It’s Not Always Easy to Rest in Peace

It was almost exactly one year ago that a group claimed to have bought the rights to the old Heath Company, and that they planned to do something spectacular with it. At the top of the company Web site appeared the words, “the news of my death has been greatly exaggerated”.

And with that, hope for a resurrection was once again revived though nothing has seemingly happened.

Heath had left the kit business in 1992 after decades of success, especially with radio amateurs. Then after a long pause came news in August 2011 that the company was returning to the kit making business. The following month we were told its plans for amateur radio were shaping up. Then in May of 2012 Heathkit Educational Systems closed shop. A few months later the company filed for bankruptcy and said goodbye for good. Again.

Then a year ago their Web site popped up again which really created more questions than answers, but the biggest question of all is, why can’t Heathkit just rest in peace?

It seems obvious that what was a successful business model fifty years ago is obsolete today. Sure, hams still build kits, but Elecraft has all but sewn up the market for serious ham radio equipment that comes with some assembly required. QRP clubs often kit projects, but with prices for these being almost exclusively under a hundred bucks a pop, a company would have a tough time thriving on that sort of income stream.

Will the Heath Company make another comeback? Maybe, but not in the way we might like. Whoever now owns the rights to the name might one day appear with logo shirts, hats and coffee mugs. I’d buy one of those. But the odds of anyone ever seeing a new ham radio transceiver kit from Heathkit seem less than infinitesimal.

Author: Jeff Davis