Daily Archives: March 25, 2014

Looking Back at Looking Forward

spockSONY DSC

When I think back to growing up in the 1960’s, many of the things we see today are really not that much of a surprise.

Thanks to Star Trek, ubiquitous computers, communicators (smartphones), and tricorders (tablets) were actually fairly predictable.

James Bond and Mission Impossible taught us to expect someone to listen in on phone calls – after all, Barney from the Impossible Mission Force always knew which wire to connect (or in the case of a bomb, which one to cut.)

It might have been a little bit of a stretch, but of all the “British Invasion” rock and roll groups, the Rolling Stones would be the ones to still be around.

On the other hand, I never would have expected that one day there would be theme songs and jingles for lawyers’ television commercials.

Hey, 1980s!

shack

I’ve been thinking about Radio Shack’s Super Bowl commercial, in which the clerk answers the phone and tells a co-worker that the 1980s called and they want their store back.

Radio Shack goes back to the beginning of the 20th century when it was aimed at ham radio operators. The term “radio shack” (vice the trademark) refers to the location of a two way radio station; in the early days of “wireless” the radio shack was a separate structure built on the deck of a ship. Since radios utilized a spark gap, it was deemed wise to keep the sparks away from flammable cargo.

To this day, ham radio operators still call their operating position the radio shack, or just the shack.

I thought back to the 1980s. Radio Shack had one of the best lines of computers. They sold pocket sized computers (I even wrote a book about how to use them). They had lots of electronics parts. You could buy antenna cable by the foot from a large spool. They had their own brand of ham radios.

My father used to worry that I’d spend all my money at Radio Shack.

Today, with a few exceptions (such as “Make” items and Arduino microcontrollers) almost everything you see at Radio Shack, you can find at other stores like Best Buy or even Walmart. I used to stop at Radio Shack, just to see what they had, and invariably bought something. I still do, but my stops occur every other month rather than every other week.

So how’s that working out for them?

In the late 1980s Radio Shack I believe was profitable. Its stock sold for $8.00 a share – not its highest, but certainly better than today’s $2.26 a share.

Maybe they should have kept the old business model.