Heathkits were products of the Heath Company, Benton Harbor, Michigan. Their products included electronic test equipment, high fidelity home audio equipment, television receivers, amateur radio equipment, and the influential Heath H-8, H-89, and H-11 hobbyist computers, which were sold in kit form for assembly by the purchaser.

The Heath Company was originally founded as an aircraft company in the early 1900s by Edward Bayard Heath. Starting in 1926 it sold a light aircraft, the Heath Parasol, in kit form. Heath died during a 1931 test flight. In 1935, Howard Anthony purchased the then-bankrupt Heath Company, and focused on selling accessories for small aircraft. After World War II, Anthony decided that entering the electronics industry was a good idea, and bought a large stock of surplus wartime electronic parts with the intention of building kits with them. In 1947, Heath introduced its first electronic kit, an oscilloscope that sold for US$50 -- the price was unbeatable at the time, and the oscilloscope went on to be a huge seller

Heathkit made amateur radio kits almost from the beginning. In addition to their low prices compared with commercially manufactured equipment, Heathkits appealed to amateurs who had an interest in building their own equipment, but did not necessarily have the expertise or desire to design it and obtain all the parts themselves. They expanded and enhanced their line of amateur radio gear through nearly four decades. By the late 1960s, Heathkit had at least as large a selection of ham equipment as any company in the field.

They entered the market in 1954 with the AT-1, a simple, three tube, crystal controlled transmitter. It was capable of operating CW on the six most popular amateur short wave bands, and sold for $29.50 (equivalent to about $230 in 2009).
The 39-page catalog contained only two pages of “ham gear”. An antenna coupler was the only other piece of equipment specifically intended for amateur radio use. The other two items were a general coverage short wave receiver, the AR-2, and an impedance meter. A VFO for the AT-1, the model VF-1, came out the following year.