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Old Dec 29, 2012, 10:57 AM
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Decline of Radioshack

Does anyone else here remember the "good old days" of Radio Shack? When they sold electronic components in drawers, not cell phones and $80 batteries? When the employees were informed, not incompetent high-schoolers who misinform? I miss those days. If only obtaining components was still that convenient. Now everything has to be ordered online.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 11:18 AM
Registered User
Blacksburg, VA 24060 USA
Joined Feb 2000
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Both my local Radio Shack still sell parts in drawers. They also sell the beginner Arduino micro-controller, PC boards, chips, wire, plugs, cables...

Jim R.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 11:23 AM
We can rebuild it!
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United Kingdom, Wales, Swffryd
Joined Apr 2010
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I still remember Tandy, the UK branch of Radioshack, I used to love diving in the "AS IS" section and getting faulty powered speakers and Rc cars to fix and learn repairs on.

I have Maplin but that's in the middle of nowhere, thankfully there is a small stall in my local market that does some basic components and "Lucky bags" of components they don't stock any more.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 03:16 PM
Marion
USA, NC, Hillsborough
Joined Oct 2003
1,026 Posts
Yes, I remember. Even met Mr Tandy once at our model field near Fort Worth Texas. I also remember when they sold only junk -- and I mean real junk. At least that has improved. Recently I asked a RS employee if they had battery holders for a single pen cell. He asked what a pen cell was !! Oh well....
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 04:26 PM
AndyKunz's Avatar
Illinois
Joined Sep 2001
24,820 Posts
Back when they were mostly franchises owned by nerds they were pretty good.

They kind of went out the same way hobby shops did, for the same reasons just a bit sooner.

Remember when the guy behind the counter could explain how a circuit worked? It reminds me of the buy who built his plane on the glass counter top (it was flat, and glue didn't stick).

Andy
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 04:56 PM
The Big Kahuna of Foam.
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Columbus, OH
Joined Mar 2005
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I bought my 1st TRS-80 from them. The store manager went on to start Microcenter. He offered me a job in in 1989 but I turned him down.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 06:41 PM
14s 180mah should be enough...
IFLYOS's Avatar
United States, NC, Pfafftown
Joined Feb 2001
3,694 Posts
Yep...I got my start in electronics from the "good" kits they used to carry. Thankfully I have a great electronics shop not far from the house that still carries parts, though most of the inventory is NTE stuff. However, they can and will special order odd parts as well. I have dealt with them for close to 15 years now, (for personal as well as work needs) and I really don't look forward to the day they close. Its a small family owned business.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 07:39 PM
Radio? Screwdriver!
United Kingdom, England, Bristol
Joined Aug 2011
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I remember Tandy (UK subsidiarity of Radio Shack) and had many of their electronic starter kits bought for me when I was younger! Those that came with a multitude of wires to connect to components that were broken out to springs. I still use my Tandy 3rd hand croc clip thing. Tandy ended up being bought by Carphone Warehouse, which converted the retail units into mobile phone shops...

We still have Maplin's over here, which now really only supplies gadgets and a small assortment of components. Those components that they do sell are hideously overpriced. However I remember reading that at the beginning of the last decade, they almost went broke as a component supplier to hobbyists. The business was turned around (and substainally grew) by selling gadgets and other electronic widgets.

I'm lucky in that I live in a major city, so we have a RS Components (Allied Electronics in the USA) trade counter within a 5-10 minute drive. They have a reasonable selection of stuff in stock, but you can get anything from their catalogue ordered online for store pickup within 10am next day (if in stock at their trade counter, same day)! Their catalogue not only has a plentiful array of components (not necessarily the best prices, but then single off parts never are) but also a good array of hardware (nuts+bolts+etc), tools and even Hydraulic+Pneumatic parts. They never seem bothered when I've come in for a couple of caps or my smallest order to date - a short cut-tape of 0401 resistors!

Also there is Farnell (Newark in the US) and Rapid Electronics that both do next business day parts ordering. I have put an order into Farnell before at 7pm and have it arrive next day. Farnell and RS Components between them pretty much stock every major IC manufacturers parts and development kits.

For more obscure parts or better prices, we can order from over the pond with DigiKey/Mouser and have it here usually in 3-5 days.

To be honest, with online ordering and fast delivery I feel that there has been no better time for a electronics enthusiast (well certainly here in the UK/US - I don't know what it would be like somewhere else). Even though its nice (and handy) to pop to a local store for the odd part, reality is, that is rarely needed. Especially as the range of components is so diverse now, they probably wouldn't have it in stock anyway.

Also lets not forget the free/cheap electronic CAD tools available and the even cheaper PCB manufacturing from China/HK suppliers. Plus the plentiful supply of cheap and very power microcontrollers with (generally) good support and extremely cheap (compared to what they used to be) development tools. If you want a datasheet, it requires 10 seconds on Google, then another 10 seconds or so to download it in full. Back when RadioShack/etc was selling components, you would have to persuade the IC manufacturers to mail you out a whole wod of paper (or on floppy disk if you was lucky)...

So, it is sad that places like RadioShack/Tandy/Maplin's/etc have changed, however lets not forget the ease and convenience we have nowadays. The only real disadvantage is that it requires a bit of forward planning when developing an electronic project and doing a proper, researched BOM so you don't require many separate orders... which is not a bad thing. Anyhow when using SMD parts, gone the days where you could knock something up on a Veroboard in the same day. But with the many cheap development boards, you can make a quick lashup even quicker than using Veroboard.

I'm looking forward to the future and what that will bring!

Si.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 07:56 PM
kad
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United States, NY, Poughkeepsie
Joined May 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wings of Balsa View Post
Does anyone else here remember the "good old days" of Radio Shack? When they sold electronic components in drawers, not cell phones and $80 batteries? When the employees were informed, not incompetent high-schoolers who misinform? I miss those days. If only obtaining components was still that convenient. Now everything has to be ordered online.
Yup, I used to work for Radio shack back in my late teens. I still remember 3 of the 4 walls of the store being covered in component packages, plus the drawers full of them. While they have recently started carrying a few components again, along with some REALLY overpriced Arduino kits, it's a sad shadow of their former glory. (Not to mention that they are charging as much for 5 resistors as a 100 pack will cost mail order...)

-K
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 02:03 PM
dieselburner
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Wyke, Bradford, west yorks
Joined Mar 2005
241 Posts
Well for my 2 cents, I still have my Tandy / Radio Shack "300 in 1" project builder kit, complete with books and it all still works after 30+ years, now my 11 year old daughter likes to build up radio's, beepers and flashing lights.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 02:18 PM
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United States, CA, Brentwood
Joined Jun 2012
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I remember the old radio shack very well. Used to stop on my way home from middle school everyday. Built alarms with mercury switches, crossing gates for my train set with led's that were so expensive back then, power supplies. Learned a lot back then, with the parts and electronic kits I got for christmas. Now it's just a handful of drawers, and employees that have no idea what a voltage regulator is or why they have them. Even frys electronics used to have a lot of stuff, now not much of anything. All seemed to go down hill with SMT stuff, since it was no longer easy to replace components. I've gotten to the point if I need a resistor, I order an assortment bag off eBay.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 03:13 PM
Thermite + ice = Big boom.
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Canada, ON, Ottawa
Joined Apr 2009
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We have the source up in Canada, the most advanced circuitry you can buy there is a 555, and it's nearly 10$. They sell capacitor kits, but they never restock, they're just selling off the old stuff.
My local electronics shop (still nearly 45 minutes away) just went out of business, now I'm stuck ordering online, and shipping is a real killer.
Being 16, it's hard to get around places or buy stuff, I order from a place in Quebec but they have a 50$ minimum, I usually end up ordering 100's of parts at a time to make the limit.
Even then, it's hard to find PDIP cases so that they're solderable, I'm usually stuck soldering SOIC or even SSOP packages.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 03:14 PM
Thermite + ice = Big boom.
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Canada, ON, Ottawa
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Double post.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 04:20 PM
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Illinois
Joined Sep 2001
24,820 Posts
A couple things that might help you:

1) Go to www.digikey.com and search for "SMT Proto board" - you should get a 2 pages of items from Capital Advanced Technologies and Twin Industries. The CAT stuff is nice because it gives a single row connection.

2) Learn how to make your own PCBs. When I was your age I would buy Ferric Choride (FeCl) from the Radio Shack. There are other, better etchants available today. I used to make all kinds of stuff. It was much easier and more reliable than wire wrapping (I still have and use my wrapping tool when debugging). Digikey's search for "Direct etch" will help there too.

Making my own boards prepared me for later in life, too. When I was still 17 I worked for my father, who at that time managed an electronics mfg company. I would work on the soldering line, or run the Van Dorn (plastic injector), or stamp metal brackets with a kick press, or do prototype and short runs of SMT products for our customers.

Later on, I was the head of software development for another company, and spent plenty of time in the electronics lab tweaking and fixing stuff.

At my last job I would do an entire project from schematic to PCB to debugging the board as well as all the firmware and software it would run.

Andy

Edit: I was fortunate. My parents bought a TRS-80 Model 1 when they first came out. It wasn't long until his computer became mine That thing cost more than a Lincoln Town Car of the day (think "Lexus"). They also encouraged me all the time in both electronics and models, and those two hobbies continually bumped into one another, and now they are both my job. They saw their investment in those things as an investment in my future - and I have 4 siblings they also invested in. They weren't wealthy in a monetary sense, but their generous giving is what has made all 5 of us great successes in our lives today.

It doesn't hurt to ask for a little help from them, you may find them more than willing to help you if they understand where it can lead.

We're trying to do the same kind of thing for our kids today.
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Old Dec 30, 2012, 05:18 PM
Put a bigger motor on it!
gtfreeflyer's Avatar
Costa Mesa, CA
Joined Feb 2007
1,532 Posts
I went there a few months ago to buy some sort of IC sensor to plug into my microcontroller and had asked an employee about it. He responded, "What's a microcontroller?" You figure that should be something covered in the employee training program.
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