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Heathkit Remembered – Original Radio DIY Company

heathkit remembered

Heathkit remembered as a fifty year history of quality equipment you could build yourself. Even I managed to build a few. 

Most radio nuts of a certain age built at least one Heathkit. Ed Heath started building aircraft in 1909. He died in 1931. The new owner got into surplus electronics after World War 2, and started an electronics kit business shortly after. The Heath Company was known world-wide for its amateur radio and other kits between 1947-1992. Later, it also produced home entertainment and computing kits.

The Heathkit value proposition was simple: build your own quality equipment, save money and be able to repair it yourself. Sounds like the definition of the radio ham of that era. The assembly manuals and parts packaging were excellent. During the 1970’s, we even had a Heathkit Store in Winnipeg.

Over the years, I built two Heathkits. The first was the HR-10B ham receiver, shown top above. My buddy built the companion DX-60 transmitter. Together, these kits formed our first station at Elmwood High School in 1968. At the University of Manitoba Amateur Radio Society, we used the Apache transmitter and SB-200 linear amplifier (the latter still in use worldwide today.)

A few years later, I built the Heathkit 2718 tri-power supply. Forty years later, I still use it regularly in my electronics workshop.

You can look up all of your old kits at the online museum. Perhaps the most popular was the HW-101 transceiver. Around forty thousands of these were built by hams between 1970-1983. A more expensive version of this radio was the SB-102. During the 1980’s the Heathkit SB300/400 Twins were a popular competitor for Drake and Collins gear.

Heathkit Remembered, and Resurrected?

While I am not sure about ownership and status, Heathkit seems to be back in the kit business. Their current web site is selling some radio and test equipment kits, as well as a few upgrades for older kits. This seems to be some sort of re-boot of the old company, but no one seems to know much about it other than a two year old press release.

I suspect, though, this company will remain in the Heathkit remembered category, as the world has moved on. It was a great idea for its time, though.


  1. Ed Walden says:

    The kits from the new Heathkit seem to be pretty expensive. Wasn’t the concept to be able to build it yourself and save money too?

    • John VE6EY says:

      Yes, Ed you are quite right. Back in the late 1960’s, the Heathkit SB301/401 sold for $545 (kit form), the Drake B Line sold for $879, and the Collins S Line for $1370. Given inflation, the Heathkit Twins would cost $3800 today. That is roughly the price of the Yaesu FTdx5000!

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