A Radio Shack is a room or structure used for housing radio equipment.


Ok !any body over the years who ever has taken on an electronic project, messed with computers back in

the 70’s and forward most likely has crossed the threshold of their local Radio Shack.

They were so a neighborhood icon that most hobbyist would count on the Shack to be their

GPS so to speak, no matter where they lived the Shack could be found within a short

distance to gather parts, or find that last missing cable or component to complete a

audio, video, or digital project.

Can I recall my first visit to the Shack? Possibly I read the catalog first. There were

some competitors (Lafayette, Heathkit) ,but one’s first exposure could be by a snail mail

catalog back then. Radio Shack was also an advertiser in magazines like Popular Mechanics,

Popular Science and such projects in those magazines would also utilize Radio Shack

components. Any maker/hacker back than would quickly become familiar with the numbered

stock system. Hookup wire and tube sockets anyone ? Grab that high wattage Weller soldering gun !

Another brilliant move back than was the free annually catalog. One of The geeksters bibles

the shack catalog covered all current electronic trends from radios (real transmitters,

receivers,stereos, audio, video, (then televisions) and the real meat, electronic

components. Any one knows that a catalog is also an education tool. Perusing the pages

gave a wealth of info on the products. Don’t forget the book section at the Shack too.

The shack itself was an introverts playground as one would feel free to stay and spend an

hour scanning the shelves even though your total purchase might be less than $5.00 dollars.

The sales people would ask if you needed assistance and go about their business if you

responded “NO, just browsing”. Other retailers make you feel as though your are perusing

their store ready to stuff your pockets with their items or pepper you with questions

about what you didn’t want.

When digital started it’s transformation from the analog stream RS already had it’s

distribution in place for home and business computers. Also the shack transformed from the

vacuum tube era to the transistor to the Integrated circuit component supply not to

mention all the bells and whistles needed such as solder soldering irons, breadboards

power supplies etc.

Back then ,The quality of the Shack’s consumer electronics , even though they were from

off shore, tended to be better than other foreign goods as it seemed that the Shack

demanded higher quality. Even if they were at obscene markups, they were good enough at

the time. The other competition was a Kmart or local retailer or department store. Best

Buy, Circuit City, and comp USA didn’t exist yet.

It was the local Radio Shack that started my

education with home computers. A basic entry TRS-80 (affectionately know as the Trash-80) was

purchased and became a fixture on my living room coffee table. The blinking asterisk on the

screen indicated that the program recorder (a cassette recorder) was loading the program. I

learned how to play backgammon and lunar lander that was written in BASIC. With tutorials,

I learned BASIC and how to write save and load programs.

I wondered though as RS sold computers for home and business that the employees still

used the old handwritten pad of tickets for every purchase, That of course changed.

The Shack(s) was at that time a support center for makers as Heathkit, tended to cater to

the higher income hobbyist, closed it doors and later

my interest with the shack grew to a point there I went there once for employment.

Actually it was more of an interest, as a salesman I am not, and as customers entered the

store I would ask if they needed assistance and stumbled if they asked generalized

questions like whats a good calculator for school. Mostly knowing what I was going to buy

when I entered a store, I assumed most people did the same. The pay depended on sales and

the eager beaver salesman vied for the hours on the floor.

Not to sound trite but the rest, as they say is history your familiar with , the progress

of mass communication through the internet added another dimension to shopping and those

late adopters paid the price. Buy some consumer electronic devices on the internet today

and they come to your door directly from the overseas manufacturer.

Need components today and Amazon, and  Ebay, just to name a few will pop up in your search.





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