First, the full disclosure: I was a Radio Shack aficionado. I loved the place. Growing up, I used to visit my local store in Wheaton, weekly at least, to buy self-assembly electronics kits, shop for electronics parts, buy books on electronics, buy radios, tape recorders, speakers, battery chargers, my first PDA (Radio Shack’s rebranded Casio Zoomer), and just check out the cool stuff everywhere. I used to joke that any small town my family visited wasn’t civilized unless it had a Radio Shack in it. (“Look, there’s the Radio Shack! It’s a real town, all right!”)
My love of electronics and computers came from Radio Shack. My serious consideration of getting an electrical engineering degree came from my association with the Shack (boy, how I wish I’d figured out how to follow that through!).
Now, I don’t visit Radio Shacks often… and neither does anyone else. Which is why the original owners declared bankruptcy, the chain has just been sold in auction to another company, and its future as a store and chain is very much up in the air.
What is not up in the air is this: Radio Shack’s original purpose—as a place for America’s electronics enthusiasts and hobbyists to buy, build and learn about radios, electronics and other related gear—has effectively come to an end. The American DIY electronics era, and its designated street-corner shrine, is done.