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Communications Hardware

Heathkit Educational Systems Closes Shop For Good 129

Posted by timothy
from the at-least-until-the-next-final-time dept.
scharkalvin writes with this excerpt from the American Radio Relay League's site: "'For the second time since 1992, Heathkit Educational Services (HES) has shuttered its doors. Rumors of the legendary kit-building company's demise were posted on QRZ.com, with several readers bringing the news to the attention of the ARRL. In August 2011, Heathkit announced it was returning to the kit building business, and in September, that it would once again be manufacturing Amateur Radio kits. ... On LinkedIn, a popular networking site, HES Chief Executive Officer Lori Marciniak listed her employment ending at Heathkit as of March 2012. Likewise, Heathkit's Marketing and Sales Director Ernie Wake listed his employment ending in April 2012. An unsubstantiated report on Wikipedia states that "[in] December 2011, Heathkit Educational Systems laid off most employees and in March 2012, the company indefinitely suspended operations."' It looks like Heathkit is gone for good. Their plans on re-entering the kit market died with the current economy."
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Heathkit Educational Systems Closes Shop For Good

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  • Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:35AM (#39955011)
    This is a sad day for education in America. I remember as a kid building stuff with HeathKit products. I guess no one wants to learn how things work and build them anymore. This, I would guess, is prime example of how education is dwindling. I am a proponent of lifelong learning too.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The readers of Make Magazine would seem to prove otherwise...

    • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cornface (900179) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:41AM (#39955107)

      I think it is less that "people" aren't interested in how things work, anymore, and more that nobody cares about amateur radio or clunky robots.

      The modern generation of people who would have been building Heathkit things years ago are building weird stuff out of Lego robotics or writing software, or any number of other outlets for inquisitiveness and ingenuity that didn't exist 30 years ago.

      • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:48AM (#39955237)

        One day every kid will have cheap access to a computer and a 3D printer.

        In that environment, a genius will appear and change the world.

      • I think it is less that "people" aren't interested in how things work, anymore, and more that nobody cares about amateur radio or clunky robots.

        I remember the day when you could build a Heathkit H89 PC or a Heathkit Oscilloscope (I still have the oscilloscope somewhere in storage). Heathkit was more than amateur radio and robots. It used to be general electronics. Of course *used to be* is probably to reason for its demise.

        When I built kit radios, I purchased them elsewhere. For example, I built TenTec's 6

        • Re:Sad (Score:4, Interesting)

          by cruff (171569) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:12AM (#39955615) Homepage
          I was really disappointed with the oscilloscope kit. I took pains to build it carefully, but the high voltage supply kept dying, so I could never really use the scope. I even sent it in for repair and it worked for all of a few weeks before it died for the same reason again. The only thing I kept from it were the probes and I repurposed part of the case as a anti-squirrel guard for a bird feeder.
          • by swschrad (312009) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @02:09PM (#39958171) Homepage Journal

            the wax-ender filter caps used on countless scopes out of Heath were not reliable and shorted a lot. replace with epoxy-fill from some source like CDE, and as long as you didn't kill the transformer, you should have it fixed for good.

            if you did kill the transformer, flip some filament transformer insulated to 1500 or 2500 volts backwards, feed from the AC line, and that will suffice.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              If only he'd had a working oscilloscope, maybe he'd have had an easier time finding the problem :D

        • I remember the day when you could build a Heathkit H89 PC

          I remember when I was in Grade 7 I had a buddy with an older brother who had built one of these. We used to play with it all the time. I still remember the blinking cursor preceded by the words "Benton Harbor Basic."

      • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TarpaKungs (466496) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:57AM (#39955369) Homepage
        I think it is that there is too much brain dead easy entertainment. My kids, given the chance, will ask to watch Netflix, fiddle with their computers (and I mean play online games, not even read Wikipedia or look for interesting stuff on YouTube). Then there is TV with 58 channels and 1% good content (which they will usually not find with odd exceptions). And modern electronics is perceived to be "hard" (well, it is, kind of) so "therefore anything simple enough to be do-able, must be boring". And yet, when I force them to do something like wire up a "2 way lighting circuit" with batteries and an LED, they actually find it interesting. But they are not bored enough by default to seek to do these things for themselves. That I think is the crux of the problem.
        • by hey! (33014)

          And yet, when I force them to do something like wire up a "2 way lighting circuit" with batteries and an LED

          I have logged and forwarded that to your state Department of Youth Protection.

          • Good call bro. LEDs contain gallium, arsenic, indium, aluminum, and, in some rare cases, *gasp* CARBON. If pulverized, crushed, combined with oxygen and released into the environment, in mass quantities, they could cause global warming. No responsible parent would ever allow that!
        • I think it is that there is too much brain dead easy entertainment.

          There's always been brain dead and easy options for entertainment - and the type of kids who sought out Heathkits have always been in a distinct minority. The golden age you allude to never existed.
           
          On top of which, as another poster said, kids that are interested in that kind of thing today have Mindstorm, or simulation games, or programming, or other things that weren't available back in Heathkit's heyday.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            When I was a kit I had far fewer entertainment options available, and this was only back in the 80s. No internet, computers were expensive and you had to buy the games instead of getting them free on Facebook. No mobile phones, only four TV channels.

            I think we expected more from a kit or a magazine back then, where as these days if you get bored of something after five minutes you just move on to the next thing.

            • I was a kid back in the 60's and 70's, so fewer options yet. And still there was a spectrum of attention spans and many distractions from sitting indoors doing, essentially, schoolwork.

              There was no golden age.

        • JayCar still makes kits

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Kill your TV.
          If you can't keep it off and force them to be bored, then you should unplug it except for rare movies for interesting science.
          The easist for me to get my son to be building with electronics was model rail road. N-gauge Kato.

          Playing online games can be mentally enriching, depending on the game.

          My son builds great things with minecraft, and quickly ripped out a simple yet cool portal 2 map.

          Oh, and to be clear, we have TV and satellite. But my kids don't need much direction to go do something else

      • Exactly. Today's Heathkit is an iOS subscription, xcode and itunesU. Or a linux seat, compiler and java how-to. No doubt some bright mind will find a way to resurrect the name and semblance of the original mission - the brand is likely an affordable expense. Many of us wouldn't be doing what we are today w/o the stuff Heathkit brought to our homes and classrooms. RIP.
      • Re:Sad (Score:4, Interesting)

        by John Bokma (834313) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @12:15PM (#39956677) Homepage

        My 5 yo daughter and 2 yo son are crazy about robots. When my daughter was younger she loved the R2D2 we got at Burger King. Later I bought the small R2D2 with sound effects.

        For Children's Day -- I live in Mexico -- I bought Fisher Price Trio, the set that has a robot (amongst other models) on the box. And guess which model both my children love the most.... correct, the robot.

        I soon want to try to teach my daughter some basic soldering skills. They also love to play with tools, for example, see: Hammer Time with Alice and Adam [youtube.com]. In my opinion, it's not about pushing tech on children, just making it available and let them discover the fun if they are interested.

        And no, children are not getting adult tools in day care, or a soldering iron... So there is certainly a task for parents here. But I have it easy, I work at home, so my children see me do things like cleaning a computer, connecting things, programming, etc. Also I have a huge book collection, including a lot of books for (older) children that in my opinion libraries should have ;-).

        As for Heatkit: sorry to read this. On the other hand, when I was 13 yo I desoldered parts from old TVs, made holes in a piece of acrylic plastic, and used that to support the components. I made "traces" with pieces of stripped wire. Oh, and I used a soldering iron for plumbing jobs, so I had to be very careful. And yeah, one day I accidentally picked it up by the wrong end. So, if you want to experiment with electronics there are plenty of options, no need for kits. Moreover, nowadays one can find countless circuit diagrams online, with instructions. Back in those days, I had to rely on the Elektuur (Dutch edition of Elektor).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tipo159 (1151047)

        I think it is less that "people" aren't interested in how things work, anymore, and more that nobody cares about amateur radio or clunky robots.

        I don't know about clunky robots, but, as posted here a few months ago, there is now a record number of ham radio operator licensees in the US. The statement "nobody cares about amateur radio" is uninformed.

        Look at the timeline. Announce that they were back in the kit business in August. Announce that they were making amateur radio kits in September. Lay off most of the employees in December. Sounds like something else was going on if they only had a couple months to make the "return to kits" plan w

        • by cornface (900179)

          A record number of amateur radio operators...in 40 years the population of amateur radio operators has increased from ~.15% of the population to ~.23% of the population, and the vast majority of that growth was 20 years ago.

          The 90's saw 189,000 new licenses added. The next decade the number dropped to 17,000 new licenses.

          It is a dying hobby. I'm sorry if that upsets you, but with the constant shrinking of non-user servicability of nearly all of the modern electronics that youth might be interested in, it is

          • by tipo159 (1151047)

            2012 Continues to Show Growth in Amateur Radio Licensing
            http://www.arrl.org/news/2012-continues-to-show-growth-in-amateur-radio-licensing [arrl.org]

            Looking at new license applications, there were 21112 in 2006, 26728 in 2007, 28066 in 2008, 30144 in 2009, 27528 in 2010, 24,072 in 2011 and 7532 in Q1 of this year. That doesn't look like a dying hobby to me.

            However, I don't think it has the DIY element as much as it used to have. But I have only had my license since 2008, so I don't know for sure. I just get th

          • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

            It is a dying hobby. I'm sorry if that upsets you,

            Ham radio is dying, and always has been. 50 years from now, it will still be dying.

      • When my dad was young, he build radios and other electronic devices from kits (including ones made by HeathKit). When I was in high school, I build a few computers, installed Ubuntu on them, and learned the basics of programming. Programming when my dad was in high school was inaccessible except to those at universities. Debugging was extremely hard, and programmers of that day did not have all of the useful libraries of code to choose from. Now, hardware and software have switched places in terms of ac
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Legos do not compare to working with a soldering iron, or learning basic trigonometyry to pass your Ham Exam, or understanding how an oscillator works, or an LC circuit. While I commend hackers on being able to code and do amazing things using any number of languages, their hardware skills stink and totally lack. It's like they do not understand HOW something works, they just know they can program it to do any number of tricks. It's like a race car driver who doesn't know crap about the engine, the axle

      • by ckblackm (1137057)

        I think it is less that "people" aren't interested in how things work, anymore, and more that nobody cares about amateur radio or clunky robots.

        I guess that's why there are over 700k licensed amateur radio operators in the US alone.. and why the ranks have been increasing.

    • Re:Sad (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:45AM (#39955167) Journal
      It depends on whether they were killed by apathy or by arduinos...

      The advent of the intertubes seems to have led to an incredible increase in the ease of sourcing parts and learning about designs(unless you need a part in-store, in which case maybe Radio Shack can stop pushing cell plans on you long enough to dig up a yellowed package of resistors from ~1985 and sell it to you for $5...) That must be a bit of a squeeze on the margins of bottom and top ends of the former demand for kit-built products.

      If, on the other hand, people used to care a lot more, that would be an unfortunate sign.
      • I concur. You can get Arduino sets at Fry's and Radio Shack for way less than what you used to be able to buy Heathkit Kits for. I remember going into the Heathkit store as a kid and thinking how great it would be if I were rich and could afford something...

        Converting my old allowance into 2012 dollar, I would have been able to afford an Arduino in ~3weeks.

      • Well I was asked whether the problem was ignorance or apathy. Really, I don't know and I don't care.

    • Re:Sad (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TarpaKungs (466496) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:48AM (#39955235) Homepage
      Me too. In the UK, HeathKit were pretty big. I remember their Freezer Door Alarm (simple but effective), but the best was their plasma Alarm Clock. Beautiful display (better than LED and LCD), nice and loud, reliable and direct mains driven (no crappy wall wart). Being frequency locked to the mains also meant no long term drift - I even remember the 50/60 Hz jumper setting that was carefully explained in the excellent manual. No shop bought alarm has measured up since - even the 60kHz radio time signal ones mostly have crappy LCD displays with poor backlighting. Doesn't anyone make decent alarm clocks anymore?
      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Seems I'm the only person I know who actually uses an alarm clock to wake up with. Everyone these days seems to be using their cell phones.

    • Yeah that is sad. I always wanted those, but never got them because my family didn't have the dollars to allocate to me getting stuff like that. Video games seemed like a better proposition, time-wise, especially because my elder brother liked the vidyas too. That's why I'm a programmer, not an engineer.

    • by Megane (129182)

      Wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

      Maybe if they had come out with something more like an Arduino (or an ET-3400) than a radio?

    • Yes, this is a very sad day, indeed. I too have fond memories of building Heathkit products. This has been the trend with electronics/science hobby-shops over the last two decades. Remember back when Radio Shack specialized in hobby kits, RC toys and electronics components?...Now all they do is whore out mobile phones and small, cheap electronics appliances.
    • by cnaumann (466328) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @12:08PM (#39956545)

      Check out Ramsey Electronics sometime. I have build several of there kits with my kids. My only gripe with them is that they do not offer the source code for any of there microcontroller-based projects, and seemed to get offended when I asked.

    • Re:Sad (Score:4, Insightful)

      by swordgeek (112599) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @02:31PM (#39958423) Journal

      There were three major factors that lead to Heathkit's success, which are no longer true.

      1) The cost of manufacturing an item was significantly higher than the cost of the parts.
      2) Items were sufficiently simple (or at least discrete) that they could be made at home.
      3) Electronics were expensive!

      Consider that at one point you could order a kit for about 60% of the price of the finished item. This could save you the modern-day equivalent of hundreds of dollars, and you could assemble it in a week or so.

      Nowadays, a chunk of electronics is worth about a hundred bucks or so. Turning it into a kit would be _more_ expensive, and would take three minutes to snap together, if it could be done at home at all.

  • sorry to hear it, a lot of hams were eagerly awaiting product.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:51AM (#39955291)

    Sad to see it go because it's kind of iconic of a culture who grew up to be scientists and engineers. Something really rare these days. The majority of kids these days are either out playing soccer or inside on the Xbox, DS or whatever. The majority have no more interest in Space than occasionally glancing up at the moon and no more interest in electrical engineering than how many gigs and how to plug it in.

    I think kids were more fascinated with technology in the 70s because there wasn't much of it around. Even color TV wasn't mainstream. These days, kids are saturated with it. The thought of building something just doesn't appeal to them.

    I don't think the market would have been there for Heathkit. The puttering around of a bunch of old geezers just isn't enough to run a company on.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know if the market would have been there.

      I used to dabble with transmitters when I was 16-17. Very cool, since that was at a time just before the internet and it made my world a whole lot bigger all of a sudden. Today, I can talk to anyone on the planet over the intertubes...

      Similarly, I recently wanted to receive NOAA satellite images. I got a cheap digital tuner dongle, installed GNU radio on linux and built a cool antenna. No need to buy a kit anywhere.

      Also recently, I wanted to build a device ar

      • by Jeng (926980)

        That is wonderful, do you share your successes with parts lists and instructions anywhere?

      • by matrim99 (123693)
        You already have the knowledge to do all of the things that you mentioned on your own. Kits are a "one stop" solution for others to learn these things; the kits easily address the inevitable "Where do I start?" question that curious novices will ask before beginning to learn.
    • In the 70s I was the only child at my school that was interested in electronics, chemistry, etc. In the late 80s I went to a technical school (Dutch: HTS) and I was the only one in my class who already knew the resistor color codes, etc. So, no, in my experience there was certainly not a booming tech interest, were I lived (the Netherlands, close to the Hague).

      As for now, my children grow up with a working-at-home dad who was interested in tech, etc. and still is. And nature. We have a very small library, b

    • The majority have no more interest in Space than occasionally glancing up at the moon and no more interest in electrical engineering than how many gigs and how to plug it in.

      And - that's always been true. There never was a golden age.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I think a lot of people would buy old heathkit designs, I know I would but I'm sure I'm not statistically significant, but only if they were genuinely inexpensive. I bet a lot of them just wouldn't be practical to offer any more.

    • by Eil (82413)

      Ah, nostalgia aint what it used to be.

      But back in reality, the maker movement is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to the information access and communication capabilities of the Internet. It's not like you have to go very far to find this stuff. There are at least a couple stories a week on Slashdot about Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or other random homebrew projects often made by or for the younger generation. There are http://hackaday.com/ [slashdot.org]">blogs that specialize in DIY electronics projects which showcase y

  • by StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:56AM (#39955339)

    My HW101 and my 35mhz scope will be ophaned at last. Fond memories and fund times. That 100 watt radio let me talk with Sidney from Chicago like they were in the next room, and Argentina. That was wonderful and using the first microcomputer I built myself and turned into a terminal. Sigh

    • by eclectro (227083)

      Not too sad. Most Heathkit stuff being built by it's owners, means that it is also repairable by it's owners (and other owners as it passes hands). Especially with Ham Radio equipment, there are active communities that collect/repair them.

      • Yes, true, but the issue I can across was the tubes were not readily available. They use to be available in almost any drug store, and they had a tester. Now not so much. The cost and time to repair has gone up considerably.

    • I have had no trouble at all restoring any.

  • I still have my Heathkit MM1 VOM and it still works. I built an AR-series stereo tuner/amplifier and an auto tachometer diagnostic meter and a dash mounted nixie tube tach. I was too chicken to get the color TV kit (expensive). One lesson I learned during the tuner construction was not to have two color blind people helping to pick out the correct resistors.
  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @10:57AM (#39955353) Homepage

    My guess is that Heath was already deep in red ink when they decided to re-enter the kit market. They probably wanted to ride the current maker movement. Maybe if their creditors had given them enough time they could have saved the company with new kit products. Just look at Adafruit.com, Evilmadscience.com, or Sparkfun.com and you will see that there IS a demand for kits. No one ever did kits better than Heath. I'm sorry to be the reporter of the bad news. RIP Heathkit.

  • I fondly remember my Heath-Zenith 100 kit computer. S-100 bus, CPM OS on 8-inch floppies. ...and salivating over the HERO robot kit.

    I'd tell kids to get off my lawn...if only kids would play outside these days.

  • Interest in hobbyist computers is at a 20 year high. It's been 30 years since our favorite 8 bit PCs were current. People love new electronics that can replicate or interact with old electronics. The Apple II CFFA was sold out before it was even built. Same for the 1541U-II for the C64. Every time you turn around someone is selling a new reproduction like the minimig or c-one. The guys at AtariAge are planning an entirely new expansion module for the Atari 7800.

    If all these people can make it work,

  • Why they did not pivot into guided computer system builds of various kinds and levels of complexity is beyond me? Or if they did try that play they just botched it. Certainly I never saw any Heathkit ads in CPU or Maximum PC. Hams and early computerists enjoyed a lot of overlap. (Still do. My Linux Users Group has a strong ham radio element). They could have marketed both. Sorry Heathkit. FAIL. Poor brand migration strategy.

    The reason this is sad is that a well-positioned company banked on its past glory.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How about enclosures and add-ons for Raspberry Pi and Arudino? They could have been a player there.

  • When Heathkit was in its heyday, the cost of assembly was a very large part of the cost of the product. With the advent of automated assembly, the labor cost became insignificant and a kit could no longer compete on price. In fact, the kit became MORE expensive because of the cost of developing a by-the-number assembly manual. The kit-building community kept Heathkit going even then for a while.

    But I remember the last Heathkit I constructed. It was an FM radio tuner. The "kit" came with a palletized, p

    • When Heathkit was big, radios were hand-assembled by middle-aged women in Chicago. Now, they're hand-assembled by underpaid Chinese workers.
    • , with lots of preassembled PC boards and the like. The last few TV kits they offered (after Zenith bought them out), were simply a Zenith "System 3" set with all of the modules shipped loose. Spend 30 minutes snapping boards into place and plugging a few cables in, and you had the same exact set you could have bought already assembled for $100 cheaper from the local appliance store.

      Your FM tuner was most likely the same kind of deal, a commercial model sold without the "final assembly".

      Using other company'

    • by durdur (252098)

      Good points. I remember building their vacuum tube voltmeter kit, which was a beginning kit for a lot of Heathkit enthusiasts. It was difficult! Lots and lots of hand soldering. Later I built the H-89 computer, which was a computer built into the same case used by the H-19 video monitor. Also challenging but could be done in a week or so. Very nice kits, and the quality of the documentation and instructions was legendary.

    • by havana9 (101033)
      Another problem is the technology used to solder on PCB and the type of part used. Soldering SMD is significantly harder than though hole components and the soldering irons for SMD have to be more precise and costly than regular irons. The more interesting components are now using soldering system like BGA that are easier to mount in a robotized line than hand made. Designing an interesting kit with through hole components is becoming harder and harder. Arduino and friends solve the problem selling premade
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's called progress.

    This is one of the biggest detriments to Amateur Radio I've seen. Clinging to nostalgia for nostalgia's sake. Yes - it's cool and sentimental to hold on to the 'old ways'. Kind of fun too. But, it's not practical. And very difficult to keep viable from a business perspective.

    You want to learn how things work? You fire up GNUradio and hack a flow-graph.

    Got an idea? Same - you don't build it up on a perf board unless you're trying to re-invent the wheel - again.

    Transceivers can be bought

    • by morgauxo (974071) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @12:37PM (#39957007)
      "And very difficult to keep viable from a business perspective." Umm -- it's called AMATEUR radio for a reason! Still manufacturers such as Yaseu, Kenwood, ICom, Wouxon, TenTec and probably others seem to do all right, as do several large vendors and numerous small ones.

      "Clinging to nostalgia for nostalgia's sake" -- What's wrong with that? Not every ham is in to old school gear, hams also get into things like SDR, digital audio/data, etc... but for those that get nostalgic for the glowing warm tubes of an old boat anchor what's wrong with them indulging themselves?

      "Kind of fun too" -- What more point do you need?

      "You want to learn how things work? You fire up GNUradio and hack a flow-graph" -- Ok, that's one viable method to learn something and certainly not something I would discourage anyone from doing. Real devices still do use components though. I've never seen a consumer SDR with the exception of some ham equipment though so I'm not sure how much it will teach you about the devices around you. GNURadio was started by a ham btw

      "Transceivers can be bought by the hand-full now - they are the 'new' discreet components." -- Really? Where? Do tell! I suppose there are some low speed single channel data only transcievers that are pretty affordable. Then there are more advanced things like Xbee which I certainly wouldn't want to buy by the handful out of my pocket! If you know a source of transcievers that are capable of voice and data and video and all the other things hams do and a normal person could afford to buy 'by the handful' then please share!!

      "...there are very real reasons why the majority of people no longer..." -- The majority of people don't really do much of anything! Especially anything one would discuss on Slashdot!

      "Not at all surprising that a business built on an dead model didn't survive." -- Ahh... I agree with you there! But what was Heath's business model? Sell expensive courses in a day when MIT, Stanford and others are giving them away for free while vaguely promising to eventually sell a small number of kits?
      • by morgauxo (974071)
        Oh.. and the USR is still way too expensive for GNURadio to be a 'mainstream' hobbyist tool.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "But there are very real reasons why the majority of people no longer shoe their own horses,"

      You can save, or make, a bunch of money shoeing horses. Many serious horse owners do their own shoeing to save money. Tooth-filing too, which is why horse mouth speculums are readily available on Ebay.

      If you don't take proper care of your oat-burner, it won't function properly. :-)

  • by AB3A (192265) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:27AM (#39955851) Homepage Journal

    Surely the name and brand are worth SOMETHING. Hasn't anyone purchased the rights to the name or logo?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually what is probably worth the most are rights to all the old assembly manuals. Manuals from back then were very detailed and if you want to fix an old kit you are probably going to need one. There were just file cabinets full of manuals waiting for someone to need a copy of.

    • by wmeyer (17620)

      The name has value on ebay, where the old audio and ham products sell well. But as a company, they've been dead a long time, and just didn't understand that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My father was an electrical engineer, and some of my best early childhood memories were playing with two Heathkit breadboards. It was a thrill to watch things work after following the wiring instructions. I even hooked wires between the two breadboards to do things (so epic!). The real bonus was when I connected the oscilloscope to it. I spent hours randomly creating all sorts of patterns by just randomly wiring things around!

    If I have kids, you can bet I'll look for the modern equivalents.

  • annoying (Score:4, Interesting)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:40AM (#39956063) Journal

    What annoys me is that a Zuckerberg or a Simonyi or a Cameron could bankroll Heathkit, one of the root enablers of geekdom and a true part of technical history in the US, for less than they spend on tropical fish, and for less of their attention than merely uttering the phrase "make it happen".

    Yes, I know, Heathkit chose bad timing to reenter the kit business. They should have laid low, held onto their IP, and waited until the economy was on an upswing. And no company is too big, or too small, or too geeky, to fail. But surely Heathkit deserves more.

    • The problem is that people are willing to throw their money at imagined goods and services now, instead of going to the store and buying something interesting or useful. Case in point: App store, Google, Facebook.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        There might be something to that. It's definitely easier and more gratifying to buy imagined goods than real ones -- one click and you receive your "purchase" immediately -- but I'm not sure that's the full story. Buying a kit online, and receiving tech and forum support online, for a reasonable price and for interesting projects, should be a reasonably profitable business if managed correctly. With no brick/mortar necessary, and as inexpensive as it is these days to create and manage a web-based busines

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are a few companies still left, I've built a couple of Ramsey Kits (http://www.ramseyelectronics.com/), and I've lusted for an Elecraft radio (http://www.elecraft.com/k2_page.htm) for quite some time. But Heathkit was the original legend. Sad to see it go....

  • by morgauxo (974071) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @12:18PM (#39956727)
    At the time Heathkit stopped producing kits their kit business WAS profitable. Their executives just didn't want to be in that business anymore. They wanted to solely be an education company. At the time there were all sorts of articles stating this.

    Here's a question, once they dropped the kits who was their customer?

    Schools? Certainly not. Schools are busy teaching a state defined curriculum that does little more for teaching kids about technology and building things than would a lifetime spent finger painting. They weren't going to buy anything from Heath. If they thought schools were going to keep them in business then I would like to know what they were smoking!

    Universities? Maybe... I don't know, any EEs out there want to speak up and say they did or did not use Heath materials in their classes? I'm guessing not As a CS major I never had a class with any sort of company provided program. It was just textbooks, mostly only read in certain parts and out of order following the professor's personal syllabus. Is EE different? Do universities use Heath for EE? Come on EE majors, respond and let me know!

    Were they going to make a living selling courses to individuals? I haven't checked their offerings in quite a while and their site currently says to call for prices. When I did check some years ago I could have just about obtained a degree from an accredited university for the price. Why would anyone buy a course from Heath?

    Was this the wrong time to get back into the kit business? I really doubt it. With the maker movement of today? Sure, most of society is very non-technical, non-geek preferring a night of brain-dead reality tv over building something but has it ever been any different? If you got in your Delorian and went back to the 50s when Heathkit was in it's prime do you really think you could pick any average person off the street, question them and expect to hear about the great new kit they assembled last Friday night? Yeah, right! But would you find anything like today's maker movement? People so into making that they commit to creating organizations with overhead like hackerspaces? I think this is a better time for a kit business then there has been in a long time, maybe ever. Heath came back with too little too late. Did they even really intend to succeed?

    The mystery to me is what has kept Heath around all this time since they first discontinued kits? My suspicion is that nothing has. I don't think they were trying, I think they were just disassembling the company very very slowly so the money they made years ago could go into somebody's pocket without getting them in trouble. That's my theory anyway.
    • by Jeng (926980)

      I forgot what class in high school it was, applied electronics or something, we built a number of kits. Lots of little blinking lights, an AM/FM radio, and a phone. Not sure what company provided the kits, but yea, some schools did use electronic kits to teach kids how to work on electronics.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Heathkit Educational Systems has been quite profitable since the discontinuance of the kits. The school market was huge, they (we) made a ton of money selling electronics training courseware, and computer repair courseware to thousands of tech schools and colleges. ITT Tech was a big customer. It's a long list of technical topics, some more profitable than others. I visited hundreds of them over the years, around the globe.

      FWIW your theory disassembling the company isn't correct. The money went away a long

    • first, they had a lot of dust on the boxes in the warehouse. second, a major reason was that we as a society lost the ability to wait a little while for the new shiny, and lost the ability to work for it. you had to build a heathkit. it didn't come off the shelf in a shiny 4-color package and crackle with excitement as soon as you plugged it in. there was a lot of "install diode D134, insuring polarity band matches with the band on the circuit board. bend leads over and solder." check the box. "insta

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      I didnt see the effort, this time around, where did they advertise, QST? oh ok wow so the dying ham radio hobby market in a magazine I may thumb through if I happen to need to take a dump at my dad's house...

      There are a large number of hobby electronics people, myself included, and yet I had totally forgotten they came back out with kits until today. They choose a overfilled niche market inside of an overfilled niche market, put next to no effort into it, and I shed a tear why?

  • by Y-Crate (540566) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @12:56PM (#39957271)

    Heathkits would imperil children. They'd be inspired to go on and build things of their own, but anything they'd make would violate 100 frivolous patents, so what's the point in inventing anything?

    • A couple of things, children and the insane are not bound by Tort law. Also, experimenting is one thing. Mass production is another, not to many kids can; unless their parental unit is in the 1% group.
  • by wmeyer (17620) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @01:48PM (#39957949)

    As stated in another post: "At the time Heathkit stopped producing kits their kit business WAS profitable. Their executives just didn't want to be in that business anymore. They wanted to solely be an education company."

    Problem is, Heath's educational stuff was always pretty lame. In audio and amateur gear, they really shone. And they made some really nice test gear, too. I still have my Heath Audio Oscillator, and the Distortion Analyzer. Neither was quite as good as an HP, but they were way less money, and were good candidates for hobbyist upgrades.

    Their educational stuff was not only lame, but overpriced. The rest of their offerings were solid value. Even their PC-clone (808x, 1983 or so) was well done and good value.

    I built Heathkits, so did my dad. I'd say they will be missed, but I have missed them since they bailed on the business that made them.

  • Goodbye Old Friend. I built everything from photoelectric light dimmers to tv's to test equopment to a Hero-1 robot. They will be sorely missed. I can still remember the smell when you opened one of the Heaathkit kit boxes. It was quite a uniqe smell. Then the thrill of looking at all of the parts and thinking man I can't wait to finish only to be disappointed when I finished and no more to do except go to the Heathkit store on Joppa Road in Towson, MD. and drool over what I would build next. Thanx for the
  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @03:14PM (#39958871)
    3D Printer

    PVC Robot

    Arial Drone

    Solar Cell and Wind Turbine Home System

    Hell, fire up my imagination, not my grandfathers.
  • There quality kept dropping,l and ther stoped doing interesting and relevant thiings.

    They need to commit to something new and just run like hell with it. Going into 'course based education' was a mistake.

    Kits I would have included:

    Network Card. Firmware written but not compiled. Include compiler.
    TV Card - Same
    Computer case kit. Where you can built a smart sound and flashing led system
    Universal remote.
    Several Adrino kits.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell

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