacted for information, as was the news editor for ARRL.org. Nobody knows anything, or at least nobody is telling anybody anything.

To date, the only physical evidence of Heathkit’s rebirth is a geocache that was left at Brooklyn Bridge Park, announced during the Reddit AMA. This geocache was recovered by reddit user IFoundTheHeathKit, a throwaway account that had no posts before or since finding the cache. We have no idea what was in that geocache, what the ‘secret passphrase’ or set of instructions was, or if anything ever came of the promise to send one of the first new kits.

So there ‘ya go. A lot of words but no information. If you have any info, the Adafruit crew would like to have a word with you.

Update

The person who found the Heathkit geocache has been found:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The full comment referred to below is,

Hey, person who found the Heathkit geocache here. The secret passcode was an Einstein quote about radio vs wired communication (invisible cats), and they said they’d send me something in early 2014. Never had any communication except through FB, and they haven’t replied to any of my recent messages.

IFoundTheHeathKit might want to email Adafruit with a copy of all the emails.

Heathkit Clock Updated with a PIC32 and GPS

heathkit-clock

One of [Bob’s] most treasured possessions is a Heathkit alarm clock he put together as a kid. Over the years he’s noticed a few problems with his clock. There isn’t a battery backup, so it resets when the power goes out. Setting the time and alarm is also a forward only affair – so stepping the clock back an hour for daylight savings time means holding down the buttons while the clock scrolls through 23 hours. [Bob] decided to modify his clock with a few modern parts. While the easiest method may have been to gut the clock, that wouldn’t preserve all those classic Heathkit parts. What [Bob] did in essence is to add a PIC32 co-processor to the system.

Like many clocks in the 70’s and 80’s, the Heathkit alarm clock was based upon the National Semiconductor MM5316 Digital Alarm Clock chip. The MM5316 operates at 8 – 22 volts, so it couldn’t directly interface with the 3.3V (5V tolerant)  PIC32 I/O pins. On PIC’s the input side, [Bob] used a couple of analog multiplexer chips. The PIC can scan the individual elements of the clock’s display. On the PIC’s output side, he used a couple of analog switches to control the ‘Fast’, ‘Slow’, and ‘Display Alarm/Time’ buttons.

Continue reading “Heathkit Clock Updated with a PIC32 and GPS”

Turning Grandpa’s o-scope into a clock

clock

Around 1960, [Aaron]’s grandfather decided to try his hand at a new career in electronics repair. It didn’t pan out, but before he gave up he built a beautiful Heathkit oscilloscope, a model OR-1. Grandpa’s electronics career never took off, but years later it would serve as the impetus for [Aaron]’s own career in electronics. Now [Aaron] has too many oscilloscopes, but still wanted a way to preserve his grandfather’s legacy. An oscilloclock was just the project to do that.

Of course to turn an oscilloscope into a clock requires some interesting control circuitry, and [Aaron] didn’t skimp on his build. He created a custom control board that is able to draw any shape on the CRT screen using just circles; squashing circles to draw a line, and cutting the beam entirely to slice a circle in half.

This isn’t [Aaron]’s first oscilloclock by a long shot. He previously created this amazing clock completely from scratch. Still, using Grandpa’s old tools is a great way to make this oscilloscope useful again, even if [Aaron] is already up to his gills in test equipment.

Hackaday Links: Sunday, May 26th, 2013

hackaday-links-chain

The warmer months cometh and it’s time to think of this year’s Burning Man. [Matt’s] already set himself up with a sound-reactive LED project he calls the Seed of Life.

Older readers, and those who really know their hobby electronic history, will know the name Heathkit. Many readers tipped us off about their triumphant return. We’re not sure what form this reincarnation will take, but you can help shape it by participating in the survey.

Dust off that MSP430 launchpad and turn it into a composite video Pong console.

Here’s a way to use your Android phone as a computer mouse.

We’re not quite sure what this is, but turn your volume down before watching the video about a modular sythesizer hack.

[Arkadiusz Spiewak] wrote in to share some of the printing success (translated) he’s had recently with the H-bot style printer we saw a while back.

Strap an Arduino and an Electric Imp to your arm (and everyone else’s) and it’ll remember everyone you meet. You know, kind of like Google Glass but with geeky arm-wear instead of geeky headgear?

And finally, [Nerick] has just finished a thermometer project using Nixie tubes (translated).

Hackaday Links: July 20, 2012

Hey, it’s the 43rd anniversary of men first walking on the moon. Here’s some stuff we found to celebrate that. Fun trivia: for Apollo 11, [Neil] and [Buzz] didn’t go more than 200 feet from the LEM.

This is so incredibly sad

Remember Heathkit? A lot of cool kit-based electronics came from them. They’re out of business, but you can get all the Heathkit swag you can imagine from the repo man. A ton of stuff from the old Heathkit headquarters is being auctioned off in Byron Center, Michigan this Tuesday, July 24. Notable lots include a HE-Robot and a nice pair of o’scopes. If someone wants to pick up one of the catalog lots for us, we’d be thankful.

Troll Physics: ‘What is with this guy’ edition

We’ve seen [Fredzislaw]’s LED trickery before. The first time was a crazy 3 LED circuit, the reveal of which showed two AC power supplies in a battery connector. This time, [Fred] has two switches and an LED. Turn one switch on, the LED lights up. Turn that switch off and flip the other one, the LED still lights up. Turn both switches on, the LED goes off. Your guess is as good as ours.

Prototyping with a key fob remote

[Gary] wrote in to tell us about the dev board he’s been working on. It has either a PIC or AVR on the back side, broken out into 0.1 inch headers on the front. There’s a small solderless breadboard and an on-board RF link that uses a five-button key fob remote. Seems very useful, no matter what side of the PIC/AVR holy war you’re on.

Consumer Alerts: Software defined radio

Over on the RTLSDR subreddit, [photoscotty] bought this TV tuner dongle from Deal Extreme and received the inferior EZTV645 tuner. Unsurprisingly, Chinese manufacturers will just grab whatever is available, put it in an envelope, and ship it off on a slow boat from China. [photoscotty] is trying to return his dongle to DX, but until Sparkfun or Adafruit start selling these things (yes, there’s a market now get on it) you’ll have to be careful out there.

Wouldn’t this feel terrible against your skin all day?

[Colin] printed a watch band on his Makerbot. Apparently Shenzhen humidity didn’t play nicely with his nylon strap, so [Colin] made his own out of plastic. It’s flexible and has a neat looking clasp, as well as an awesome demo for what a 3D printer can actually do. Thingiverse files here.

Heathkit closes down, again.

With this rather large flip flop, Heathkit has closed its doors… again. The company that so many of us remember fondly from their myriad of electronics kits originally closed its doors in 1992. Last year, there was an announcement of a revival and a call for kit submissions. Unfortunately, it looks like that just didn’t work out. While this isn’t an official announcement, the facts appear to line up to Heathkit closing their doors.

If you’d like to re-live a few fond memories, here’s a Heathkit unboxing at EMSL.

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)].