Is Radio Shack returning to its roots?

1975 Radio Shack Catalog

1975 Radio Shack Catalog

As a kid, I used to enjoy the arrival of each year’s Radio Shack catalog. I would thumb through and think of all of the things I could do with the bounty of electronics within. I know, I know, Radio Shack was a joke compared to some of the larger electronics retailers of the sixties and seventies, but for a kid in the boonies of upstate NY, it was all I had. I started with the solderless 65-in-1 kit, and graduated to bigger and better things.  I built several of the P-Box kits, and tackled the Globe Patrol regenerative SW kit when I was about 11.  I wish I still had them.  I found an archive of the catalogs in my uncle Win’s basement at one point.  They were in his ham shack (S.K. W1PVC) neatly organized on a shelf.  Now, years later, the archive exists online.  For those of you that like to reminisce, go check out  Unfortunately looking through these is a little depressing as we not only miss what RS once was, but also miss some of the now defunct competitors out there, like Lafayette Radio (although there appears to be a company called Lafayette Radio on the web, selling mobile and marine gear).

I mentioned in my introduction post, that I have some potential hams in the family.  I recently went to Radio Shack to purchase a Gordon West technician study guide for the better half (yes, they have it), and was surprised at the HUGE display of Arduino, Make, and Parallax products.  Now, I know that The Shack, as they like to be called now, was carrying a small assortment of these things already, but they have GREATLY expanded the selection.  In the Manhattan RS that I went to, there was the equivalent of 2 vertical wall sections, and a third section on an endcap.  I hear that they had a large display at last year’s MakerFaire.

Will this lead to some Amateur Radio gear, or at least some related accessories?  Time will tell.  They surprised us once before with an unexpected return to Ham Radio in 1990 with the HTX-100.  Maybe someone in Fort Worth is looking at the companies they are trying to compete with by becoming a cellphone store and realizing that they aren’t doing well either (Best Buy?).  I have also noticed that some of the stores that eliminated the component section, seem to have now added the component cabinet that some stores had retained back to their stock.

Someone on the repeater the other night called Arduino, Make, Raspberry Pi, etc., the modern erector set.  I would like to believe that.  I think it’s time to start building some things.  Makes me feel like I’m 11 all over again. 73!

–Neil W2NDG



Neil Goldstein, W2NDG, is a regular contributor to and writes from New York, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

9 Responses to “Is Radio Shack returning to its roots?”

  • W0FMS:

    One can only hope. I wonder if the return of parts and kits to Radio Shack is to little, too late, though.

    Or maybe this is a bigger sign that maybe we, in America, need to get back to building things and understanding how to build things? Lets hope…

    I’ve bought some Arduino stuff from Radio Shack for my kids, even though I could have bought them for 60% less on e-bay, just to support the idea.

    Now, to have the time to get the kids going on the Arduino..sigh…

    Fred W0FMS

  • John KC2WEX:

    Radio shack use to have the ham as well as cb electronics that was easy to get. Just run down to the store and pick it up. No waiting 4 to 5 business days for the internet to get it. Ever since they screwed up the store with consumer goods you can buy cheaper somewhere else, the quality of goods for the ham is a legend of when they were more sucessful.

  • Paul Ross, W3FIS:

    I have recently used the Arduino to make a simple keyer for my QRP rigs. Very nice. Improvements will follow — memory, etc. No end to the things you might be able to use the Arduino for. The Raspberry Pi also has great potential — maybe it could be used for some of the digital modes like PSK-31, Olivia, etc.

    73 /paul W3FIS

  • Ron N9XEQ:

    I remember that catalogue. I was near 30. We had 3 Radio shacks and 2 Lafayette stores In my hometown in Florida at the time. The towns size was about 40,000 and I think about a third were retired and about on in ten was a ham. I didn’t have any interest in Ham Radio at the time, but there was a lot of fun stuff there.

    Ron/ N9XEQ

  • Michael / Ki6H:

    Radio Shack gear has permeated every corner of my ham shack and go-kit as well. I like their headphones, their batteries & chargers, the many oddball connectors that are so well-organized in every store, the fact that you can search inventory before going in person. Within a four-mile radius are no fewer than six Radio Shack shops; 90% of the time they have the part I need, whether it’s solder or the 300-ohn twin lead that I used to make a ZL Special.

    Your catalog brings back memories, but not *only* memories: I still use, nearly every day, the first “serious” radio I got as a gift, a Realistic Astronaut 6, on which I picked up police radio, fire chatter, shortwave stations from around the world, weather, and in the early seventies, rebroadcasts on VHF of NASA message traffic.

  • Paul, KE5WMA:

    I still have my od faux wood grain weather cube. I wish I still had the P-kit WWV converter I built.

  • Cliff Fox KU4GW:

    I remember filling out a online survey a while back at Radio Shack’s website asking what kinds of things that Radio Shack used to sell would I like to see sold by them again. I told them and so did a lot of other people via the online survey they had on their website at the time so hopefully we will get to see the Radio Shack of old again soon! Keeping my fingers crossed anyway!

    Very 73!
    Cliff – KU4GW

  • Jerry N3HAM:

    Sure do miss the Lafayette stores. My first walkie-talkies from RS as a youth got me started. A used Realistic DX302 back in the ’80s cemented my interest in finally becoming a Ham. Now they are a quick source for parts (if I’m lucky),and close-out portable SW radios.Just saw their kit and ham info section the other day and was pleasantly surprised. Way to go! I hope it is a success.

  • Jock A. Soutar KC6IIH:

    Our Radio Shack is very poor.
    The staff only knows how to sell and sign you up for a cell phone.
    They know very little about computers and cameras even though that is about all they have are cell phones, computers and digital cameras.
    Not very many parts or components.
    If I am building something I usually put together an order to Mouser or other suppliers.
    It is very clear that Radio Shack is not even close to what they used to be.

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