I grew up in a small town. While I would be lying if I labeled myself a childhood nerd, I will say that as the child of a jet mechanic, I was always ripping things apart while simultaneously building other things.
On more than one occasion I blew the fuse on my house and I was also shocked too many times to count. While my dad’s constant flow of random weird parts from the air force base kept me busy, there was always something else I needed. Maybe a fuse, or a battery compartment, or LED and of course, I always needed batteries.
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The local RadioShack was the only place I could get those things (well I could get batteries at the drug store, but it didn’t have radio controlled toys I could gawk at). It was a shining beacon of technology in a town where football and roping cows were a top priority. It was just outside of town and I would ride my bike the 11 miles from my house to pick up whatever random item I needed.
The gentleman that ran RadioShack was sometimes friendly, but most of the time he eyed me suspiciously. Regardless, after every transaction he would pull out a receipt book and and write down what I had bought and ask for my name and address. Every. Single. Time.
It’s a joke now. The way RadioShack would take your personal information every time you needed a 9-volt battery. Oh the laughs we had at the expense of those fliers ending up in our mailbox. Fliers I would sit down and study. If I saved enough birthday money I could get that radio-controlled car. I would ignore the computers and wonder if I could swing enough cash to buy a RadioShack brand Realistic stereo system.
I dreamed of an awesome stereo system in my room. It was going to be loud and my parents couldn’t stop me from listening to the Beastie Boys and Wham.
I was going to buy all the things if I had the money. I didn’t, and currently neither does RadioShack. Bloomberg reports that the company is about to disappear. There’s talk of a plan to close half the stores and give the other half to Sprint. I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not. No one should be surprised. [Update: RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy]
All my cable needs are met by Monoprice and Amazon. I stopped lusting over RadioShack brand stereo equipment once I realized how completely horrible it is. Yet inexplicably, RadioShack has been hanging around.
RadioShack is like that friend you had in high school that never grew up. While everyone else went to college or moved away to start their own lives, RadioShack kept hanging out in front of the school parking lot talking about the good old days when all you needed was batteries and shitty stereo systems to be king of the world.
And yet, I still visit RadioShack. The same way I would still wish that high school friend a happy birthday or comment on a particularly hilarious status or photo on Facebook. I was there a week ago to buy wire to rewire a light on my car. It was depressing.
The front of the store is smartphones. I don’t know anyone that’s bought a phone at RadioShack ever.
After that are the smartphone accessories. Headphones, cases (so many cases), cables, chargers and various randomness that doesn’t even register to my brain anymore. The bad stereo equipment is still there. The Realistic name has been replaced with something I can’t even remember.
Then in the back, nestled in a corner are the Arduinos, Maker Kits and littleBits DIY items of fun. They’re next to the wires, transistors and soldering guns.
The items that could have made RadioShack the darling of the Maker movement are shoved in the back and ignored. A layer of dust settles on the boxes.
I grab the 20-gauge wire I need without asking the employees for help. I stopped doing that years ago. They can tell me about a Sprint subscription plan, but don’t know where the LEDs and wire strippers are located or if they have an RCA to XLR adapter.
I pay for my wire (more than I need, does anyone need some 20 gauge wire?) and leave. No one asks me my address. There will be no flier in the mail.
The NYSE stopped trading of RadioShack stock today and will delist the stock. The Shack will be gone soon. Online shopping and a lack of foresight killed it. Someday someone will find all those paper receipts with names and addresses in a storage locker and they’ll ask themselves, “what the hell is a 9-volt battery and what was this place called RadioShack?”
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