Friday, February 06, 2015

Goodbye, Radio Shack!

I built my first radio in the sixth grade, from a Quaker Oats box, a roll of wire, and a mail-order crystal. With a 25-foot antenna stretched between two trees, it could pull in a Boston station from twenty miles away!

A year or two later we moved to the city and I discovered Radio Shack, a sprawling electronic warehouse in Scollay Square, near the Iver Johnson gun shop and the Casino and Old Howard burlesque theaters, each more fascinating than the other. Radio Shack sold vacuum tubes, condensers, and resisters! I built a regenerative receiver from plans I found in Popular Mechanics, and it could pull in stations from all over, though often enough causing wild screams in the neighbors' radio sets.

Over time, that wonderful store morphed into the strip-mall outlets that graced every small city in America. Alkaline batteries! Trash Eighty computers! Cell phones! One by one, its products were more easily obtained from Amazon.com, and Radio Shack followed the Old Corner Bookstore into oblivion. Now it's in bankruptcy, as obsolete as my crystal radio set.

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