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HERO (Heathkit Educational RObot) is the name of several educational robots sold by Heathkit during the 1980s. The Heath Company began the HERO 1 project in October 1979. The first units were available in 1982.[1] Models included the HERO 1, HERO Jr., and HERO 2000. Heathkit supported the HERO robot line up until 1995. All three were available as kits, or for more money, prebuilt by Heathkit. Since 2013 the 1980s models are considered collectors items, due to their apparent rarity.[2] For the most part, they cannot perform practical tasks, but are more geared toward entertainment and education above all.


HERO 1 (ET-18)Edit

HERO 1 (ET-18)
Release date1982
Introductory priceKit 1500 US$ (today $3894.31),
Assembled 2500 US$ (today $6490.52)[3]
Units sold14,000(Sold over 8 years)
MediaAssembly manual, user's manual, technical manual, and speech dictionary
CPUMotorola 6808
MemoryRAM: 4 kB
Monitor ROM: 2 kB
StorageCompact Cassette
Displaysix 7-segment LEDs
SoundVotrax SC-01 speech synthesizer[4][5] (Included with Assembled version and $149.95 option for kit)
InputHex keypad with 17 keys
PowerBatteries: four 6-volt gel cell
Charger: 120/240 VAC, 50/60 Hz charger
Dimensions20 inches high x 18 inches wide (50 cm x 45 cm)
Mass39 pounds (18 kg)

HERO 1 was a self-contained mobile robot controlled by an onboard computer with a Motorola 6808 CPU and 4 kB of RAM. The robot featured light, sound, and motion detectors as well as a sonar ranging sensor. An optional arm mechanism and speech synthesizer was available for the kit form and included in the assembled form.[6][7]

To make this power available in a simple way, high-level programming languages were created. For example, the ANDROTEXT language was a HERO 1 editor and compiler developed in 1982 for the IBM PC.[8][9][10][11]

HERO 1 was featured on a few episodes of the children's television program Mr. Wizard's World.[12][13] Byte magazine called HERO 1 "a product of extraordinary flexibility and function ... If you are interested in robotics, Heath will show you the way".[14]

HERO 1's control panel

HERO Jr. (RT-1)Edit

HERO Jr. (RT-1)
Hero Jr. (with optional remote control)
Release date1984
Introductory priceKit US$599.95,
Assembled US$1000[3]
DiscontinuedBefore Oct 1987 (Assembled)[15]
1995 (Kit)
Units sold4,000(Sold over 8 years)
CPUMotorola 6808 1 MHz
MemoryRAM: 2 kB, expandable to 24 kB
Monitor ROM: 32 kB
Display9 LEDs
SoundVotrax SC-01 speech synthesizer[5]
InputHex keypad with 17 keys
PowerBatteries:6 V 3.8 A·h x2, x4 optional
Dimensions19 inches high[16]
Mass21.5 pounds[16]

A smaller version of HERO was released later, called HERO Jr. Heathkit intended it for the home market, and therefore made it less complex, and more self-contained. Like HERO 1, HERO Jr. had a 6808 processor, but only 2 kB of RAM. As well, it sported onboard speech synthesis, a Polaroid sonar range sensor, a light sensor, and a sound sensor. An optional infrared sensor was available as well. Other optional components included a pair of extra batteries to double the operational time between charges, from an estimated 4 hours to 8 hours. A remote control accessory allowed users to drive the robot around. It included a motion sensor that caused the robot to croak "SOM-THING-MOVE" when it detected a source of motion.

Heathkit released several add-ons to increase the robot's capabilities, including a transmitter to activate a home security system in the event it sensed movement while on "guard duty". Also, additional cartridges with programs and games were available, as well as a components to allow the user to directly program the robot.

The drive mechanism is backward compared to the HERO 1, with the drive and steering wheel in the back of the robot. The head section featured an indentation to allow the robot to transport up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg). The robot could speak several phrases from various films that either involved robots or computers. It was also capable of remembering and repeating back its masters name, as well as singing songs, reciting poems, acting as an alarm clock, and making its own combinations of phonemes to create a robotic gibberish.

HERO 2000 (ET-19)Edit

HERO 2000 (ET-19)
HERO 2000
Release date1986
Introductory priceKit US$3000,
Assembled US$4,500[17]
Units sold3000 (sold over 8 years)
CPUIntel 8088 (Main)
6 slave Z-80 processors (11 with optional Arm)
MemoryRAM: 24 kB, expandable to 576 kB,
Monitor ROM: 64 kB with integrated BASIC
Display16 head-mounted LED status indicators (eight are user definable)
RS-232 serial port
SoundSilicon Systems SSI 263 (analog formant) speech synthesizer[18]
Inputhexadecimal keypad
RS-232 serial port
PowerBattery: single 24 amp-hour battery,
Charger: 120 VAC charger included
DimensionsHeight 32 inches (81 cm)[19]
Mass78 pounds (35 kg)[19]

The much more powerful HERO 2000 included several onboard microprocessors, onboard speech synthesis, several sensors, and the ability to add expansion cards using a passive backplane.[20]


HE-RObot is a badge-engineered version of the 914 PC-Bot (pictured) by White Box Robotics.
DeveloperWhite Box Robotics[21]
Release date2007
Introductory priceas much as $8000
Units soldapproximately 50
Operating systemWindows XP Pro
CPUIntel Core Duo
Memory1 GB DDR2 RAM
Storage80 GB 2½in. SATA Hard drive
PowerBatteries: 2 x 12V 9Ah Lead Acid Battery
Charger: SONEIL 12V Intelligent Battery Charger (3A)
DimensionsHeight 21 inches (53 cm)
Mass25 kg (55 lb) (Historical) Archive index at the Wayback Machine

The HE-RObot was the result of a strategic partnership between Heathkit and White Box Robotics. When available, it cost as much as $8000. The HE-RObot was marketed to the educational market. Heathkit sold approximately 50 of these robots before their bankruptcy in 2012.[22][23][24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Whatever Happened To Heathkit?, By Lou Frenzel, Electronic Design, Feb 18, 2009
  2. ^ Classic Heathkit Electronic Test Equipment, By Jeff Tranter, 2013, Page 12. Some interesting Heathkit facts and trivia: * Heathkit offered one of the first consumer robot kits, the HERO 1. Introduced in 1982, it featured a 6808 microprocessor with four kilobytes of memory and sensors for light, sound and motion. Programs could be stored on cassette tape and a speech synthesizer and robotic arm were available as options. It is now a sought after collector's item. ISBN 0992138205
  3. ^ a b Tech Watch, By Cynthia McClean, Page 78, Black Enterprise, Jun 1985, Hero 1 - Kit US$1150 / Assembled US$2149; Hero Jr - Kit US$599.95 / Assembled US$1000
  4. ^ HERO walks, talks, educates and protects, By David Needle, Page 1 & 4, InfoWorld, 27 Dec 1982, With the aid of its Votrax speech chip...
  5. ^ a b Hero Robot Frequently Asked Questions, Donnie V. Savage Site
  6. ^ Mark J. Robillard: HERO 1 - Advanced Programming and Interfacing, H.W. Sams 1983. ISBN 0-672-22165-9
  7. ^ Howard Boyet: Hero 1 - Advanced Programming Experiments, Heathkit/Zenith 1984. ISBN 0-87119-036-2
  8. ^ ACM (1982). "ANDROTEXT for HERO 1 Editor and Compiler IBM PC". Online Historical Encyclopaedia of Programming Languages, ACM History of Programming Language Conference (HOPL).
  9. ^ Solem, J. C. (1984). "ANDROTEXT-A high-level language for personal robots". Robotics Age magazine. 6: 16.
  10. ^ Fuller, James (1988). ROBOTICS: Introduction, Programming, and Projects. Prentice-Hall.
  11. ^ Gupta, A. K.; Arora, S. K. (2009). "Industrial Automation and Robotics". (Laxmi Publications): 379.
  12. ^ Building A Robot: The Crash Course, By William J. Broad, Published: May 3, 1983, The New York Times
  13. ^ Robots: Best Educational Platform Ever, Apr 25, 2013 by Lou Frenzel, Communiqué
  14. ^ Leininger, Steve. "Heath's HERO-1 Robot". BYTE. p. 86. Retrieved 19 October 2013. volume 8 number, 1 January 1983
  15. ^ HERO Jr, DAMARK International Advert, Page 136, Popular Mechanics, Oct 1987 - Public notice: Heath no longer make factory assembled model. They decided to produce the kit version. So we brought the remaining inventory..., Manufactures recommended price US$1078.85 DAMARK PRICE: US$298
  16. ^ a b Robot helps at home, Page 25, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct 9, 1984
  17. ^ Electronics Newsfront, By William J. Hawkins, Page 28, Popular Science, Feb 1986
  18. ^ I believe you are referring to the SSI 263 from Silicon Systems. Steve Ciarcia had a Circuit Cellar article based on it and the Hero 2000 used it for speech. .., Subject:speech chips, Post by Alan Matthew, 23 Nov 1996 04:00:00
  19. ^ a b Professor Robot, Page 13, The Rotarian, Jun 1986
  20. ^ John D. Hubbard, Lawrence P. Larsen: Hero 2000 - Programming and Interfacing, Heathkit/Zenith 1986. ISBN 0-87119-153-9
  21. ^ Leading educational systems company, and the Grandfather of the Hero Robot, to standardize on White Box Robotics PC-BOT technology, BENTON HARBOR, MI, and OTTAWA, CANADA December 12, 2007 White Box Robotics Inc., the leader in PC based general service robots, and Heathkit Company Inc., the leader in Educational Systems, today announced a multi-year strategic agreement under which Heathkit will deploy the White Box Robotics PC-BOT to its clients. As part of the agreement, Heathkit will produce, manufacture and distribute an educational version of the robot to be known as the HE-RObot. More to come shortly..., December 12, 2007, News & Events, White Box Robotics
  22. ^ HE-RObot: The Next Generation of Heathkit HERO Robots Posted by james on December 26, 2007 at 03:16 PM in Do-It-Yourself, Robots - Retro Thing
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved March 6, 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ 914 PC Bots Community, Forum


  • Howard Boyet: Heath's robot "HERO": 68 experiments : fundamentals and applications, Microprocessor Training 1983. ISBN 9994699709
  • Mark J. Robillard: HERO 1 - Advanced Programming and Interfacing, H.W. Sams 1983. ISBN 0-672-22165-9
  • Howard Boyet: Hero 1 - Advanced Programming Experiments, Heathkit/Zenith 1984. ISBN 0-87119-036-2
  • John D. Hubbard, Lawrence P. Larsen: Hero 2000 - Programming and Interfacing, Heathkit/Zenith 1986. ISBN 0-87119-153-9

External linksEdit