Today the nation bids farewell to RadioShack, a chain of museums preserving for all to observe what an electronics store would have looked like in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The ancient electronics chain filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday, surprising nobody. Years of lagging sales, peppered with some poor investments—like the CueCat, which literally banked on customers delivering digital ads to themselves—paved the way for today.
Former RadioShack employee Jon Bois was so confident that December 2014 would be the company’s farewell holiday season, he wrote his eulogy for RadioShack back in November.
“RadioShack is a rotten place to work, generally not a very good place to shop, and an untenable business to run,” Bois wrote bitterly.
Still, Makers Will Miss The Shack
However, as an avid proponent of DIY electronics—what you’d now call a Maker in popular parlance—I’m going to miss the place. My local RadioShack was always where I bought my resistors, breadboards, and odds and ends.
Perhaps the company’s last forward-thinking effort to save itself was to embrace hackable hardware big time, stocking Arduinos and Raspberry Pis, plus any externals you could think of. It’s a smart move when you consider there are approximately 135 million adults who consider themselves Makers, and the Maker Movement is responsible for contributing $29 billion to the global economy in sales each year.
Really, this was a no-brainer for RadioShack, a chain that started in Boston in 1921 as a distributor of ham radios and parts. It’s a company that has served generations of tinkerers. The problem now, though, is that while the Maker movement is popularizing DIY electronics hacking, that isn’t an expensive hobby. When you consider all the Maker Faires and TechShops and online retailers to which that $29 billion is going, there isn’t much left for RadioShack to claim.
The writing has been on the wall at RadioShack for some time. In November, the company got a loan to keep it afloat, but the CEO warned there was no long-term plan. Now its demise is all but certain, as companies like Sprint—and maybe even Amazon—scramble to buy up its retail space.
As for me, it’s time to buy electronics parts on the Internet like everyone else.
Photo by Eduardo P, Wikimedia Commons