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Surfin’: Getting Parts in the 21st Century

04/05/2013

By Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU
Contributing Editor

This week, Surfin’ finds radio parts on a fascinating website.

Back when I began stinking up my parents’ house with the scent of liquefied solder, there were radio and electronics stores in the area where I could buy all the parts to build my projects. But in the 1970s, those stores went the way of the vacuum tube. I had to go the mail order route to buy my parts unless it was a common component that my local RadioShack stocked.

Mail order was painful. Before you could order anything, you had to obtain a catalog from the mail order house in order to find the part number and price of the part you wanted. Then you filled out the order form, mailed in your order (that’s why they call it “mail order”) and waited weeks for the delivery of the parts.

To rub salt in your wounds, sometimes a part you ordered was out of stock -- but you would not discover this until the other parts were delivered. Then you had to start the mail order process all over again, ordering a substitute part or ordering the part from another source. Meanwhile, dust would begin to gather on your project.

The Internet has changed all that. Today, you can order from online catalogs that let you know instantly if the widget you want is out of stock. Delivery seems instantaneous, too. I ordered something last Friday and it was delivered on Wednesday.

If you’re into making radios, I’ve found a website that sells an interesting array of parts, breakout boards and kits that you can play with: SparkFun Electronics. Their products are not strictly radio-related, but they have enough radio stuff to make things interesting. And if you are an electronics maker like I am, you will find their other offerings very tempting.

Until next time, keep on surfin’!

Editor’s note: Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU, seeks the unusual in radio. To contact Stan, send e-mail or add comments to the WA1LOU blog.



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