I was inspired by the video above to talk about my experiences with Radio Shack in the past. Of course the company lives on in the United States and in Canada by different means. Radio Shack in Canada is now known as The Source which is wholly owned by Bell Canada.
Radio Shack was always a cool place to me in the 90’s and early 2000s. I remember walking through the mall in the town next to where we lived (and still live actually) and walking by the Radio Shack inside. All the cool clocks, stereos, computers, and RC cars. I’d be drooling as my mom dragged me towards the less-then-cool Zellers department store.
Now I grew up in a family that did not have a lot of money. My parents made sacrifices to send my siblings and I to a private school and as such when it came to televisions or stereos or even alarm clocks they were almost always hand-me-downs from others that had upgraded to something else.
This led me to getting a paper route one year delivering those annoying advertising papers no one likes door to door in a section of my hometown.
During the same time I convinced my mom to let me look at some mini stereos in that same Radio Shack mentioned earlier. I found what I was looking for. A mini stereo. It had two detached boxy speakers each equipped with a woofer and tweeter. This mini stereo in the reality of things was less than impressive but heck! I could now play cassettes and CD’s in my room whenever I wanted, at least when no one was sleeping upstairs. This was the first CD player in the house or our vehicles besides the portable ones my siblings and I had (gifts from extended family).
I’ll be honest with you, I can’t remember the name or model of that mini stereo but it served me well for a few years, until the cd player failed. This was highly disappointing. Well, remember that paper route I had. Well I took the money I had saved from that and bought replacement.
I bought a Panasonic RX-ES20. Yeah some would say form-factor-wise this was a step back. A top-firing boombox rather than a mini-system with moveable forward facing speakers.
The specs on this little guy though were far more superior. The previous mini-system, while it sounded fine with it’s, now admittedly low powered total 10 watts output, was just not in the same league.
The new Panasonic RX-ES20, while bottom of the line in Panasonic’s D-style (the physical shape of the unit – they had several from this all the way up to a six speaker 200 watt beast that believe it or not my Grandma still owns to this day) range at that time it still offered 70 watts of power through two speakers. It could play mp3s on top of CDs and cassettes too and with a remote I could stay in bed in the morning and start up my favourite tunes without leaving my bed. Ah, those were the days.
I still have that Panasonic to this day and while it get’s cranky with some CDs put in it still is a great little portable music player.
After buying the Panasonic that was pretty much my last interaction with Radio Shack. I did have to buy some electronics bits that one could only find at a Radio Shack when I was a computer tech years ago but that’s all long gone now with Bell’s takeover of the Source. Not long after I bought those bits Radio Shack’s focus moved from cool electronics and decent customer service to ambushing customers with very forceful sales of new cellphones while the electronics, now relegated to the back of the store, collected dust.
My sister and brother did buy our first Playstation 2 in a bundle from our local Radio Shack which was cool though. I have taken ownership of that Playstation 2 and it’s on display in my game console collection.
I was sad to see the way Radio Shack went. How it went from an exciting store with exceptional customer service to turning into a small box electronics store with zero to crappy customer service and the removal of all that made the store relavent. With the advent of Amazon and big box stores like Wal-Mart and The Real Canadian Superstore Radio Shack and now the Source has really become a less than important piece of current history.
According to the video above Radio Shack in the United States has seen a slow but good resurgence embracing it’s past returning to selling electronics. I would love to see this happen here but with Bell’s claws in the Source this will never happen.
Do you have any fond memories of Radio Shack?