Ever since the first time I went into a Radio Shack retail store, I’ve been mesmerized by the stuff on the shelves. There are certainly better places to buy your electronics (online, local specialty shops), but the ubiquitous Radio Shack meant there was a soldering iron and 10 ohm resistor within a few miles of any urban location. This will all change in the coming weeks as the RadioShack Corp closes more stores as it continues into its 12th consecutive quarter of loses and into an unknown future in chapter 11 bankruptcy.
I realize that logically I should not mourn the loss of some faceless retail giant who cares not for the customer, but simply wants to empty his wallet..but the wide eyed 8-year old inside me wants to roam through the back aisles and try to find something to interesting. The death of Radio Shack might be a result of changes in buyers habits (Amazon.com?), but is it a bad thing for DIY enthusiasts, future gearheads, and electrical tinkerers all over this country? Will those young men and women head into an Apple store instead and buy some worthless tablet. Instead of building their own radar detector system and becoming engineers, these young people will play Angry Birds and become marketing managers.
The death of big retail chains like Circuit City or K-Mart doesn’t hit a soft spot because, for the most part, the shelves were littered with low quality goods imported from the third world. Radio Shack’s 3rd world goods were of a lower order that required basic intelligence from the end user. It is the difference between learning to program in BASIC (as was standard 30 years ago) versus the high level object related visual programming tools taught to elementary school kids today. Sure, the world is changing, computers are more powerful, high level programming languages are at your fingertips, but the basic building blocks are being ignored. How do you expect a Mercedes-Benz tech to diagnose a faulty ground wire on a navigation system when he doesn’t understand what a resistor is. The service writer will charge you for replacing the entire instrument console/stack and you’ll probably just buy a new car.
What do you think? Is this a bad omen for mankind, or just another Circuit City style dinosaur that has lived past its expiration date?
Image from RadioShack.