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Farewell to Radio Shack

Feb 6th 2015, 02:18

AB4CT

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0

My first memories of Radio Shack are from my childhood. My dad ran a small radio & tv repair shop in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. By the time I was ten, I was spending lots of Saturdays and a good bit of time during school holidays at 'The Shop'. My dad bought most of his parts from Glenn Allen's Electronics just a block away from our Monroe Ave shop. I could walk up to Union Ave to pick up parts in about five minutes. We got a lot of car radio parts at Bluff City Distributors, but that was a ways away and it would be half a decade before I was allowed to drive to pick up things. There were a couple of other parts houses in town including a Radio Shack store. It was a Radio Shack dealer store - not owned by the company and it was unusual to get something there, but periodically, we did.

That Radio Shack, in the late 1950's, had lots of parts in drawers, their own tube tester, a wall of tubes and even a small area for Allied Electronics, where you could order things like transformers. My first self-built transmitter had a Bud aluminum chassis, and transformer I bought from Allied at the Radio Shack store. There was a section with ARRL publications and I remember buying copies of QST there before I received my license in 1962. (As an aside, there have been copies of QST around my house since then. I see the 25 and 50 year old QST's shown in current QST and remember the cover - sometimes.) There were also other magazines and books including my favorite Radio Electronics and Popular Electronics. If, like me, you read Popular Electronics in the 50's and 60's you probably remember the Carl & Jerry stories. In one or the other magzine, I read an article about someone who bought a surplus computer from the government and it had been cut into pieces for shipping. "What would anyone want with a computer at their home???"

Behind the counter were shelves with the more expensive items such as audio equipment, turntables and amateur radio equipment. My dad bought my first commercial rig at the Radio Shack store. It was a Hallicrafters HT-40 & SX-140 pair. By the time I was in high school and had a drivers license, I would sometimes go to Radio Shack - just to look around. It was a treat to go in when others of my age were in the store, because everyone who worked there, knew me, and spoke to me when I came in. I was never a big customer, but I was one of the regulars AND had a commercial account and with that a discount. I know how Dr. Sheldon Cooper feels when he goes to the Comic Book store and the owner - Stuart - knows him.

By the mid-sixties, there were two or three malls in town and at least one had a Radio Shack store. It lacked a lot of things that the dealer store had, but by the time I went to college, I knew what I could find there. After my return from college, I frequented Radio Shack stores in Tennessee and later in Virginia. The era of CB Radios gave way to better audio systems and then to computers in the late 1970's. My first computer was an S-100 buss system I built with assistance of the Blacksburg Group, especially Chris & Jon Titus. By the time I could afford something better, I bought a Radio Shack Model I. In 1980, Tandy the parent company of Radio Shack, began opening computer departments in some of the bigger stores and then opened a series of Tandy Computer Centers. I left teaching in the public schools to start the Computer Center in Roanoke, Virginia. Before the store was ready, we spent a few months in the Radio Shack store in Crossroads Mall. Both the regular stores and the new computer centers offered the line of Tandy computer. Because of the Tandy name, we would have people come to the computer centers looking for batteries, CB crystals and other parts, which we didn't carry. In the early 1980's the major players in computers were Tandy, Apple, Commodore and Atari. Tandy missed an opportunity they never recovered from, as did Commodore and Atari.

After moving to Alabama, I have frequented the four Radio Shacks in Montgomery, looking for parts, connectors, etc. I have found the employees to be less capable every year. Radio Shack has gotten to a point where the only things I ever look for are found in the ever decreasing metal cabinets at the rear of the store. In the cabinets, are various connectors, a few electronic components - things I need when making a cable or building a small project for my radios. The only reason I still go is I need something -NOW- I always check on-line to see if what I'm in need of is in stock. Even then, about half the time it is wrong and I will have to go to another store. Last year, the store in the mall was closed, but that was no problem as they were only interested in selling Cell phones. The store on Ann St or the one on Eastern Blvd was a more reliable location. When the stores finally are closed, I would like to buy one of the metal cabinets - just as a reminder of the good times I had over the years in Radio Shack.

I'll hate to see the chain go away. It will take a few years, of course. I missed Montgomery Wards when they closed - same with Stuckeys, although there is at least one Stuckeys on Interstate 65 between Montgomery and Mobile; I passed it last evening and the sign was lighted. Do they still sell the Pecan Logs? Somewhere, I have about a decades worth of Tandy Computer cataloges. It is fun to go through and see how the industry has grown.

I've seen Hallicrafters, Collins, Hammerlund, even RCA fade away. I don't think I'll ever see a drone drop a pair of PL-259 connectors on my doorstep, and I needed it this afternoon!

Feb. 28, 2015 -- The three remaining stores in Montgomery, AL and the one in Prattville have all closed. There were GREAT sales as they closed!!! I now own about 200 lbs of parts from the metal cases at the rear of those Radio Shack stores AND two of the metal cabinets. The cases each stand about 2 1/2 feet tall and contain seven drawers. I finished sorting the parts today and have way too many LED's, lamps and fuses. Still, I will be able to use the ninteen 8 pin mic connectors (I have Yaesu equipment), lots of project boxes and enough 1/4 watt resistors for the remainder of my life. My sons KC4EKO & AB9th will have to cart the remainder of my Radio Shack parts trove out of my shack when I die.

Farewell Radio Shack
I've been a regular at Radio Shack stores in:
Memphis, TN
Bedford and Altavista, VA (dealer stores)
Lynchburg and Roanoke VA
Jackson, TN
Montgomery, AL
1957 - Present

Patricia Turpin - AB4CT

So long and thanks for all the fish.


Feb 6th 2015, 14:27

K5ATG

Joined: Feb 6th 2015, 12:14
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
I don't go as back as you do sir, but when I was a kid in the 80's I would often spend my allowance at Radio Shack buying something to modify my toys with. A few weeks ago, I went to a fairly new Radio Shack in Midwest City, OK and tried to find a connector to a power supply. The people that work there did not know anything about electronics, but all three workers that were there kept doing everything in their power to sell me a cell phone. I left feeling dejected and violated.
Aug 16th 2015, 07:35

RWBurroughs

Joined: Jul 10th 2015, 16:29
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
My experience with Radio shack does not go back that far either, but I remember how I used to go in there to get different components and project boxes. Unfortunately, just like the last comment, the last time I went in to Radio shack, none of the three workers knew any thing about electronics. The store I went in was getting ready to close, so I was able to find a few things at great reduced prices.
Aug 20th 2015, 15:38

AI4BJ

Joined: Sep 2nd 2003, 12:14
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
I have never frequented my local Radio Shack stores looking for technical advice, so I have never been disappointed. :-) What I do find is a surprisingly wide assortment of components. When I need a part *now*, I don't mind paying a couple of extra bucks.

I still have a partially-punched "free battery a month" card from back in the 70s.
Feb 8th 2016, 07:50

KC3CGQ

Joined: Mar 16th 2014, 03:23
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
Thank you AB4CT for your memories.
My first memories of Radio Shack go back to the mid 60's in Allentown where you had a choice, half a block apart between Radio Shack and Lafayette Radio.
Either was a ready source of radios, antennae or parts. Over the years we watched them both wither and die out.
Today we have the likes of Mouser, but there was always something to being able to pick out, to actually touch your parts in the selection process.

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