Radio Shack's happier days, when it sold $2495 cellphones

I had an after-school job at a Schlotzsky’s in 1987-88. There was one guy who’d call in his order, we’d say “that’ll be about 15 minutes” and he’d say “Well I’m coming down the street… I have a CAR PHONE.”


Well played.


I always thought if they had gone nationwide, they would’ve already driven RS out of business. (We don’t have Fry’s in MD but we did when I lived in TX.) I remember finding a good enclosure there and I felt bad that I had paid money for such a craptastic one at RS. Ironically, the first Fry’s I visited was previously one of the 2 original Incredible Universe stores.

Cables, at best buy prices, without the software, the music, the movies, the electronics, or the computers? Monoprice has much better prices, and I’m sure Amazon Prime approaches the convenience factor.

Rat Shacks critical failing was that of not being able to decide what their business was. It’s not an unusual sort of creep. They couldn’t even handle being a “straight” merchant of electronics components - to maximize profits they acquired bottom-of-the-barrel parts, even rejects, liquidated because they did not perform to spec - and then offered them at a huge markup. So from way back they made a reputation as a place where one could “conveniently” pay top dollar for the worst parts. This along with seasonal dabblings of having a section for computers, toys, appliances, phones etc - all crammed within a small store. Sure, an expensive phone takes up less room and offers greater returns for a one-time sale. But having some actual focus can make anything profitable. Too bad that they wrote off electronics and stared their spiral towards bankruptcy just before the “maker” movement picked up momentum.


Your 4 AA battery holder will always be rated at 6V, because it’s 1.5V per battery. Strong batteries will yield a small overcharge, and rechargeables will usually give 1.2V instead, but it’s all within tolerance.

It depends how the pack is wired. 4 in a row is 6V. 4 in parallel is still 1.5V.


Yes, but he also doesn’t believe in evolution. He should have predicted RS’s inability to evolve.

Yeah, too little too late. They made a half-assed effort with a couple of shelves with kits from Make Magazine, but they didn’t run with it and try to market to the hacker/makers.


I have a lot of mixed feelings. I spent a lot of hours in my local radio shack in my early teens in the late seventies and early eighties. Buying parts, playing on the TRS-80.

I find it interesting that they managed to pivot away from the kit/maker market right before it became a thing. Sure, the employees were hit and miss - either knowing nothing (or a lot) about electronics, and they had that freaking hassle of wanting your full address in order to ring you up. Ok at they had that weird upc-esque scanning cat that was viable for like seven minutes.

But they had decent basic kits for hobbyists up until the mid eighties. And you could get common 7400 series IC’s, transistors, resistors, etc. reliably. It’s a shame they pivoted to cheap asian made junk consumer electronics.

I also miss the flyer side chats.


I always loved going to Radio Shack because it was fun to see how outrageous a fake name or address you could get away with giving when they inevitably demanded it.

“Sir, if you don’t give me your real contact information, we won’t be able to help you if you need to return your… um… 2-pack of AA batteries.”
“Are you calling Dildo J. Frammerjammer a liar?! I don’t have to take this, I’m going back to my house at 123 Boner Street!”


I’m not really sure you can say that it was appreciably worse than the Phillips CD-i, though. Nobody really wanted consoles for viewing moderately interactive CD-ROMs – that was the problem.

It’s a shame they pivoted to cheap asian made junk consumer electronics.

Radio Shack always had junk consumer electronics, though. In the 1970s and 1980s it was crappy “Realistic” headphones and tape players. But at least they had a store brand. Not like in the 1990s and later when they just started selling the exact same products you could get anywhere.

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I was a RS manager in the 70s. Mandatory overtime, low pay, constant polygraphs and store inventories. They manufactured everything and sold it at huge profits. And we were rated on the percentage of names and addresses we acquired. 10-4 good buddy.


I don’t have a whole lot of Radio Shack nostalgia (growing up in a place with no stores might have something to do with it), but I do have a few fond memories of wandering in and looking at RC cars and videos from the “Mind’s Eye” series displaying what were essentially early computer animated music videos (they look dated today, but back when the only thing I had to compare with them was Myst, they were amazing). There’s a Radio Shack only a couple blocks away from me today, but now they’re essentially a cell phone store and that’s it.

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They were at home the day the memo came out about the shift to service based upon the growth of internet retailing. They treated customers like a bone of contention between management and their unloved employees. Given the choice of more than one place to get what you needed who would go back there?

Oh, Mr. Durda’s still around, or so it seems. He even posted his own thoughtful piece on how the current events have been thirty years in the making:


when I lived in knoxville, I found out about a particular 'Shack that still specialized in stuff for turntables. this was in the late 90s, when nobody still used turntables.

One time, I bought a Fisher Price turntable at an antique mall–a model that had a headphone jack and RCA outputs–score! Took it home; unsurprisingly, the cartridge was shot. pulled it off, drove to the 'Shack in question, matched up whatever numbers were on the old one, paid a ridiculously low price, and bounced. The thing still plays to this day. Man, having that resource at my fingertips was sweet, I tell you what.


This part caught my attention:

Computers were the new hot thing when Mr. Tandy died, and that’s where much of the focus was. By 1984, a good portion of the Tandy Towers office complex in Fort Worth Texas was filled with people designing computers, writing software, testing software, providing customer support for the computers, marketing and selling computers, international computer marketing, and more.

Indeed, now that I think about it, any number of kids in my neighborhood had parents that were computer engineers at Tandy Center. (I grew up in Arlington, just east of Ft. Worth.) At Six Flags, they’d have Tandy Day in the spring for Tandy families.

They made you take lie detector tests?