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Friday fun for the IT crowd: The best (and saddest) RadioShack obits

February 12, 2015
By Lisa Dare

RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy protection from which no one expects it to emerge. And while the retail giant’s demise came as no surprise, the stores used to constitute hallowed ground for tech enthusiasts and science hobbyists. Several writers expressed dismay at the end of an era—an era that really ended in approximately 1990.

Wired laments, “As RadioShack goes, so does a part of Silicon Valley’s history.”  

The Houston Chronicle’s headline nicely sums up the sentiments of many: RadioShack, once geeks' inspiration, goes out with a whimper.

PC World’s reaction? Meh.

Hackaday was kind enough to remind us of this old Onion story: Even CEO Can't Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business. The strangest thing? This article was written in 2007.

Also, what did John Oliver have to say about RadioShack’s demise? Note: You might need some headphones for this one unless you work in an exceptionally chill office. But it’s worth listening to if you loved visiting RadioShack.  

Most importantly, what my dad had to say about RadioShack in its heyday

Excerpted from an email from my father, Charles Dare:

The Shack had all those little transistor radios that were so popular in the 50s/60s, and then took on the CB radio craze. They were one of the only places that sold electronic parts back in those days, and also sold kits that would provide you with the basics of some radio or electronic device and would include the resistors, capacitors, diodes and tubes that would be used to complete the kit radio. Many people were interested in putting these devices together, including the soldering of all those parts together on some chassis, and you felt the enjoyment of actually making your own radio or other device.

They also came out with one of the early consumer computers, the TRS-80. It was pretty bad and affectionately became known at the "Trash-80." And the name was much deserved.

At the end of World War II, my father [the author's grandfather] was the second outside salesman ever hired by Radio Shack. The first was an Army buddy of his in the war who signed on with the original Radio Shack on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston. He then asked Pops if he wanted a job at the Shack and Pops said yes. 

Pops used to sell the first TVs to Harvard University. He would load up his company car—a large 1930s or early '40s gangster-type roadster— with as many TVs as could fit and drive them over to Harvard. He could sell all the TVs to Harvard that he could get his hands on. He did the same thing with huge four-foot power tubes that were used in that first computer ever built. It took up a chunk of warehouse space over there and used lots of those big tubes.

I also worked for the Shack at the end of the 1960s for a year. They had an industrial division in Waltham [Massachusetts] that was still selling parts to all the electronics companies that formed inside the Route 128 beltway around Boston and became the great industrial strength of that area—Digital Equipment, Polaroid and a number of other companies. 

RadioShack “at its best”

At its best, RadioShack sold all the little things that people needed to keep their radios, TVs, CBs and record players going, and was a major industrial supplier to both the hobby guy and small business. 

As the age of repairing things yourself came to a close with throw-it-away-when-it-breaks electronics, RadioShack could not find a suitable purpose in today's electronic world. As a well-remembered and integral part of the lives of the post-World-War-II generation, it will be missed.  

Remember RadioShack fondly, or love to hate it? Please share in the comments! 

Read: 6 alternative paths to a career in IT.

Lisa Dare is a marketing writer for TEKsystems who enjoys learning about IT from some of the smartest folks in tech. She frequently blogs about IT career advice and the lighter side of tech, and on her off days loves to kayak and play with her toddler son.

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