HERO (robot)

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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)
Manufacturer Heathkit
Type robot
Release date 1982
Introductory price Kit US$1500,
Assembled US$2500
Discontinued 1995
Units sold 14,000(Sold over 8 years)
Media Assembly manual, user's manual, technical manual, and speech dictionary
CPU Motorola 6808
Memory RAM: 4 kB,
Monitor ROM: 2 kB
Storage Compact Cassette
Display six 7-segment LEDs
Sound Votrax SC-01 speech synthesizer (Included with Assembled version and $149.95 option for kit)
Input Hex keypad with 17 keys
Power four 6-volt gel cell
120/240 VAC, 50/60 Hz charger
Dimensions 20 inches high x 18 inches wide (50 cm x 45 cm)
Weight 39 pounds (17.6 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. HERO 1 was also featured on Mr. Wizard's World on a few episodes.[3][4][5][6][7]

HERO 1's control panel

HERO Jr. (RT-1)[edit]

HERO Jr. (RT-1)
Heathkit HERO Jr.jpg
Hero Jr. (with optional remote control)
Manufacturer Heathkit
Type robot
Release date 1984
Introductory price Kit US$599.95,
Assembled US$1000
Discontinued 1995
Units sold 4,000(Sold over 8 years)
CPU Motorola 6808
Memory RAM: 2 kB, expandable to 24 kB
Monitor ROM: 32 kB
Display 9 LEDs
Input Hex keypad with 17 keys
Power Batteries:6 V 3.8 A·h x2, x4 optional

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 lb (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, and making its own combinations of phonemes to create a robotic gibberish.

HERO 2000 (ET-19)[edit]

HERO 2000 (ET-19)
HERO 2000
Manufacturer Heathkit
Type robot
Release date 1986
Introductory price Kit US$3000,
Assembled US$4,500[8]
Discontinued 1995
Units sold 3000(Sold over 8 years)
CPU Intel 8088(Main)
6 slave Z-80 processors (11 with optional Arm)
Memory RAM: 24 kB, expandable to 576 kB
Monitor ROM: 64 kB with integrated BASIC
Display sixteen head-mounted LED status indicators (eight are user definable)
RS-232 serial port
Sound Speech synthesizer
Input RS-232 serial port
Power single 24 amp-hour battery
120 VAC charger included

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.[9]


HE-RObot is a badge-engineered version of the 914 PC-Bot (pictured) by White Box Robotics.
Developer White Box Robotics
Manufacturer Heathkit
Type robot
Release date 2007
Introductory price as much as $8000
Discontinued 2012
Units sold approximately 50
Operating system Windows XP Pro
CPU Intel Core Duo
Memory 1 GB DDR2 RAM
Storage 80 GB 2½in. SATA Hard drive
Power 2 x 12V 9Ah Lead Acid Battery
SONEIL 12V Intelligent Battery Charger (3A)
Dimensions Height 21in.
Weight Weight: 25kg (55lbs)
Website www.heathkit.com/herobot.html (Historical) Archive copy 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.[10][11]


BYTE called HERO 1 "a product of extraordinary flexibility and function ... If you are interested in robotics, Heath will show you the way".[5]


  • 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


  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 avaiable as options. It is now a sought after collector's item. ISBN 0992138205
  3. ^ Mark J. Robillard: HERO 1 - Advanced Programming and Interfacing, H.W. Sams 1983. ISBN 0-672-22165-9
  4. ^ Howard Boyet: Hero 1 - Advanced Programming Experiments, Heathkit/Zenith 1984. ISBN 0-87119-036-2
  5. ^ a b Leininger, Steve. "Heath's HERO-1 Robot". BYTE. p. 86. Retrieved 19 October 2013.  volume 8 number, 1 January 1983
  6. ^ BUILDING A ROBOT: THE CRASH COURSE, By WILLIAM J. BROAD, Published: May 3, 1983, NYTimes.com
  7. ^ Robots: Best Educational Platform Ever, Apr 25, 2013 by Lou Frenzel, Communiqué
  8. ^ Electronics Newsfront, By William J. Hawkins ,Page 28,Popular Science, Feb 1986
  9. ^ John D. Hubbard, Lawrence P. Larsen: Hero 2000 - Programming and Interfacing, Heathkit/Zenith 1986. ISBN 0-87119-153-9
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Archive copy at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]