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