History of HEI

The History of Howard Electronics (Since 1946)

History of Howard Electronics

Howard Electronics was started in April of 1946 as a sole proprietorship by my father, Mr. Fred Howard, and my mother, Mrs. Ruby Howard. The main business during those times was repair of five-tube radios, irons, toasters, and, due to my father's electrical background, he was able to rewind electric motors. Times were tough back then, but in 1953 television arrived in Wichita and my father, like all other technicians in the area, started learning how to repair televisions. Our only station at that time was in Oklahoma City, which is 150 miles away. That meant there was a business in long-range antennas and towers. As soon as Wichita received its first TV station, then customers required a rotor on that long-range antenna. Soon Wichita had three TV stations well established and the sales and service of television and installation of antennas flourished. I worked after hours with my Dad running TV calls on weekdays after school and installing antennas on the weekends, until joining the Air Force in 1959.

In 1963, the Federal Communications Commission established a radio frequency band called the Citizens Band. Use was light back then, but my father was very interested in communications so he started selling, using and repairing CB Radios. We then became "Kansas' Oldest CB Center" and that title still stands today.

In 1970, I returned to work for my father, for pay this time. The business now had two families to support. It was soon apparent that due to the size of televisions compared to the size of the shop my father built, we could not turn enough televisions through the small shop to support two families.

Then came CB Radio. We decided in 1972 that for every TV that was stored in our small shop, we could store fifty CBs in the same location. We no longer had to break our backs lifting the large TV chassis. So the decision was made to sell and service CB radios exclusively. That turned out to be a very good decision as around 1974 there was a CB explosion. Everyone jumped on the CB bandwagon and had to own one. Also it seemed like everyone wanted to sell them. Manufacturers could not keep up with the demand. Some manufacturers were pumping out a million CBs a month and there were still not enough to go around.

Then came the FCC in 1978 to crack down on the way manufacturers designed their CBs and to introduce 40-channel CBs instead of the usual 23 channels. The FCC imposed stringent rules on the way CBs were designed and most manufacturers decided not to build CBs after that. The field then went from about 107 CB manufacturers down to about 6 major manufacturers. Knowing what the FCC can do to the CB business, I felt that we had better have something to fall back on in case something would happen to CB. Along came cordless phones, which were being built by the same manufacturers that had survived the CB bust. We had another great ride selling and servicing cordless phones and again we were able to establish ourselves as Kansas' first full service cordless phone dealer. After about 10 years, cordless phones were becoming too expensive to repair and without service, we would not be able to compete in the sales market, so we called it quits on cordless phones.

During that same time, CBs were making a comeback and most of the CB shops had gone out of business. It then became very lucrative for us to be in the CB business again. We performed sales, service and installs of mobile equipment. We have since closed the CB business in 2003 and moved into our new location where we have plenty of room to grow. We now dedicate all of our time to improving the HEI website and trying to make it the best Soldering and Desoldering Website Distributor in the World.

In 1992, a salesman by the name of Bob Wells of Wells and Associates came by and left a desoldering tool with me. He told me to try it out and let him know what I thought of it as he was just starting to represent the company. I already owned three desoldering tools that I had purchased from a discount distributor to the tune of $500 apiece. These three desoldering tools were working, but as the circuit boards became smaller, the desoldering tools were doing more and more damage to the PC boards. The little desoldering tool that he left did not look like much and I was busy and reluctant to use it. Finally one day I tried it out and I could not believe what I was seeing. This tool would allow us to desolder a 100 pin, through-hole chip, and after we would desolder the last pin, the IC would fall out on the bench. It was totally unbelievable to say the least. This tool was very new to the market so I decided that if I was so blown away by the performance of this tool, there should be a lot of other technicians who would drool over it as I did.

I was so very right. The National Sales Manager for the manufacturer made me a deal that I could not refuse so I decided to give it a try. As it happened, I was able to exhibit at a trade show sponsored by an organization that I had been a member of for a number of years. I was able to sell all of the tools that I had originally ordered and then some. We started a one-third-page ad in Electronics Now and they started selling quite fast. Also to our surprise, we were selling all over the world. It really was an amazing little tool and still is today. They have made a few improvements, but for the most part it is still the same tool that we still sell today.

In 1995, we became "Distributor of the Year" on this tool and have been the leading distributor every year since. By the way, the tool is the DEN-ON SC7000Z and it still is the best desoldering tool that I have found. Since that time, we have expanded our business many times to include all phases of soldering, desoldering, and SMD rework, including microscope inspection, video inspection, dispensing, solder paste, lead-free wire solder, eutectic wire solder, solder bars, flux, fume extractors, heat guns, hot glue guns, vacuum pickup tools, and IR rework machines. We are constantly looking for new tools for our customers in the soldering and desoldering line. We only handle tools that meet with our approval. That way we can safely offer our 60-day money-back guarantee. We also purchase direct from the manufacturer when possible, whereby we are able to offer our low-price guarantee.

Since the inception of Howard Electronic Instruments, Inc. in 1992, we have accumulated well over 15,000 customers in our database, many of which are the leading electronic manufacturers around the world. We are very proud to say that we have done business with a very large percentage of the Fortune 1000 and Global 500 companies of the world. We are also proud to have added almost every University and College in North America, and many around the world, to our list of customers.

We got our Internet site up and running in 1996 and also had a way of purchasing directly from our web site through e-mail. It was not very secure back then because everything was so new, but we are very proud to say that now we are as secure as technology will let us. We have done everything to make our web site as secure as possible, so purchasing on the site will be a very gratifying experience. We have tried to make it as flexible as possible so a first time buyer can feel at home, or we can meet the requirements of the large corporations purchasing on the web site.

We now have a very formidable line of soldering, desoldering, and associated products and can meet all levels of application and every budget from the professional to the experimenter. We will continue to specialize in soldering and desoldering products for the professional technician, engineer, and manufacturer and will continue to grow our line to include all tools, including test and measurement instruments.

We will continue to remain small enough and flexible enough to support the needs of our customers, yet large enough and dedicated enough to meet the demands of our most demanding clientele. We will also continue to invest heavily in the Internet as that is surely the wave of the future. We are proud to have been one of the pioneers in our field for Internet shopping.

Should you have any particular thing that you would wish us to carry on the web site, please give me a call at the toll free number listed below or contact us. Thank you very much for supporting our business. We will continue to do our best to be worthy of it.

Jerry Howard and the family at Howard Electronic Instruments, Inc.