Radio Shack is finally declaring bankruptcy, but for many of us, it died a long, long time ago
Radio Shack is finally declaring bankruptcy, but for many of us, it died a long, long time ago.
And yes, I know it's Chapter 11, which means "restructure and reorganize, but not necessarily shut down." Still, I think something crucial has snapped.
Image courtesy The Old Robots website, which is fully rocking and should be immediately visited. <-
One of my earliest My very earliest Christmas morning memories revolve around getting this beauty. It was slow, clunky, and the claw couldn't drag a napkin off a plate of coookies (ask how I know), but man, was it amazing.
As a nerdy kid, Radio Shack was the store to cruise in the mall, especially around Christmastime when the aisles were stacked with amazing RC toys. It was a place of mystery, with huge spools of cable for all different applications – more than I had any concept could exist. Massive antennae scraped the ceilings, looming over everything in the store.
There were sections devoted to expensive equipment I didn't even kind of understand. Amateur radio! Citizens band! Home security! All this stuff, and I didn't have any idea what to do with it. I think, more than anything, the seed planted by that mystery drove me to engineering.
The best part was the mystery section at the back of the store, with all the little bubble packed ICs, resistors, transistors and other stuff I don't remember and couldn't even guess at. And of course, the 100-in-one kits!
Image from the Museum of Play website<-
I wanted one of these more than I could put into words. My parents wouldn't let me have one; they were convinced I'd electrocute myself and that my smoldering corpse would burn the house down. I had friends that had them, but they'd lost all the pieces and the book and basically we just used the body as an obstacle in our own epic battles of Five Armies (GI Joe, Gobots, Transformers, Strawberry Shortcake and always, always, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man).
Last but not least, the collection of Good Books.
Forrest Mims wasn't the only author to write books for Radio Shack, but he's certainly the best remembered. His Engineer's Mini Notebooks are still on my shelf, and still represent a valuable source of basic information for me to refer back to (right alongside "The Art of Electronics!" – 3rd edition coming soon!). And his book "Getting Started in Electronics" (which we still sell today) is probably the single most-cited book among engineers of a certain age when someone asks us how to, well, get started.
I grew up on the tail end of the (first) glory days of electronics as a hobby. By the time I was in college, Radio Shack had already turned the corner into "just another consumer electronics store." The last few years have been a heady time for me; working at SparkFun means I get to participate in the best part of the new golden age of hobby electronics – enabling the hobbyists! Eight-year-old me would be floored by the awesome stuff I get to do with electronics on a daily basis, and frankly, it kind of makes up for how utterly disappointed he'd be in the state of video game arcades.