Posts Tagged ‘Radio Shack’

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



Heathkit Staging a Comeback Too?

I’ve been seeing on the googles and the twitters, that HeathKit is going to start selling kits again, but not for Ham Radio. They are going to start selling “Do It Yourself Kits” for around the house. While this is great, It’s kind of useless for me.

DX100 from HeathKit

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia/Louis F. Sander

The first two kits they are offering is a garage parking assistant and a wireless swimming pool monitor. I’m sure these will be great kits and lots of fun to build for many people out there, but not for me. You see, I live in an apartment. Curses, foiled again! But in seriousness, with Heathkit’s come back, it kind of makes me wonder why now? I’m guessing the economy is not what it used to be and money is getting a little tighter. So they are just firing up an old revenue stream that has been dormant a long time and getting back to what worked?

I have never built from a kit, but I have owned kit made electronics before, buying them after the person who made them, then got tired of them. I used to own a nice Heathkit AM/SSB HF transceiver back in the early days of my license. I think it was around the time I upgraded to General Class.  While they haven’t started offering anything Ham Radio related yet, they are looking for suggestions for new projects. A couple that come to mind for me would be, an APRS kit and maybe a small CW or SSB transceiver for backpacking or mobile use. That would have to be pretty rugged though, so not sure how that would play out.

But with Radio Shack also getting back into the DIY arena too, things are starting to come full circle and we’ll have a new generation of kids able to build some pretty cool things on the weekends, keeping them off the interwebs thingy and the facebook doo-dads. Maybe even a return to the catalogs we would get every now and again, and would eagerly await in the mail, like I used to wait for the Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs for Christmas to see all the toys. But being the 21st century, the catalogs would be in PDF format, and delivered by email.


Rich also writes a Tech blog and posts stories every Tuesday and Thursday on Q103, The Rock of Albany’s website, as well as Amateur Radio stories every Monday thru Friday here on AmiZed Studios.

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