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RadioShack Trying To Return To Its DIY Roots 413

Posted by timothy
from the ghost-of-christmas-past dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In what seems to be a desperate attempt to keep the company afloat, RadioShack has made a video appeal to the DIY community that helped the retail chain grow into what it is today. The days of amateur radio operators and tinkerers flocking to the store are long gone, but it seems that the company wants to issue a mea culpa and move forward."
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RadioShack Trying To Return To Its DIY Roots

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  • by Dwedit (232252) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:27AM (#36270756) Homepage

    You mean that store that sells Cell Phone plans and accessories, and doesn't sell any electronic components?

  • by jra (5600) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:29AM (#36270764)

    cater to DIYs.... it's that there *weren't* any.

    Make is changing this, of course, but we *all* turned into appliance operators over the last 50 years; no surprise Rat Shack went with the flow...

  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:37AM (#36270800)
    Some time ago Corporate America decided they didn't need any stinkin' American engineers...toooooo expensive...outsource 'em all. RadioShack just followed along and eliminated elementary school for engineers in favor of pre-fab junk for the proles in a "We're a service economy now!".

    Shouldn't let Wall Street run a country; they're only in it for themselves.
  • Mims (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smoothnorman (1670542) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:46AM (#36270848)
    1. Find Forrest Mims
    2. Make him CEO
    ...
    4. Profits (from DIY if profits from DIY are possible)
  • by Technician (215283) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:47AM (#36270858)

    It would be nice if they carried a much larger selection of parts. Long ago they found that a large inventory of low value parts took up too much wall space with too little turn. Unfortunately without traffic, the higher margin items didn't sell either.

    They pretty much lost me when they became another mall toy store and cell phone shop.

    If they would guarantee stocking all the common standard resistor values and capacitor values and most of the common IC's and transistors, then a hobbyist won't start elsewhere because the local shop is unlikely to carry a full inventory.

    How hard is it to have in stock resistors of the 1, 2.2, 2.7, 3,3 , 4.7, 6.8, and 9.1 values in most multiplier values in 1/4 and 1/2 watt sizes?
    A lack of semiconductors is their greatest downfall. They have maybe a dozen IC's in stock in the lines of the common 555 and little else.
    The transistor selection is very thin. The most common small signal transistors are absent. 2SC1815 or a 2N249 are scarce.

    If you want parts to build an interface to drive a sprinkler valve for robotics from an Arduino, there is nothing that would do the job. Power Mosfets for building any kind of H bridge for robotics is not in stock.

    Other stores and online are about the only place to get those parts anymore. Radio Shack's failure has given Mouser a huge market. Mouser is not as convenient for a quick pick up of some 4.7K resistors and other small orders so Radio Shack is missing out on the electronics convenience store they used to be.

  • by iksbob (947407) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:59AM (#36270946)

    Your local shack doesn't carry components? Is it in a mall or other high-rent area where space is expensive?
    It's not nearly as apparent as it once was, but the local store here has a limited selection of components. Rather than a wall of pegs filled with components on cards as in days of old (the early 90s for me), they're now condensed down to a chest of compartmented drawers.

    My main complaint is selection. When I go on Mouser or Digikey, 9 times out of 10 I end up with 50+ nearly identical components matching my search criteria. When I go to radio shack, I find one or two components (if I'm lucky) that share some general characteristic with what I'm looking for, but not enough so to be workable.
    Just today I went in there wishfully looking for test leads to hook up to the BNC jacks on my new function generator. They had 5 different flavors of twist-on and 2 flavors of compression connectors for coax, a handful of adapters and a couple of Ts. It all seemed to be geared toward making cables or hooking them up to existing products. I seem to recall seeing a BNC to banana/binding post adapter there at some point in the past, but no such luck now. I ended up leaving with a set of push-release speaker terminals which I'm now working on mounting to my breadboard's backing plate along side a pair of BNC sockets I scrounged off some old attachmate cards. It's for the better I guess... Radio Shack probably would have charged me 5x the price that I found online.

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:19AM (#36271048) Homepage Journal

    Just sayin'.

  • by Marrow (195242) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:23AM (#36271074)

    You want geek creds, you need to inspire people. Be the place where parents want to take their kids because they have a chance to learn something besides the best "fatality" moves. Think about offering classes. Have homebrew stuff displayed in-store so people can see what they can build. Embrace the niche.

  • by Holi (250190) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:26AM (#36271090)

    You mean that place that asked for my address to buy batteries?

  • Re:DIY Consumer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by emt377 (610337) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:51AM (#36271200)

    After watching that video, I am sick and tired of being referred to as a consumer, and not a customer. Unless we are in an economics lecture, or a corporate board room, I think it's truly impolite and frankly condescending to refer to someone that tries to make regular use of your goods and services as a consumer.

    Totally agree. In addition, people who build things are producers, not consumers.

  • by poptones (653660) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @02:46AM (#36271380) Journal

    I disagree. Ratshack sold out its base over time because it lots its innovative drive. It became just another competitor to the cheap big box stores and lost because it's not a big box store. Radio Shack once sold some of the highest quality affordable home audio (yes, it did) and look where it went: RCA and other "brand name" CRAP. That's just one example of how it lost focus.

    Radio shack has almost unprecedented community presence. They could offer services, like reflow soldering, act as a front end to an affordable pc board manufacture, and even offer walk-in cnc services. There's like 2500 stores in the US; imagine if you could walk in to a store less than 20 miles from the house, hand them a thumb drive, then stand there with the kid and watch while a cnc machine grinds out a part for you. No better way to get kids interested in this stuff than seeing it done and working hands on.

  • by macs4all (973270) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @07:17AM (#36272216)

    One thing you can do is check the RS web site, do a search and it can usually tell you whether any of the local stores stock something you can use. That way, you're leveraging their local inventory with the internet, you go to the store that has it and get it locally much sooner

    Funny you should mention "leveraging their website".

    Last night, I was trying to do JUST THAT, looking for some sort of power supervisor, or even an HC gate package I could use to fashion a reasonable Power-On-Reset circuit for a friend's Buffalo NAS (let's not devolve into a discussion of POR circuits, please! Suffice it to say, I figured out another way, ok?)

    ANYWAY, Here is what the Radio Shack website lists under the category Microcontrollers and DIGITAL ICs [radioshack.com].

    So, tell me: Just HOW does one "leverage" THAT???

    Oh, and the "Transistors & Analog ICs" Category is similarly laughable.

    I have fond memories of going to Radio Shack to find components for some little project, or components to build some sort of weird audio adapter; but no more. Now, there's no choice but to go to DigiKey and Mouser, and figure out how I'm going to meet their minimum order requirements, when all I wanted was $5 worth of stuff. Actually, unless it has changed in the past couple of years, I have found that Fry's actually has a pretty respectable (by comparison) variety of electronic components. Heck, last I was in there (they are about 25 miles away, on the other side of town), they even sold stuff like soldering stations and (IIRC) and some high-end (Fluke?) multimeters and stuff.

    RIP, Tandy Corp. We hardly knew ye!

  • by macs4all (973270) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @08:08AM (#36272396)

    analog electronics has kinda fallen by the wayside

    As an embedded developer with over 30 years of experience, I couldn't DISagree more.

    Especially if you deal in the world of real-time measurement and control, you will find that, for every microcontroller you place in a design, there will typically be 8 to 16 op-amp "sections" (usually in dual/quad packages) used as "buffers", active filters, etc., and several "passive" (analog) components. For example, to turn a PWM signal with 16-bit accuracy coming out of your microcontroller into an analog signal with a even just 12-bit accuracy (worst-case "ripple" being, of course, at 50% duty cycle), you need a minimum of a three-stage active Butterworth filter, requiring no less than 2 op amp sections, and several resistors and capacitors. Yes, you can use a D/A converter; but that usually isn't nearly as cost-effective, and usually carries its own group of voltage-reference ICs, passives to make the voltage-reference "stable" and "quiet" enough, plus op-amp output buffers, etc. All of those are ANALOG components.

    Look at the catalogs of companies that make a good selection of both analog and digital semiconductors, like ST Microelectronics, or even better, Texas Instruments. Their analog offerings are as wide (and perhaps even wider) than their digital offerings. Ever wonder why that is? See the above.

    I agree if you spend your time looking at Atmel, Cypress, Freescale or the like, you might get the impression that "analog is dead"; but nothing could be further from the truth. Heck, even Microchip has quite a nice selection of Analog, and Analog Interface, components. And companies like Analog Devices (and to a lesser extent, Maxim), have made an entire business model out of straddling that Analog/Digital "threshold".

    So, as long as we continue to live in an an analog universe, there will always be the necessity for getting analog signals into, and out of, that DSP or microcontroller chip, or into/out-of that Data Acquisition and Control system. Period.

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