In 2013 there was a lot of buzz in the electronics communities about Heathkit returning in some way, however it’s been exactly one year and there has not been any updates. Heathkit “came back” in 2011 too, but nothing materialized then either. Here is our attempt to help piece together some of the puzzle of what has become of Heathkit.
First up, what is/was Heathkit?
Heathkit is the brand name of kits and other electronic products produced and marketed by the Heath Company. Their products over the decades have included electronic test equipment, high fidelity home audio equipment,television receivers, amateur radio equipment, electronic ignition conversion modules for early model cars with point style ignitions, and the influential Heath H-8, H-89, and H-11 hobbyist computers, which were sold in kit form for assembly by the purchaser. Heathkit manufactured electronic kits from 1947 until 1992. For a few years the Heath company made products for education, but this business ended in 2008. The company announced in 2011 that they were reentering the kit business after a 20 year hiatus but then filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and began restructuring in 2013 – Wikipedia.
2013 – The big news
Current screenshot from heathkit.com
1 year ago to the day today (12/20/2013) a member of the “board of directors” CEO/President of whoever may or may not own Heathkit did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) – it’s unclear who they are, they would not say when asked and there is not any information on their FAQ page about the ownership. During the AMA, the person with the account “HeathCompany” answered in first person, described the “board” and the “CEO” but didn’t provide any details. The person did say “The CEO is avid musician and composer” and as far as the management team claiming to own Heathkit now, the person said they are: “Active in the industry 25+ years ago? Yes. Hams 25+ years ago? Yes.”
On the FAQ page, it has the following:
Q. So who are you guys?
A. More on this later…
It’s been 1 year and there has not been an update on the Heathkit site or Facebook page. They had some type of prize they promised during last year’s Reddit AMA, it’s unknown what happened with that, the winner was an account called “IFoundTheHeathKit” that only posted once. There is a twitter account called “Heathkit” but it’s owned by “Just some guy” in Seattle, WA.
Why can’t I find names of Board of Directors or people involved with the new start up of Heath Kit? Where are you located? Why the big secret? Is this a legitimate company? Is this for real or a joke? My husband and many friends worked for Heath Kit. We hope it is for real. W3XYL
December 20, 2013 at 7:22pm
Everything is really vague, even on their own site, heathkit.com
They had posted a survey, but the SSL cert isn’t working now (expired). You had to take the survey and give an email address to become a “Heathkit Insider” – we did that last year and have not received any emails.
Searching the United States Trademark Office site, there are few “LIVE” hits for the trademarked name “Heathkit”.
The first one bring up this up (86435561). Heathkit Company, Inc. CORPORATION DELAWARE c/o Sabety + Associates PLLC 8 West 40th Street, 12th Floor New York NEW YORK 10018. Attorney of Record – Ted Sabety. The filing date is: October 27, 2014 – that’s 2 months ago. We emailed Sabety + Associates we’ll update this post with any details.
You can also see the document here at the Trademark Status & Document Retrieval (TSDR) – use US Serial No: 86435561
If you search the State of Delaware Department of State: Division of Corporations for “Heathkit” 2 come up.
2840263 – HEATHKIT COMPANY, INC.
3001767 – HEATHKIT HOLDINGS, INC.
Not much information – looks like both HEATHKIT COMPANY, INC. and HEATHKIT HOLDINGS, INC. were registered in Delaware by corporations that register corporations in Delaware, if we do not hear anything from anyone, we’ll pay the $20 and get more info too see if there’s any more information – it says “Additional Information is available for a fee. You can retrieve Status for a fee of $10.00 or more detailed information including current franchise tax assessment, current filing history and more for a fee of $20.00.”
We also found an old PDF about who may own some of the “assets” of Heathkit, but we think that refers to the ownership of the copyright of the manuals, some of which appear to be hosted on http://www.pestingers.net/PDFs/. Who owns the copyright of the Heathkit manuals? It appears to be Don Peterson of Data Professionals. He sells them online.
October 2008 – Data Professionals of Pleasanton California has purchased the Copyrights and existing inventory of all legacy Heathkit product documentation from Heath Company of Benton Harbor Michigan for an undisclosed amount. The new company will make copies of the original legacy manuals available to the marketplace via its web site and through eBay and PayPal.
Don sells some Heathkit kits too. Back in 2011 MAKE Magazine contacted Don via email and phone and he had said he would allow MAKE publish all the schematics of all the kits and the public domain manuals (he’s a very nice person). However, that never materialized after there was some type of issue with the document scanner. Here is the note from Don to MAKE from 2011:
On Jun 27, 2011, at 1:16 PM, Don Peterson wrote:
…we’ve had a minor set back because we just had to replace our Document Imager and discovered that the files on the server are no longer compatible from the old model that we were using. The new machine uses standard PDF files. Give me a week to put together a sampling of schematics that I will email to you and we can go from there…
That’s the last we heard about it. We emailed Don to see if he knew what’s up with Heathkit.com too, we’ll update this post with any details he can provide. We also asked Don if the scanner was fixed, and if he is still willing to allow MAKE Magazine or Adafruit or archive.org (or anyone) to publish all the schematics of all the kits and the public domain manuals. We’ll update this post about that too.
Next up – Who owns the heathkit.com domain? The domain name heathkit.com has changed ownership a few times over the years. Depending on what whois record for heathkit.com used, there are multiple contacts listed:
Domain Name: HEATHKIT.COM
Registrant Name: Heathkit Company
Registrant Organization: Heathkit Company
Registrant Street: 2024 Hawthorne Ave
Registrant City: St Joseph
Registrant State/Province: MI
Registrant Postal Code: 49085
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.2699254499
Registrant Fax: +1.2699253895
Google map (it’s a warehouse or print service?)
Admin Organization: Heathkit
Admin Street: 250 Monroe Ave NW
Admin City: Grand Rapids
Admin State/Province: MI
Admin Postal Code: 49503-2250
Admin Country: US
Admin Phone: +1.2092563061
Admin Fax: +1.2092563061
Admin Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Administrative Contact, Technical Contact: Mike Elsner email@example.com
455 Riverview Dr, Bldg 2
Benton Harbor MI 49022 US
Phone: +1 269 925 4499
Fax: +1 269 925 3895
Google map (it’s a law firm).
We emailed them all and will update this post with any details we receive.
Why do we care about this?
We get asked about Heathkit all the time from self-described “old-timers” who grew up with Heathkit or worked for the Heathkit company. Adafruit’s educational mission and kits are often compared to the Heathkit of yesteryears ago, we get asked if we’ll develop “Heathkit-style” kits. Many of our customers were customers of Heathkit for decades.
There are not as many people who know about Heathkit now, so when we saw a year ago that something new might be happening with the brand (again) we and many others got very excited. It’s puzzling as to what’s really going on though.
Maybe our post about this will shed some light on this electronic history mystery which is Heathkit 2014. We hope we find out what the plans are for Heathkit, who owns it now, and if this legendary and loved brand is going to return to the educational electronic market.
We’ve also emailed the Heathkit Virtual Museum & Rick Lindquist, WW1ME – The News Editor @ AARL.ORG (The national association for Amateur Radio) to see if they know anything. Lastly, we posted a comment on the Heathkit Facebook page with a link to this article.
Stay tuned here for any updates – Post in the comments here or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have anything to add or ask too!
-Ladyada, pt & the Adafruit team
Update from a reader 12/21/2014 7:34pm ET
Thanks for posting this. Years ago, I was thrilled to be recruited by Heathkit out of grad-school. Gordon Letwin had just departed for Microsoft… But soon after arriving at their St-Joe HQ, it became apparent that Zenith (their owner at the time) was already in the process of systematically gutting the kit business and repurposing the Heath manufacturing lines for producing Zenith Data Systems computers (essentially pre-assembled Heathkit computers).
Zenith was looking at home computers as a replacement for their failing television business. But attempts to build the Heath-designed computers in their existing idle television plants failed due to quality issues (part of the reason the television business had failed in the first place). So the Heath facility was pressed into service – at the expense of kit manufacturing.
The next phase was getting Zenith marketing involved in the computer design. (And where I started looking for another job). The Zenith advertising slogan at the time was “The quality goes in before the name goes on”. Ironically, the adhesive used to attach the Zenith nameplates to the computers was not compatible with the paint on the cases and most of the nameplates fell off within a month or two – leading to many creative internal slogans.
By that time, most of the engineering staff were polishing up their resumes. There is not much else in the way of High-Tech in the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area, so most of the engineering talent scattered fairly quickly. Within a year after I left, I didn’t know anyone that still worked there.
Update – December 21, 2014 at 10:33:03 PM EST –
I don’t know anything more than you’ve uncovered about the new owners of the brand, but I worked there for over 20 years, until the very end, and knew all the prior owners and GMs very well… Some of those dates are a little off, especially Wiki. Heathkit built and sold educational materials until the very end. The Hawthorne Ave address is correct, we had a corner of that building that was mostly office space. Moved there in October 2008, and the landlord locked us out in April 2012 after the rent was delinquent. Regarding Don Peterson, Don Desrochers (the owner who let Heathkit go bankrupt in 2012) sold him the physical files full of manuals and sole reproduction rights. Peterson did not acquire the copyrights, which might explain why he can’t make the manuals available for free. I remember seeing that agreement, and it explicitly stated that Heathkit retained the copyrights. Desrochers didn’t want to pay for moving all those manuals, nor lease space to store them. So he sold them for about $4k.
Update – December 22, 2014 at 5:48:03 PM EST –
Update 12/22/2014 6:20pm ET – Heathkit has updated their Facebook page….
Our friends at Adafruit Industries have been doing some sleuthing, and we agree- it’s time for an update. Happily, there’s plenty to report.
Exciting things are happening in the Heathkit labs. We’re pleased at the great feedback from our beta-testers on a range of quality products we’ve been actively developing. As you know, we had hoped to get several of these new products out for the Christmas market, but our team is creating so many new ideas that we’ve been slowed by the sheer work of creating patents (by law we must file them before we may sell our new products, or even advertise them). We remain hard at work, and as excited as ever to ship finished new products meeting Heathkit’s high standards.
Meanwhile, our team has been expanding. More top-notch technical advisors and advisors have joined the effort, and hand-picked interns have been learning the ropes while earning money for their college degrees. We’ve been carefully building supply chain relationships to keep quality high and prices low, and exploring exciting partnerships that we look forward to announcing. Our soldering irons remain hot, and are being put to good use.
We know you’re as eager as we are to see the newest Heathkit designs released. (Of course thousands of Heathkit® products are bought and sold each week– we participate in this market ourselves, and monitor it closely). For any enthusiasts not yet on our Heathkit Insider email list, that list will be the first place that new product availability is announced. Head over to the FAQ section on our official website to learn how to join the mailing list and also to read the answers to Adafruit’s questions about Heathkit intellectual property. We look forward to building out this FAQ section as more information becomes public.
It’s been an enormous amount of hard work, but our team has risen to the task. You can be confident that as true Heathkit devotees ourselves, we want nothing more than to honor the legendary name that’s graced workbenches and homes for generations. We look forward to providing more news soon.
Until next time, The Heathkit Team
Along with a ton of other really incredible emails, we received an email from the person who “won” the Heathkit Reddit “Ask me anything” (AMA) – they did not receive their prize or any emails back from Heathkit.
I live in Connecticut, and last year I saw the Heathkit AMA on reddit and thought I’d take the train over to see if I could find the geocache before anybody else. I was… pretty bored? Surprisingly, I found it, posted on Reddit, and messaged them, but nothing else came of it. They didn’t even respond to the message I sent in May. Just put this on Hackaday’s summary of your article and was told to email you. Here are a few screenshots if they’re any help. If you do publish them, please white out my name and profile picture as I’m still a student.
Update: DECEMBER 24, 2014 AT 6:30 PM — Looks like this is the final update folks! We spoke with the person claiming to be the president of Heathkit and one of their team members, we agreed not to disclose anything discussed with them on the phone and we requested they send us text to post verbatim on the Adafruit blog, it is here.
Update: Jan 26, 2015, at 12:11 PM – Here’s an update Don Peterson from Data Professionals of Pleasanton California posted that he purchased the copyrights and existing inventory of all legacy Heathkit product documentation from Heath Company in 2008, he had said he would scan them in allow MAKE magazine to publish all the schematics of all the kits and the public domain manual. After our “Heathkit – The electronic history mystery” we emailed Don to check out on the status and he said he cannot be involved with this project.
On Jan 26, 2015, at 12:11 PM, Don Peterson wrote:
It is not going to be possible for me to be involved in this project with you this year.
If things should change, which I doubt, I will contact you.
Don’s site still have the following statement on his site “Data Professionals of Pleasanton California has purchased the Copyrights and existing inventory of all legacy Heathkit product documentation from Heath Company of Benton Harbor Michigan for an undisclosed amount. The new company will make copies of the original legacy manuals available to the marketplace via its web site and through eBay and PayPal.”
And Don also sells 2 Heathkit branded kits at this time.
You can also purchase Heathkit manuals from Don here.
We did find an old PDF about who may own some of the “assets” of Heathkit, but we think that refers to the ownership of the copyright of the manuals, some of which appear to be hosted on http://www.pestingers.net/PDFs/.