A modern rebuild of the Radio Shack 150-in-One electronics kit


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/19/a-modern-rebuild-of-the-radio.html


Ugh, it’s still $83. The high cost of these things always presented a barrier. Makes me think of https://xkcd.com/768/ .

I figure you could probably lop off a significant fraction of that price by replacing the rack-mount chassis with cardboard, for surely much of the intended audience would have no need for sticking it into a rack?

Also, as much as I approve of those delightfully satisfying spring terminals, I fear that over the course of following the various “projects” it’s not likely to serve as much of a teaching tool when it comes to amplifier circuit design. Most of what I retain from the course I took seventeen years ago was that it could get nastily tricky and unintuitive.


I had the 100 in 1 version of that…it’s a great learning tool, for simple dc electronics.


Ah, but does it have cartoon illustrated projects by Forrest M. Mims, III ?


I still have mine, in the wooden “suitcase”, I think it’s 144. My kids didn’t get off on it. My son’s a science nerd but leans towards bio.


I didn’t learn much. I just made the connections as instructed. Learned a little. Had a lot of fun though. I even made the AM morse code transmitter portable and hid it in a Mennen Speed Stick. The tuner was the wheel at the bottom. Used to drive my AM listening mother crazy. “What is that beeping???”

I couldn’t do it from memory now though. Probably for the best.


Here’s what I learned from my version of this thing:

…cool, hooking up the battery spring to the LED spring lights up that segment of the LED.
…cool, when you touch it to the LED wire directly it makes a neat flash!
…rats, my LED isn’t working for some reason.


I had the 1-in-1 version of that. Still, I have fond memories of making that light turn on.

The biology version of this is a nightmare.


I wanted one of the originals SO BAD around 1980. I saw the in the RS store when I went in for my monthly FREE BATTERY and I stared at them in their catalogs. I prayed for the 160-in-1 Electronics Kit every night in my bedtime prayers; I wished for it on wishbones and white horses and dandelions and any other wishable thing that came up; I talked about it constantly.

And for my 11th birthday?



And I learned, above all else, that science is FUN and COOL and I LOVE HOW IT LOOKS and have NO FUCKING INTEREST in really understanding it. It’s enough for me that somebody can understand and explain it.




The cheaper and more versatile version of this is to get a solderless breadboard. The springs are inside it, and connect together in little busses. Then all you need is a power source - a 9v battery will often do, or a regulated wall-wart. And maybe a small multimeter, which can be had for about $10 these days. And some jumper wires to connect busses. As @katkins said, get a Mims book or several and you are golden. Companies such as Adafruit and Sparkfun probably sell starter kits with these and an assortment of oft-used electronics components.


There was some SF that had a kids kit that was essentially like home CRISPR. They say it’s actually not too tough. Could bring a whole new meaning to “Hey Dad, look what I made!”


Not really. The reason why calculators, phones, computers, etc. got cheap (ignoring the TIs which can charge a lot because they are one of the few calculators allowed in standardized tests) is because they were mass produced in millions of units. Even when these Radio Shack kits were “popular” they weren’t that popular. I realy really doubt Elenco is making a huge profit off of this.


I had the 160-in-one version.

It was a whole lotta fun, but I didn’t learn as much from it as I should have. I got more interested in mechanical apparatuses than electronic ones.

ETA: Got these pictures off eBay. There are a few of these for sale there for ~$60.


“Son, what you made is an abomination. Snap its neck and bury it in the back yard before your mother gets home.”


I remember never being sure the batteries were working. Seems like this new one should just have a USB type B connector (mini/micro/C, whatever) and save a lot of space.


I picked this up for ~$60 yesterday. It was on the discount table at MAJOR_BOOK_RETAILER$ for 50% off.

But yeah, getting into electronics is a little expensive. When I was a kid I learned to desolder and pull passive components out of old electronics. It was a real pain because I couldn’t save up to buy a digital multimeter, so I made do with analog.

He provided the clearest low level explanation I’ve ever seen for how semiconductors work. So much so that I tuned out during an unnecessarily complicated inorganic chemistry lecture on the topic so I wouldn’t have my already solid knowledge confused. Pity he’s a little bit of a crackpot.


Beware of USB power supplies. There are probably many applications for which it is fine, but if your circuit is at all sensitive to AC noise, then it can get to be an issue.

I was trying to build an audio amp, and was powering it from a cheap phone charger. All the capacitors in the world couldn’t hide that I was using a spectacularly noisy power supply.


Seriously, in my last days as a Christian, I got in the habit of envisioning God as a not-too-terribly-imaginative kid who was given a World Creation Kit for his birthday, and enjoyed bullying Lucifer, the kid next door, to play PvP once he’d seeded it with us Sea Monkeys.


Mine is waiting in the closet until my niece or nephew are old enough and show an interest in how electronics work. True, it’s pretty limited, but I’m hoping it will stoke interest that I can then follow up with more versatile teaching tools until the proud day I can guide them through Horowitz & Hill’s Art of Electronics.

[Looks are 8-month-old niece…“Grow, damn you…grow!”]


I had that exact kit!

A great kit for younger kids (but not limited to them) is Snap Circuits. Easier and more fun to mechanically put together than breadboards or the spring things, and the circuit(s) are easily seen visually.