Bye Bye RadioShack

RadioShack circa 1993
So as many of my fellow dorks are aware, RadioShack is no more. All the rest of you are obviously the reason (where the heck were you?). Yes, while it's true that they are now owned by a random wireless carrier and function as spaces to sell Sprint products, the nostalgic RadioShack of the past is no more. For those who don't know though, RadioShack was like... the number one place to buy capacitors, resistors, dual axis accelerometers, and other thingamagidgets Scotty needed to repair the Enterprise. Trust me. This is a big deal for DIY people. Oh yeah, you could also buy a wide variety of batteries (and have them shipped to your house), antennas, small televisions, remote controls, sound systems, electronic gadgets and assorted do-dads, cameras, short wave radios, 150-in-One kits, and of course, RC TOYS! RadioShack was amazing back in the day and there was no other store quite like it.

Seriously, in the age before plastic touch-screen rectangles ruled the universe, anything "tech toy" usually came on four wheels or two copter blades, and sometimes both. RadioShack was the Disney Land of the local mall to the uber dorks in training, the one place I'd actually beg to be taken to, and I have vivid memories of going in with my folks just to play with all the RC cars they actually let the kids play with. Some of them later mysteriously made their way under a few Christmas trees even (funny how that happens). Now I don't know if it was common practice or not, but I remember almost every toy in the store being "try before you buy." I of course was also very young at the time and maybe my imagination is just acting up, but I remember actually getting a hold on the RC cars and driving them around the store, torturing the customers. I remember being told not to drive them outside the front of the store, although I certainly did try it. In fact, I seem to remember them not being able to be driven outside the store. They had some kind of force-field on the doors or something.

RadioShack indeed had a good run. They started out in the 1920s selling radio equipment. They sent around mail-order catalogs to enthusiasts of the new technology before they began actually manufacturing their own. They set up their first stores to sell their own radio products before they were bought by the Tandy Corporation, and that's when they really took off. People forget that they were one of the major retailers of computers in the 1980's and did a lot through their print advertising in mainstreaming the sale of computers to the average public. People way before my time know them for their TRS-80 computer, which actually came pre-assembled and not in the form of a "kit" (something rare for the time). In the long run, Tandy couldn't compete with IBM and they began restructuring. In the 90s, they shifted more toward retailing consumer electronics. They sold off their computer manufacturing and cut down their product line. Since then they've been trying to compete in the cellular and smartphone market, but obviously not doing so well at it.

I distinctly remember having one of these RadioShack 4x4 Off-Roaders my brother and I probably ended up driving down the stairs one too many times. In any case, it was definitely a truck and it was definitely blue, and definitely had little lights on the top and a strong front grill that probably protected it for at least twenty minutes of slamming into the kitchen chairs.

In the end, it seems even RadioShack knew their glory days were behind them when in 2014 they played up their own nostalgic image in this Superbowl ad where an innocent storefront gets ransacked by an army of 80s pop culture. Noticeable in the backgrounds are the "VCR" and "Boom Box" sections, perpetuating the joke of their retro-ness. Now as a loyal RadioShack consumer through the years (particularly around the holidays) I couldn't be more upset by this twist of fate for this part of my childhood. How will I go on without my "Battery of the Month Club" membership? But as a lifelong dork I am probably more upset about just where I'm going to go for capacitors. Seriously, the LED display went on my stereo and where was I going to go to DIY the thing back to working order? BEST BUY? Hah! In other recent news, the stereo I tried to DIY the display back to working order on is now RIP completely. How poetic.

RIP RadioShack

"I'm a Cartoon!" (The Pagemaster)

This is getting meta...
Here's one of the many facts of my life some people I know will never fail to let me live down... the fact that I looked like the kid in The Pagemaster (the animated one). I remember they first played The Pagemaster for us in "library class" (because in elementary school, even just the name of a room could be a whole class). They rolled out the big four-wheeled cart on the rug and popped in a VHS that blazed somewhere on the screen and probably fuzzed out the speakers ("all about that bass, no tremble" yes) always set to max for some reason. After probably four minutes adjusting the tracking came this bland movie called "The Pagemaster." This was probably around 1995 or so because for some reason I had never heard of it before then, but what did I care? "Yay, no work for the next hour."

Me, the Pagemaster.
I suppose they put it on in "library class" because it's book-related (which now makes me angry there was no "cafeteria class" or "bathroom class" because just imagine the possibilities!). Books were cool until this movie raped them. In any case, the moment Mac gets... mac-n-cheesed... into the fantasy stuff, I started noticing something. It was just a funny feeling. There I was sitting on the floor (the floor was our chair in this school) with my trademarked big round glasses hanging off my face and my dorky dorkatron-ness, and ... quite frankly I didn't see the resemblance at the time. I guess there was a time when I still saw myself as Alan Grant or Indiana Jones. Nope! Turns out I was just the Page Master dork. 

Now I'm not claiming to be Macaulay Culkin, but the resemblance between the 8yo Me and the cartoonized version of Big Mac is downright uncanny. Judge for yourself. My friends certainly did! So, given this coincidence, what did I think of the movie? It was an hour time waster during a slow school day. I'm sure all the teachers got paid. 

Oh yeah, but for those of you asleep in the 90s, the Pagemaster was actually totally awesome and completely not lame, but don't go and watch the movie for yourself or else the movie may prove me wrong. I know the current box art makes the movie look like a Harry Potter clone to get you to pick it up by mistake when you're waiting at the K-Mart checkout, but do yourself a favor and just don't. That goes for Harry Potter as well, which totally ripped this off. Granted, at least the title "Pagemaster" sounds a little bit more badass than your average My Little Pony villain. That should be say something. (And not just that Rainbow Dash is my favorite). 

Basically the plot of the Pagemaster, for all it's cracked up to be, features a worry-wart of a dork played by Mac-Attack himself, in the flesh (though not for long). His father is upset about his son's sissyness and tries to kill him with hammers and nails and the 10 foot heights of a treehouse. So he sends the kid out to get nails. Along the way, our hero seeks refuge in a library because facing a light rain is apparently far more frightening than being kidnapped by Christopher Lloyd. That's right. Angels in the Outfield proceeds to turn Mac into a cartoon because he's "in need of a fantasy." It was at this point the movie does its best to make sure no kid will ever want to read Treasure Island, Gulliver's Travels, Jekyll and Hyde, and Moby Dick (although we all got a laugh out of that one). How do I know? Because I certainly never read any of those books (although I'm thinking of giving a second look at that Moby one). Booko-pomorphic cereal mascots voiced by Star Trek actors spouting bad puns and one liners is about all I know about literature now. Thanks movie. 

And so they go on adventures and face down various hi-jinks as they Dragons-Lair Don Bluth into a coma (or into a courthouse at least). In the end the kid fights a dragon, which was pretty badass... at least at first. That is, it was cool until I... I mean, Mac, got eaten in one fire-breath belch-inducing chomp. "I'm not scared of you!" he says. Oh the irony. The one time in his life he had a right to be ball-less. Oh well. He obviously wasn't going to breed anyway...

Oh wait. In the end, the Pagemaster shows up and Deus-Ex-Machinas Mac back into the real world, teaching him the valuable lesson of facing fears and avoiding Christopher Lloyd and libraries like herpes. The kid returns to the real world without nails. So what was this movie really getting across then? It seems obvious. Never send a guy out to get anything hardware related. This is truth. We go out for nails, we end up lost in a fantasy world, get hung up with pirates, confronted by dragons, learn about our fears, and then always seem to return home with the 12-Amp Sawzall Reciprocating Saw with the 16 blade kit. And no nails.