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This remarkable company began in Michigan around 1926, with fits and starts, by marketing an airplane in kit form. In fact, founder Edwin Heath died in a crash.
After the war, Heath got into electronics with a low-cost oscilloscope kit using military surplus parts. Kit building became a popular pastime, not to mention a way to save some big bucks on equipment. Heath always had two ham lines, one aimed at beginners, and one for the old-timer looking for a good rig at a good price.
Unless a piece of gear was really complex, which it hardly ever was, the ham boxes came in kit form only. This dictated a certain approach to mechanical and electrical design. "We won't let you fail," was one of their slogans. The gear, especially the older transmitters, is usually pretty easy to work on, and there are a million mods out.
In years to follow, from the 1950s into the 1980s, electronic gear became too complex to build from a pile of parts in a garage. Heathkit (then called Zenith Data Systems) moved away from kits and the final kit was sold in 1991. At present, only a remnant of the company remains under the name Heathkit Educational Systems, still located in Benton Harbor, Michigan.