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What Radio Shack used to be about

2240 Views 33 Replies 25 Participants Last post by  shearer69
This site has been around for about five years I gues but in case you missed it, someone undertook the enormous task of scanning and converting to Flash form, in the form of an online "book" with turnable pages, Radio Shack catalogs going all the way back to the 1930s:


And for people who grew up thinking that retailer has mostly only sold cellphones and batteries will be in for a big surprise! They sold lots of audio gear, from plasticky stuff all the way up to very respectable mid-fi gear equivalent to Pioneer, JBL and Yamaha.

For example, starting on page 2 of the 1979 catalog is their stereo gear. You can also turn the pages with your mouse. And click onthe pages to enlarge them and move them around.

Good memories for me & always looked forward to catalog release day!

They also sold many electronic components and electronic kits.
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I remember it well. And just like today you could usually get much better products, for less money, somewhere else. Things really haven't changed that much afterall.

you could by ElectroVoice and McIntosh all at your local Radio Shack

That is a scarey thought today as an AV dealer... To think I would be buying my equipment at Radio Shack LOL

WOW this was very educational to see this.

The 87 catalog had me saying OH MY GOD.. I remember almost everything in that one as if it was yesterday.

I had some speakers,head phones, a mic and afew other items right from that book
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I remember the catalogs fondly from the mid 60's to the 70's when I was in high school and college. The brands they carried back then before they went all house brands were amazing: Scott, Garrard, Sherwood, Sony, and even McIntosh!
I still have speakers from the early 70,s and 80,s that I use in my work shop. Great memories from these catalogss
I still have an STA2280 receiver that is soon to be put back into use.

I've had the catalogue link in my sig for quite a while.
I remember Radio Shack at a local mall (Parkway City) in the 70s...They had great equipment. Pioneer, Realistic. Nice sound. Big speakers too.
Radio Shack will always be a staple in the Electronics industry. My only problem with them is the ones I've always lived by have never been very inviting. Small, drab, depressing looking stores and usually creepy people working there, at least at the stores by me. It doesn't help either that over the last 10-15 years their selection of stuff has gotten smaller and more generic every year. Not to mention, every time I've gone there for anything, it's always priced far higher than other stores. To be honest, I'm surprised they're still in business.
Small electronics stores don't seem viable anymore. And it's not just small electronic stores that are a dying breed, obviously

When I grew up Radio Shacks were cool. They had their own computer line starting with the TRS series. The only thing as cool as RS when I was a kid was maybe Heathkit, or places that sold synthesizers
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I have a tear in my eye as I read this thread.

My folks had a Radio Shack franchise store in a small town for about a decade and a half.

We had TRS-80 computers, Minimus 7 speakers and other classic electronics.

My Tandy CoCo computer was the only computer I was ever fond of and some people are still obsessed with it.


And as I said, we had the Minimus 7 speakers. They were well engineered and the design lasted for decades.


The only item I have left from our family's store is a pair of Nova 40 headphones.


I still use them at times to watch TV when my wife is sleeping.
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I still use sets of Minimus 7's in two home theaters: exercise room with a Def Tech subwoofer and my basement workshop. Having sets of five identical speakers is still the best way to go for surround.

Where would we be without the venerable sound level meters?
Looks like other old people are here too!

Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman
Small electronics stores don't seem viable anymore.
I agree and I wonder if many people think if a store isn't gigantic and covers as much land as a football stadium, it is not worth checking out?

The only thing as cool as RS when I was a kid was maybe Heathkit, or places that sold synthesizers
Ooooh another catalog I looked forward to receiving! I loved building kits and wanted to build one of their receivers, some speakers and maybe one of their smaller color TVs but by the time I thought I had the skills to handle those, I went to college and had no more time to do so. Then they dropped their kits business altogther
and my dream fizzled out.

Small, drab, depressing looking stores
I know what you mean and notice many of their older stores especially look scruffy. I think because RS was losing a lot of $$ back in the mid 2000s, and closed a lot of stores, they still do not have the money to overhaul all their stores. But new RS stores I have been in are birghtly lit and modern.

RS also sold many pretty good quality drivers and I have met several people whose audio hobby was strengthened a lot because they were able to easily find a store, buy the parts and build their own speaker system.

I have a tear in my eye as I read this thread.
I can relate! When I first went to that site and looked through the pages many good memories came blasting back and to my surprise got a little overwhelmed. No other store fed a nerd's needs haha like Radio Shack and they were almsot always literally right around the corner so it was easy for any kid to get there. Online buying is convenient but like a real music store, BEING there is a totally different thing.

Oh and while I know the Mach One loudspeaker had its problems I have to admit I still wanted a pair!
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Back in the 50's my father used to always get two giant electronics catalogs in the mail. They were: Allied Radio and Lafayette Electronics.
Now all RS does is sell phones.

Lo, how the mighty have fallen.

Originally Posted by mb1756 /forum/post/20825895

Back in the 50's my father used to always get two giant electronics catalogs in the mail. They were: Allied Radio and Lafayette Electronics.

For electronic parts, Digikey seems to the be the main one, these days. For speaker building, Parts Express has a pretty good inventory.
I fondly remember going to Allied Radio on Western Avenue in Chicago. Sorry to see it go.
Radio Shack wasn't the only catalog electronics store. There was also Lafayette Radio and Allied Radio (before Radio Shack took it over.)

Lafayette, even more than Radio Shack, specialized in parts for hobbyists, especially those who built their own equipment. And they all also heavily supported the HAM radio market.

In NYC, the area that is now the World Trade Center was filled with electronics stores that sold parts and army surplus. Just browsing through those places was an education. There's still a very few left on Canal Street.

While browsing a catalog couldn't teach me how a circuit worked, having those catalogs as a kid certainly taught me tons about the market and about what was possible. I loved those catalogs.

Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman /forum/post/20822612

The only thing as cool as RS when I was a kid was maybe Heathkit, or places that sold synthesizers

The coolness (could be) coming back
- read this from Heathkit's webpage :

HEATHKIT IS BACK In The Kit Business!

In late August, Heathkit will debut their new line of Do-it-Yourself kits for common around-the-house items. The first kit will be a Garage Parking Assistant (GPA). The Garage Parking assistant kit lets you build your own system that uses ultrasonic sound waves to locate your car as it enters the garage. The system signals to the driver using LED lights mounted on the wall when the car is detected and in the perfect spot for parking.

The GPA-100 kit consists of two primary assemblies - The LED Display in kit form and the pre-assembled ultrasonic range module. the kit will include everything you need to complete the project except a soldering iron and hand tools.

Next on the market will be a Wireless Swimming Pool Monitor kit followed by many more. Heathkit wants to continue to bring to its customers interesting, unique Heathkit products.

This quote gives me hope they may sell audio DIY gear:
Heathkit is interested in learning what types of products kit builders would like to build. Kit builders can submit their suggestions through this website using the Contact Us email.

Here are two receivers they sold in kit form, the and the quadraphonic AD-1310 .

More Heathkits here, audio and various others , on a ham radio hobbyist's page.
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There's a radio shack near my house. I buy things there occasionally. Things like camcorder batteries or cell phone batteries. If they don't have it in stock they can almost always order it. I like going there because there's rarely anyone there. I can get good service.

I used to browse their catalog when I was a kid. I always wanted the big speakers with the horns on top. I thought they looked cool.

They could have become what Best Buy is today. I think they didn't understand what cheap maufacturing overseas would do to the retail electronics business. People no longer repaired electronics and didn't need parts. Instead, they would throw it away and buy a new one.
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