A New Heathkit!
So, why am I not excited?
By Dan Romanchik, KB6NU
A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from Heathkit. Yes, the NEW Heathkit. you might remember that a couple of years ago, there was all this hype about a “new” Heathkit and how they were going to start designing new kits as well as revive popular old designs.
Then, nothing. They went completely quiet-—until a couple of weeks ago. In an e-mail sent to their “insiders,” they say:
“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.
They then go on to explain all of the work they’ve been doing in relocating Heathkit to Santa Cruz, CA, acquiring a second company, and securing all the intellectual property rights to the old Heathkit manuals and logos (meaning no more bootleg copies on the Internet). The e-mail continues:
“That’s a lot, but there’s more. We’ve designed and developed a wide range of entirely new kit products. We authored the manuals for these kits, complete with the beautiful line art you rely on, preserving and respecting our iconic historic Heathkit style. We developed many new inventions and filed patents on them……We built the back office infrastructure, vendor and supply chain relationships, systems, procedures, operations methods, and well-thought-out corporate structure that a manufacturing company needs to support its customers, to allow us to scale instantly the day we resume major kit sales. All this effort enables us to introduce a fleet of new kits and helps ensure Heathkit can grow, prosper, and continue to bring you great new products for a very long time.”
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 (https://shop.heathkit.com/shop/product/explorer-jr-trf-am-radio-receiver-kit-black-case-gr-150-bk-16). 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).
I’m not sure what the target market is for this product. It’s certainly not amateur radio operators, who expect a lot more (in terms of both functionality and “fun”) for their money. Nor is it the “Maker” folks, who want something more challenging than an AM radio. I think that if I took this to show off at the local Ann Arbor Maker group, they’d laugh me out of the place.
I really hope that they have something better up their sleeves. A strong Heathkit would be good for the Maker movement and for ham radio.
When not thinking about what kit to build next, Dan, KB6NU, operates CW on the HF bands (mostly 40m and 30m). His #1-rated amateur radio blog can be found at KB6NU.Com, and you can e-mail questions, comments, or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org.