The New Heathkit

Some years ago a mystery group claimed to have bought the rights to the old Heathkit name and promised they would be bringing the company back to its former glory. Ham radio hearts began to beat faster and there was much celebration in Whoville.

Fast forward several years and that promise was getting stale. But like a cat, this enterprise seems to have many lives and they’ve suddenly bubbled to the surface of ham radio news this week because, glory be, they’ve finally got something to sell!

It’s an AM broadcast receiver kit. The Explorer Junior is a solid state, TRF — Tuned Radio Frequency design available in six different accent colors. It’s actually quite good looking although I’m not so sure everyone will be crazy about the lack of a built-in speaker — you have to use headphones with this one.


They do provide two headphone jacks and suggest that users “share the magic with a friend”.

I like the way they’ve pitched this thing, at least the verbiage used on their Web site as they make the case for an AM broadcast band radio:

Everywhere you go today, Internet and phone companies are following you. Your cell phone, GPS, the WiFi networks you connect to, and cell towers track your every step as you walk, drive, or sit at home. Your Internet browser is fed a constant stream of tracking cookies, Flash supercookies, passive-profiling target requests, and more. Search engines? Streaming music services? Internet TV and video? Of course they do the same. And not just you —all your family members are monitored and collated and indexed too; these “services” make no distinction between adults and children.

But when you tune around on an Explorer radio, no one is monitoring you. Instead, you’re monitoring them. You choose what to listen to. When your child (or grandchild) builds and listens to this radio, no electronics is tracking and recording their every move. Privacy is restored.

Sounds downright yummy, doesn’t it?

You might think this first-step back into the world of making electronic kits would be met by hordes of happy hams. Think again. Radio hams are rarely happy and are notoriously grumpy and it seems the NEW Heathkit is guilty of tugging on Superman’s cape.

Lot’s of sniping in the blogosphere about the price, the product, and one dude is even complaining that the new kit doesn’t have vacuum tubes.

Seriously. What rock do these meatheads live under? Did they honestly think that Heathkit was going to return to offering the HW-101 circa 1975 — in the 21st century?

And about the price ($149.95) — it’s really not outrageous considering the custom cabinet and when compared with other designer broadcast receivers it seems almost reasonable.

Mind you, I’m not in the market. I’ve owned a lot of Heathkit equipment through the years and suffered enough with the Benton Harbor Green Virus for one lifetime.

I think the biggest mistake the new company might have made is assuming that the ham radio market is a viable one for their new venture. Radio amateur’s are cheap and anyone pitching a new product to them is either completely nuts — or is holding an ace they’re not showing.

Maybe it’s the latter?

Author: Jeff Davis