I signed up as a 'Heath Insider' about a year ago when news first broke about Heathkit's intention to finally, after a couple decade hiatus, begin producing built-it-yourself electronics kits again. The Explorer Jr.™ is a basic capacitor-tuned AM radio kit that comes complete with everything needed to build it. Why not a digitally tuned synthesizer with an LCD display? Company president Andy Cromarty promises many more kits to follow, with all being in the classic Heathkit tradition of high quality parts and well-written, illustrated, step-by-step instructions. It will be a continuation of their "You Can Build It. We won't let you fail." motto.
An e-mail arrived a few days ago stating the following:
Here's a quick summary of what we've quietly been doing at Heathkit during the past year: We assembled a terrific team of very talented, hard-working, inventive people. We acquired another company and merged its management, products, assets, and operations gracefully into Heath Company. We ensured we own every last bit of Heathkit intellectual property, to bring you all the manuals, books, vintage designs, and classic logos you love, unencumbered and in perpetuity. We built a company division and acquired a line of vintage add-on designs to sustain the vintage products so important to many Insiders.
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 relocated Heathkit, and set up a factory, and a warehouse, and offices, in Santa Cruz, California, near Silicon Valley. 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.
The first new kit out of the gate is an AM radio receiver - the Explorer Jr™. Its design and assembly is kept simple in order to serve as an entry level kit for young and old alike. All of the electronic components are the old fashioned leaded type that you won't need tweezers and an eye loupe to see and work with - or the steady hands of a surgeon. Even the tuning capacitor is a parallel plate, air dielectric kind. In anticipation of beginners (the Explorer Jr. would make a great Christmas present for a kid) building their first-ever electronics kit, Heathkit includes all the tools needed for successful completion.
From the Heathkit website:
A Radio Kit Whose Time Has Come.
When Heath started designing & selling do-it-yourself airplane kits shortly after the Great War, the state-of-the-art in radio was the Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) design.
A TRF radio was a great deal. If you had a great deal of money. A TRF receiver became a fixture in the homes of families around the world, receiving the news and music AM broadcasts of the day. A family AM radio was a big investment — $100 to $625 in 1929 dollars. (With inflation, that's $1,400 to $8,700 in today's dollars.) Of course, at that price radios also were beautiful. They were made of fine wood, and designed to last. Radios were a visible and attractive furnishing you could be proud to have in your living room or parlor.
Heathkit's TRF radio is a great deal. And a great deal of radio. This Explorer Jr™ radio is modeled on the original TRF designs, but better. You get to build it yourself. It's safe and simple enough for beginners to assemble and understand. But it receives AM broadcast stations with performance superior to the vintage radios of 1930.
BTW, Heathkit also is building a shop on eBay that offers a stock of replacement parts for some of the old kits. There is also a website for ordering vintage Heathkit manuals that "are all 1st generation copies made directly from an original manual. They are not copies of copies."
The inventions and products featured on these pages were chosen either for their uniqueness in the RF engineering realm, or are simply awesome (or ridiculous) enough to warrant an appearance.
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Posted October 18, 2015