Saturday, February 07, 2015

Signing Off From the Shack One Last Time - The End of Radio Shack

When I was a kid I loved to go to card shops, comic book stores, and Radio Shack.  Card shops have long faded or blended into comic book stores in the larger cities, but Radio Shacks were still on every corner.  At least they were on every corner until this weekend.  This weekend marks the bankruptcy death of the famous chain.  All across the world the 1700 or so remaining "Shacks" have going-out-of business sales.  Prices range from 25% off in some stores up to 70% off in other stores.  After the sales, Sprint will take over some of the stores, but nobody knows if these sites will simply sale Sprint phones and services or if they will carry traditional "Radio Shack" stuff.

This weekend I visited two Radio Shack stores to search the sales, but more importantly to bring back some memories.  I can still remember my first computers from Radio Shack, the childhood electronic project kits, scanners, all the adaptors any young person might need to make a stereo work perfect.  I can remember looking at all the little switches, circuits, and boards.  I can remember when the Tandy 1000 TX was replaced by the newest model of computers.  At the time it seemed like nothing could beat a 286 and that the floppy drive would never die.  I can remember all the cool spy stuff, not that it was supposed to be used for spying, but anything that amplified sound had applications for a budding spy!

As I strolled through the store I wondered briefly why I had not been to one in years.  Looking at the prices, it quickly came to me that I had not been to the stores because they no longer held up against the competition.  For example, at one store I found a Macbook battery for an older computer my daughter uses.  With the discount it came to $27.99 before taxes.  That seemed like a good deal until I used my cell phone to search E-bay and found better batteries for a price range of $12.99 to $25.99.  So much for the big sale.  I did manage to buy some "IRig" adaptors at a fairly decent price and a 400 watt converter for a little over twenty bucks.  Overall, I found that many of the sale prices simply did not compare to what I could find at online electronic stores or on E-bay.  It was at that moment that I realized that while Radio Shack was dying this weekend, it had died to me many years ago at the onset of Internet retail.  I had simply moved from the "Shack" to my home computer screen.    Now if I needed computer adaptors, radio supplies, scanners, or even project supplies, I simply clicked the button on a mouse, placed the order and waited for it to arrive at the house.  There was no longer a need to run to the "Shack," and often it was overpriced anyway.

When I left Radio Shack today the clerk reminded me, "All sales are final."  It was a polite way of saying, "You can't bring this back because we won't be here."  I glanced at my receipt that said, "Radio Shack" and looked back at the big, red sign.  My mind raced through the childhood thrills once again of a young man who was convinced that Radio Shack held all the components needed to make a space ship and go to the moon.  I cherish those memories and those days spent searching for just the right items to make my electronic dreams come true.  Soon, Radio Shack will slide into history alongside other greats such as Montgomery Ward.  Then in a few years the "Shack" will just be a footnote for history classes and economic classes.  I'll miss the "Shack" least for awhile, but ultimately that is due to sentimental reasons.  It won't take me too long to hop back on the Internet and buy the electronics I need.  It is ironic that Radio Shack began symbolically to represent a Ham radio operator's "Shack," a way to communicate worldwide through the air.  Now we are able to communicate worldwide through the Internet.  The very mode of communication that helped bring down Radio Shack, is now transmitting the end of the retail chain around the world.  Soon, Radio Shack will sign off from the world one last time on the medium of communication that brought about the end of the electronic giant.