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RadioShack Trying To Return To Its DIY Roots 413

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 kcbnac ( 854015 )

      The one here in Elk River, MN does...last time I wandered in there, anyway. Asked the sales guy about it, says he sees about 1/3 of the store's sales out of that corner...

    • 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 Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:35AM (#36271126) Homepage Journal

        Radio Shacks have been hit or miss. 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.

        While Radio Shack will never really compete with online warehouses, it does seem like they could do better. I think part of the problem is being a retailer of limited space competing against "long tail" internet sellers. The increasingly high cost of retail frontage isn't helping either, every peg and every tray needs to turn over a certain amount of money per year. $20 cell phone holsters and chargers probably do a better job of that for them than odd $1 electronic components. It does look pretty sad to see a drawer tray with components in old style and, yellowing packages. I find that the local stores are unlikely to have what I need. In some ways, I felt like I was ending up like my own small parts retailer, whenever I order, I'd often buy extras and variations so I'd have them on hand in case I ever needed them.

        • 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 [].

          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 viridari ( 1138635 ) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @09:22AM (#36272786)

            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.

            Poo to that! There are a ton of small shops on the 'net that cater to enthusiasts and will sell small quantities of components to you quite happily.


            Though for bread & butter components that I am going to use pretty regularly, I'll buy those on eBay. Mostly from Chinese sellers but sometimes there are some stateside sellers competing for your business. Most of the time I get my components in from China within a week or two. I've actually had them beat Sparkfun to my mailbox when I place orders on the same day. Sometimes things get held up and you can wait a few weeks. So don't be in a rush if you go the eBay/China route.

        • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @08:46AM (#36272600)

          >"$20 cell phone holsters and chargers probably do a better job of that for them than odd $1 electronic components"

          Yeah, but RS doesn't SELL any "$1 components". They sell $3+ components. So not only is the selection of components poor (which has been my chief complaint over the last 20 years) but they charge a huge premium for everything.

          One strategy they should use would be to have at least ONE store in each market zone that is dedicated to nothing but components and located in a lower-rent (non-mall/strip) area. There are probably 20 RS stores here, within reasonable driving distance...

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        And the switch selection is directed towards the ricer wannabe kids. I dont want chrome blue painted jet fighter toggle switches or the other butt ugly Ricer R-type crap they stock. Only losers and posers put that crap in their car. Plus the quality is so bad that you can feel the switch wanting to fall apart in your hand. Mosst of the pushbuttons are garbage, etc....

    • the ones that have been rebranded 'The Source by Circuit City' in Canada still sell a modest range of components and miscellaneous useful adapters and cables and so on at decent prices. Nothing like as decent a range as Maplins in the UK, but better than the big box electronics stores.

      • The one in my local mall has a couple of perf boards, some hookup wire, and a small selection of LEDs. No ICs. No transistors or other components. It's pathetic. Unfortunately, the nearest real electronics store is at least an hour and a half away by bus (and two fares) one way.
      • Maplin are pretty crap compared to what they used to be like. They used to have thick catalogues full of all kinds of bits - not just electronic components but servos, motors, gearboxes and bits for building organs and synthesizers like keyboard assemblies, leslie speakers and even flat-pack wooden cabinets. The catalogue often had a page or so devoted to a particular IC (three or four pages, for the ubiquitous AY-3-891x family) showing example circuits and technical information.

        If that wasn't enough, the

      • by gordguide ( 307383 ) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @08:27AM (#36272458)

        the ones that have been rebranded 'The Source by Circuit City' in Canada still sell a modest range of components and miscellaneous useful adapters and cables and so on at decent prices. Nothing like as decent a range as Maplins in the UK, but better than the big box electronics stores.

        Actually, they're neither Radio Shack or Circuit City operations in Canada.

        They're owned by Bell Canada; Circuit City USA went bankrupt and in 2009 Bell bought the Canadian assets of The Source from Circuit City, which were still profitable and a viable operation, and operated by a Circuit City subsidiary, a company called InterTAN.

        InterTAN was formed from the former Canadian operations of Tandy/Radio Shack ... don't know the exact date, but think 20 years or so, when Tandy USA spun off and sold them to Canadian investors. If you dig through your parts bin, you definitely have to go a long way back to find the Tandy Radio Shack name in the small print on the back of the package if you bought it in Canada; for many people, all they will have will be marked InterTAN instead, even if it says Radio Shack on the front.

        There was a licensing agreement to use the Radio Shack name, however, as part of the deal. When Circuit City bought InterTAN in 2004, that licensing agreement was declared invalid (after a lawsuit, by Radio Shack USA, of course) in 2005. Thus the rename to "The Source by Circuit City".

        Technically now they're called "The Source (Bell Electronics, Inc)". Some stores, however, to this day retain the old branding with the "The Source by Circuit City" name on the outside signage. You could probably chalk that up to Bell being cheap more than anything else.

        InterTAN, which is still based in Barrie, Ontario, was created out of a big part of the "old" Radio Shack operation in Barrie, which was responsible for sourcing components offshore and commissioning the Radio Shack branded parts, like Archer, Realistic, etc, and warehousing and distributing stock for North America. It was sold by Radio Shack's parent company, I believe which is Tandy, and renamed InterTAN at that time.

        So, there hasn't been a true Radio Shack in Canada for many years, and although the two companies have been independent for a very long time, there was some relationship that saw the same products in both stores, but also they differed with each offering unique products not available to the other. Although there is some relevance because there are similarities between the two national companies product mix and target customers, for the most part this /. submission has nothing to do with the Canadian situation.

        Since they're now owned by one of Canada's largest cellular phone networks, it's hardly surprising that the phones are prominently marketed in the stores in Canada.

    • No kidding. I've been to my local Shack numerous times over the last fer years looking for parts, like enclosures, crossovers, resisters, etc. I always end up driving 30 miles to Fry's. RS sucks now. I have no idea how they stay in business.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by symbolset ( 646467 ) *
        Somebody's going to post this link. It may as well be me. Even CEO Can't Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business [].
      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        I usually find Fry's and RS's selection to be complementary. Fry's has cheaper parts, but there are a fair number of things that RS carries, but Fry's doesn't. For example, unless they've added it recently, Fry's doesn't carry the ubiquitous 555 timer IC. They also don't stock certain small values of film caps that I use regularly. Radio Shack has both.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Holi ( 250190 )

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

      • I find this irritating as well, but I came up with a better solution than telling the to go to hell. When they ask for my personal information, I give them a fake name and the address of a porn shop downtown. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to imagine one of these people calling up the number I gave them and asking for a Mr. Hugh Jass.
      • by jafo ( 11982 ) *
        There's a *VERY* easy solution to this: "No thanks." I've never had one of their clerks have an issue with me answering their address question with "No thanks". It hasn't even phased them...
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      That commercial is basically asking "How can we make ourselves look like a DIY store without actually a DIY store".
      They're so far out of the game that they have to ask outsiders to label the products that might be used for DIY.

      • I would SWEAR she says dipshit instead of dipswitch... she's a "brand manager" so not a techie. Now had they actually used an engineer or even better a real DIY'er then maybe they'd make some traction. sigh.

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

      RadioShack - You've got questions, we've got cell phones!

    • The ones around here do. I bought a couple of LEDs last month to "repair" one of my old electronics kits for the kids.

  • 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...

    • Yeah, but they should have been prescient enough to have maintained an image, moved all of the DIY stuff to online only, pick up in store, etc. etc.

      If they still have access to the suppliers and good contract/distribution terms, they could still correct this.

    • There was plenty of DIYs around. Well at least in Canada anyway. But, radioshack got shoved to the dirt when their competitors(usually smaller places with better stock, and cheaper prices) out did them. About 30mins from my hometown there's a major DIY shop that carries just about every thing electrical you need. And what they don't have, they can get within 24-48hrs for you.

      Price is another example. Simple 10 pack of 10ohm resistors were $8 at the shack, and $2.49 at another shop. Most of the time, even if you were driving 30mins you saved money. This is all 4-6 years past of course, but radioshack killed itself, by overcharging on everything. I mean really $4 for a red LED? What? I can by them for $0.18/c elsewhere.

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        As I look, right now, resistors at Radio Shack are selling for $1.19 in packs of 5.

        Myself, I bought a giant bag of 1/8 Watt resistors (500 or so of them) from Radio Shack a few years ago, of widely mixed values (and with larger quantities of more common ones, and fewer quantities of less common ones).

        IIRC, it wasn't all that expensive. I haven't bought any resistors since -- whatever I need, within reason, I can build out of that stock.

        My biggest complaint, these days, is not that they don't have what I wa

      • Those prices are a lot higher than I've seen, maybe RS Canada was getting too big for their own good. In my area, it was $1 USD for a 5pk of resistors. A lot, but not nearly as bad as your example. It's good in a pinch, but eventually gets hard to justify when I could get 100pcs. for $1.

      • "Price is another example. Simple 10 pack of 10ohm resistors were $8 at the shack, and $2.49 at another shop. Most of the time, even if you were driving 30mins you saved money."

        One of the things Rat Shack sometimes did well was have a fair stock of various bits and pieces close by to many people. There's significantly higher overhead to that, so there will be higher prices. And it's lucrative to charge people for the convenience. "Convenience store service, convenience store prices". Your corner store will mark up their soda a lot more than a warehouse club, too, but it's the difference between 5 min and 30 min. When people are in a hurry, that's when they go to such places.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 )

      There's a local electronics hobby shop in my town. Good for when you need to pick up a particular type of cable or adapter, or some R/L/C component, or whatever, without waiting a week for it to show up from Digikey or Newark. But I'll admit, I have no idea how they're still in business.

    • 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.

    • The first thing I read on their comment page was a guy asking for a switch for his guitar pedal.

      They need to return to that niche market and market it well. Look at Lowes or Home Depot, or Napa Auto Parts. You go to Napa or Lowes and usually, the staff is at least of some help. Where the hell do you go for electronics nationally? No, I'm serious! You're out of town and that glass fuse in your laptop's car charger blew, and you're fucked.

      Where do you go? When I was a kid, you went to motherfuckin' radio shac

  • Can't even buy a 555 timer at RadioShack anymore...can't keep track of time, no wonder too little, too late.

    And I'm still pissed off that you couldn't put the 286 in my Tandy 1000TX into protected mode.
    • All of the 1000 series were XT Class machines. Yes, a majority of them technically had an 80286 CPU. My Tandy 1000 TL has a 9.15 Mhz 80286, but they only have an 8 bit memory bus,. They have no A20 handler. They cannot create an HMA or UMBs. They are basically 286s won an 8086 motherboard. But if your Tandy says it only has 640 K of RAM, it is lying. it eats 128 K as video RAM. So to get a full 640 K of RAM out of it. the board has to have 768 K. Getting more RAM requires an EMS card, I'm currently trying t

      • I remember that the $400 I dropped on a 10 MB drive for it was difficult to justify to the I didn't tell her about the $600 I spent on the EMS card.

        lollll...if I'd have known she would soon be the ex, I'd have told her.
      • excellent information.

      • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        Don't take this the wrong way please. I mean it in the nicest way possible.

        However, I am laughing so hard I am tears right now. I remember those times, and my geek friends and I used to snicker at some guy that had a Tandy. Tandy was never in high regard or the coolest system you could own.

        So I find it deeply, deeply, hilarious that two posters are trying so hard to restore one.

        It's like a man spending 75k to restore a Ford Pinto.

    • Most stores DO carry the LM555, the one near me does. []

      In a hurry, in a pinch, the Radio Shack fixes me up a couple times a month. Not that I like the store, or their prices, but *they there for me, baby!*
      • I wasn't explicit...guess I should have said "On the rack". I remember browsing for parts, not finding the right ones, doing calculations on a TI-something-or-other to figure out what I could fudge using resistance/inductance calculations...whatever. Could usually "get by" with what was on the wall. Plus what they had on the wall gave me...ideas (most of 'em bad, admittedly).

        Now? They don't have squat. I don't even go to RS for anything serious....if it isn't a pre-fab disposable, I order off the web
    • There was a gap of years, where I didn't need anything because I didn't have time to play around with my own electronics. I went back in looking for some little pieces. Don't ask me what. Resistors, switches, relays, or something along those lines. It really hurt to see that they didn't even sell a soldering iron. I asked the guy at the counter. He had been a long time employee, and we had a good chat about it. There was one RS store in the area that had *some* parts.

      A fe

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:34AM (#36270786)

    FORT WORTH, TX—Despite having been on the job for nine months, RadioShack CEO Julian Day said Monday that he still has "no idea" how the home electronics store manages to stay open.

    "There must be some sort of business model that enables this company to make money, but I'll be damned if I know what it is," Day said. "You wouldn't think that people still buy enough strobe lights and extension cords to support an entire nationwide chain, but I guess they must, or I wouldn't have this desk to sit behind all day."

    The retail outlet boasts more than 6,000 locations in the United States, and is known best for its wall-sized displays of obscure-looking analog electronics components and its notoriously desperate, high-pressure sales staff. Nevertheless, it ranks as a Fortune 500 company, with gross revenues of over $4.5 billion and fiscal quarter earnings averaging tens of millions of dollars.

    "Have you even been inside of a RadioShack recently?" Day asked. "Just walking into the place makes you feel vaguely depressed and alienated. Maybe our customers are at the mall anyway and don't feel like driving to Best Buy? I suppose that's possible, but still, it's just...weird."

    After taking over as CEO, Day ordered a comprehensive, top-down review of RadioShack's administrative operations, inventory and purchasing, suppliers, demographics, and marketing strategies. He has also diligently pored over weekly budget reports, met with investors, taken numerous conference calls with regional managers about "circulars or flyers or something," and even spent hours playing with the company's "baffling" 200-In-One electronics kit. Yet so far none of these things have helped Day understand the moribund company's apparent allure.

    "Even the name 'RadioShack'—can you imagine two less appealing words placed next to one another?" Day said. "What is that, some kind of World War II terminology? Are ham radio operators still around, even? Aren't we in the digital age?"

    "Well, our customers are out there somewhere, and thank God they are," Day added.

    One of Day's theories about RadioShack's continued solvency involves wedding DJs, emergency cord replacement, and off-brand wireless telephones. Another theory entails countless RadioShack gift cards that sit unredeemed in their recipients' wallets. Day has even conjectured that the store is "still coasting on" an enormous fortune made from remote-control toy cars in the mid-1970s.

    Day admitted, however, that none of these theories seems particularly plausible.

    "I once went into a RadioShack location incognito in order to gauge customer service," Day said. "It was about as inviting as a visit to the DMV. For the life of me, I couldn't see anything I wanted to buy. Finally, I figured I'd pick up some Enercell AA batteries, though truthfully they're not appreciably cheaper than the name brands."

    "I know one thing," Day continued. "If Sony and JVC start including gold-tipped cable cords with their products, we're screwed."

    In the cover letter to his December 2006 report to investors, "Radio Shack: Still Here In The 21st Century," Day wrote that he had no reason to believe that the coming year would not be every bit as good as years past, provided that people kept on doing things much the same way they always had.

    Despite this cheerful boosterism, Day admitted that nothing has changed during his tenure and he doesn't exactly know what he can do to improve the chain.

    "I'd like to capitalize on the store's strong points, but I honestly don't know what they are," Day said. "Every location is full of bizarre adapters, random chargers, and old boom boxes, and some sales guy is constantly hovering over you. It's like walking into your grandpa's basement. You always expect to see something cool, but it never delivers."

    Added Day: "I may never know the answer. No matter how many times I punch the sales figures into this crappy Tandy desk calculator, it just doesn't add up.",2190/

  • 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.
  • I was sure it was a Yes Men stunt until I saw it was posted on RS's official YT channel. I'm kinda disappointed in a way...
  • They should try selling computer parts and not stuff like sign up for dish network and get a free gun. []
  • 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)
    • I think someone like him would be needed. Whoever it is would probably need to be video and YouTube savvy and become the "DIY guy" for electronics.

  • very few people scratch build any more, and IMHO Tandy/RadioShack didn't have the range of stock that other stores had. They die because they did a 1/2 assed job.

  • Frankly, If I wanted a part right away at an exorbitant price, I'd have it shipped overnight express from sparkfun or some other online retailer. Hell it's probably still cheaper. I'm in Canada and Radio Shack as a brand went defunct years ago (bought out by circuit city and forced to rename to the source, then bought out by Bell). I mean, I'll always have the memories of old radio shack with its TRS-80's and Tandy computers or otherwise and remote control cars stacked in a pyramid around christmas, with

  • 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.

    • Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the 2SC1815 was discontinued some 5 years ago. The only place I have found this recently is on discontinued stock websites or places running their stocks down.

  • Known about this for about a month now, it's been a very badly kept secret with the ground floor guys at RS. From what I've gathered, it's the new CEOs push to really get back to what drew people to the store in the first place -- the "Oooh, neat" factor. How they execute it, however, is still up in the air; most RSs are dinosaurs in terms of getting new product in / clearing out old product. My experience with them was mostly replacing/repacking stuff that had its casing yellowed because they've been in th

  • There are already store(s) in my area that are filling the small and dwindling niche that Radio Shack once filled. They're farther away and few in number. Us old-timer tinkerers aren't likely to ever go back when we still recall how they so eagerly abandoned us when they thought the big bucks laid elsewhere.

    Anyone remember Dow Radio in Pasadena, CA? I wonder if its successor is still there.

  • I had great memories of Radio Shack. I could go in there, and talk to a guy who knew the difference between a relay and a resistor, and knew what the funny coloured bands were used for. Little by little, the stuff I used for my projects left the store to be replaced by the same crap you can buy at any other of 100 stores. The people that knew what they were doing were replaced by people who really had no clue, and could have been selling burgers or mini-skirts, it really didn't matter. The final insult
  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @12:55AM (#36270904)
    I was mainly building digital and digital-analog circuits... so I'd go into Radio Shack and some sales guy would approach. (This happened not just once, but many times, seemingly a different salesperson each time.) I'd tell him I was looking for another Quad 4011 CMOS NAND Gate or a particular transistor or some such, and he'd get a blank look on his face. I'd say, "I know where they are" and go get them.

    I admit that was years ago. But the funny thing was, not very long after that I applied for a job at one of the local Radio Shacks, and a little while later received a letter in the mail telling me I was not qualified for the job. I was not sure whether to be upset over the unjust insult, or laugh at the hypocrisy of it all.

    But I think that was one of the big things that killed the store. They had a policy of hiring people who didn't know squat about DIY stuff. Instead they tried to sell stereo equipment and cell phones and Christmas toys. But that's really not what they wanted -- or needed -- to do. Everybody else was already doing that stuff.

    I would love to see Radio Shack get back to its DIY roots. This time around maybe they can sell Arduinos and 3D printers. Heck... people are already selling machines that are 3D printers and CNC milling machines put together. It doesn't get much better than that. I want one.
    • by emt377 ( 610337 ) on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:48AM (#36271180)

      I would love to see Radio Shack get back to its DIY roots. This time around maybe they can sell Arduinos and 3D printers. Heck... people are already selling machines that are 3D printers and CNC milling machines put together. It doesn't get much better than that. I want one.

      PCBs would be awesome. Upload the design and go pick up the boards a week later. They could get enough volume to bring prototype-run prices way down.

      And sell essential tools, which includes things like reflow stations these days. And ribbon cable kits, tools and all.

      • Mod up. I think that's an idea that is worthy of telling them about. Currently, most folks are getting their prototype PCBs done in China. That could go a long way to bringing it back local, which would be a Good Thing.

        Personally, if I'm doing "rapid prototyping", I'd pay $30 for a board done in 2 days (overnight, anyone?) rather than $5 or $10 for something I might get back in a month.
      • In fact -- thinking about your idea -- they could purchase rights to some good PCB software, or adopt one of the better open-source programs, some of which are very good, and offer it free to their customers. Then they could say "give us the file in xxx format and we'll have it for you in 2 days". Or overnight, or whatever. I agree: awesome.

        Tell them about it and get some credit for the idea, at least.
    • by jo42 ( 227475 )

      I was not qualified

      These days "over qualified" is written by HR wanks as "not qualified" in the name of political correctness and all that other corporate butt rot.

  • If this works, then soon, I expect a return of The Free Battery Card (one free per month for you youngsters).
    I still have 2 punches left on mine, I hope I can find it.
    After that they can bring back the tube testers.

  • The "Onion" article aside ;) I hope that it isn't too little, too late... despite all indications that it may well be.

    The resurgence of people tinkering is an encouraging sign. Of course, there are still plenty of Ham Radio Operators out there. Yeah, a LOT of them are "Appliance Ops", but there are still those of us out there that *DO* enjoy tinkering! Here is proof! :) []
    (My Ham Radio site, Coralized for Slashdot protection)

  • make a noise like a cheese.

  • 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.

  • Luckily for my area there are stores like JB Saunders [] to fill the void that Radio Shack left long ago. From now on I go out of my way to give them business in order to help foster a local business community. Plus they have boatloads of ridiculously useful stuff anytime I need it and I don't have to spend a ridiculous amount of money for an overpriced HDMI/USB3.0/whatever cable when I need it.
  • Too late; dead to me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:31AM (#36271110) Homepage Journal

    First, SparkFun [] has a hugely better selection than the local Rat Shack ever did. Second, OK, so you decide to shift focus. Where are you going to get the people to staff these places? You can't throw a few ICs on a wall display and expect the mouthbreather at the front desk to be able to help with it. I'd honestly rather buy from a vending machine than deal with the kid who's trying to upsell me to a gold-plated breadboard, and would I like an iPod case with that? Finally, prices, prices, prices! The cat ate the charger to my wife's laptop. I found a replacement through the manufacturer's website for $50, and from eBay for $16. Rat Shack only stocked a universal (read: Soviet styling with crap specs) unit for $80.

    So how's this supposed to work? They're not going to outstock online stores or other established local specialty shops. They don't have a competent sales force (and probably can't get one, because people worth having probably wouldn't be caught dead working there). I can't imagine that they'll ever set reasonable price points. Nah, they're dead to me - and apparently to almost everyone else. The "Radio Shack" brand is crap, and I don't think they can salvage it. I think their best best is to throw it away and launch a giant rebranding and "we used to suck and we're honest about that but we're better now" blitz.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      I think their best best is to throw it away and launch a giant rebranding and "we used to suck and we're honest about that but we're better now" blitz.

      Hopefully it works better than Pizza Hut's attempt [] at marketing "all natural" pizza instead of the presumably unnatural pizza they were serving previously.

    • Where are you going to get the people to staff these places? You can't throw a few ICs on a wall display and expect the mouthbreather at the front desk to be able to help with it.

      The local electronic hobby store staffs their store with engineering students. First years and second years are rarely looked for in engineering roles and yet have more than enough knowledge to sell a wide range of components.

      It's refreshing to ask someone where they keep their logic chips and have them reply with TTL or CMOS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 28, 2011 @01:33AM (#36271116)

    I wonder if they will partner with Arduino (and Open source) to not only sell parts but sell potential DIYers on the CONCEPT, by making available cool and low barrier to entry projects. Sort of like Heathkit used to do way back when.

  • Fry's Electronics demonstrates the direction that Radio Shack could have taken to survive...hell, Tandy's failed Incredible Universe store in San Diego was purchased and converted to a very successful Fry's store. To be successful Radio Shack would have had to be run by people who understand the needs and desires of today's techno-geek. Like most older technology companies Radio Shack came to be run by people who neither understood how to satisfy this niche market nor had the desire to do so. Instead they
  • ...I can get that Tandy computer I've had my heart set on. 80% IBM compatible!
  • I am 40(mumble) years old and it's been 20 years since they've had anything worth looking at in their Potemkin Village of a so-called electronics DIY store. And I'm being generous there.

    Up here in the Providence/Boston corridor, there is a store called You-Do-It Electronics in Needham MA. You can get /anything/, really. If you ask nicely, I suppose they can find plutonium to power your radioisotope thermoelectric generator.

    Radio Shack is going to have to beat them for me to step foot in one of their sto

  • by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Saturday May 28, 2011 @02:28AM (#36271320) Homepage

    Before my time, but I'm assuming Radio Shack got its start servicing radio amateurs.

    During my time (80's), radios were a "solved problem," but there were at least three new markets. First, in the pre-IBM PC days, everyone had to make their own RS-232 and printer cables because every computer had a different pin-out. Even if a commercial one was available, it was often more expensive (like $30) compared to the parts (like $10). Remember, this was the 80's, so multiply those prices by 3. ($90 for a pre-made cable vs. $30 for making it yourself). Second, terrestrial TV was still huge and Radio Shack was the most convenient place to get TV antennas, both indoor and out, and all the associated cabling and accessories, including rotators, bulk cable and crimpers. Third, for those of us early early adopters of home theater, Radio Shack was the place to get A/V patch cables.

    So what should Radio Shack be selling now?

    Well, computer and A/V cables are "solved problems" and available at Wal-Mart. Radio Shack should be focusing on the next bleeding edge consumer technologies -- the ones that are still sold in pieces and parts instead of all-in-one solutions. They could catch the tail end of home video security. There are a lot of cheap turn-key solutions, but there's still some special applications that call for pieces & parts: wide-angle, night-vision, motion detection, high-end PC capture cards, etc.

    They could serve the homebrew robotics market. Right now, Asia is dominating advances in robotics -- we need some robot tinkerers in the U.S. just as the U.S. had for automobiles a century ago.

    Finally, Radio Shack desperately needs to update its inventory for electronics tinkerers rather than using SKUs from 1980. Over the past 30 years, oscilloscope prices have fallen through the floor and are now well within Radio Shack price ranges. The world has moved beyond hex-AND chips. Radio Shack should be selling FPGA starter kits.

    It may be that a metropolitan area can't support more than one or two such Radio Shacks that serve tinkerers. Perhaps Radio Shack needs to have a limited number of "Super Radio Shacks". But as with Micro Center, there are times where same-day pick-up is needed and even overnight delivery from the Internet is not fast enough.

  • I really used to enjoy going into a Radio Shack store and check out all the different parts and build stuff. Then, they zapped it all, turning it into a cell phone / crap place. I've managed to find a few of their stores that still have managers that give a *hit an still carry resisters an such, but it's rare.

    I haven't been in one of their stores since like 2002, and that was cause they had ladder line for antenna's.

    Impress me Radio Shack, and carry all the stuff you used to.. and you'll get

  • I was with a group of middle-aged friends two weeks ago and someone mentioned that a particularly type of power adapter might be available at Radio Shack.

    The subsequent conversation determined that

    • none of use had any idea where a Radio Shack might be located
    • 50% of us were very certain that Radio Shack was long out of business
    • the rest were not entirely sure if Radio Shack was still in business
    • none of us could remember the last time we shopped at a Radio Shack, but "sometime in the Reagan era" was a typical
  • The prices they charge for common cables is astronomical. When I see some poor unsuspecting person wander in and ask for something, it's usually for something they are going to end up paying $50+ for, when it should be 20 tops. To me this seems to be their only repeat customers. Old people, who want things handed to them without them knowing anything about it. I also remember back in late 04 wandering into one needing a DVI = VGA adapter, figuring they would be the place that would definitely have them... N
  • I think recreation is a key to their having some draw. Perhaps Radio Shack can embrace Maker Faire types of projects and reserve small parts of stores for interesting kits to build, carry the magazine, and even hold store seminars on recreational building. Alternatively they can continue to carry only cell phones, plastic crap toys, and go down in history like a dinosaur trapped in tar.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.