RadioShack is on its last legs, reportedly in foretells turn off and sell its storefronts to companies like Sprint and Amazon.
For most technologists, this is a lot more than just the increased loss of another strip mall retailer – it’s the finish of where their passion really began. Where they bought their first transistor, where they first learned to code. Fortune’s Term Sheet newsletter asked readers to submit their first memories or early experiences at RadioShack, and got plenty of nostalgic replies.
Here are a few of our favorites:
• “Radio Shack was always the best store as a kid. From their Battery of the Month Club, with their vacuum tube testers (reacall those?) with their electronics kits and soldering irons, I was hooked as a boy. No wonder I was always getting chased out of there! However the turning point for me personally was the TRS-80 (as I am certain it had been pivotal for so numerous others) – that cemented my entire life as an engineer and geek. The TRS-80 was the first computer I typed into, wrote my first programs and played games on. Now, we never owned one – I did so that in the store. We were never able to spend the $1,000 (give or take) for the computer – but every visit to our little mall included an end for me personally at Radio Shack.” ~ Jack Unverfurth, director of software at COME ON Health.
• “I learned BASIC programming at a Radio Shack store when I was 11 years-old. They held this class in a back room at the store and me and a in regards to a dozen adults learned how exactly to do ‘Print’ and ‘If-Then’ statements. This is like 1981 and the first exposure anybody had to education.” ~ James Navin, VP of strategic operations at Sharethrough
• “My grandfather – who’s now 94 and who’s got all of the zipper machine patents in Google patent search – took me to Radio Shack when I was about 8 years-old. He bought me a soldering iron and we made electromagnets. That was the very first time i made something. I cant imagine what we would’ve made out of Arduino or Raspberry PI. I assume the mix of entrepreneurial genes and that early time screwing around in grandpas lab inspired me to found MINR. ~ Sol Weinreich
• “My first computer was a TRS-80 bought in 1979 at local Radio Shack – 16K with a black and white monitor and cassette tape drive. Wouldn’t have my 20-year career in tech if not for the knowledge of experiencing a PC inside our living room as an 8 year-old.” ~ Steven Mitzenmacher, VP of corporate development at NetApp
• “I used my Bar Mitzvah money to get my first ‘personal’ computer in 1981 – the TRS-80 from Radio Shack. It had no disk drives; the only memory was 16K of RAM. I had to save lots of programs on a cassette tape, and the filenames could possibly be no more than two letters. So awesome.” ~ Paul Greenberg, CEO of Nylon
• “Back the mid-90s, there is no DigiKey or a huge selection of other component sites. The info wasn’t as abundant either for amateur geeks (like myself), so you might bring a circuit board with burnt out component and get help finding replacement. Radio Shack employees were true hardcore geeks. Somewhere in early 2000’s Radio Shack started hiring sales representatives rather than geeks, which led to Best Buy-esque experience. You could have wanted some random component, but were pushed cellphone plans instead. Understanding of associates dropped to such low levels, they might read you what’s on the box, but could have no idea what’s the difference between resistor and capacitor. Then the business became dead if you ask me. ~ Apollo Sinkevicius, COO of Robin Powered
• “Radio Shack was among the best stores growing up. My father was a power engineer, so many a project involved a vacation to Radio Shack: removing alternator noise from an automobile sound system, fixing the tube amp on my 1930s Hammond Organ, creating a home-brew security system, etc. As the years continued, leading of the store was filled up with more cell phones & games, and our little portion of resistors, capacitors & breadboards was relegated to a smaller and smaller back corner of the store.” ~ Matt Brezina, CEO of Sincerely Inc.
• “I was raised in Dallas, Texas. Radio Shack was everywhere. I possibly could ride my bike to the nearest one in a shopping mall that also had my haircut place (when we called them ‘barbers’) and an area ice cream store that I loved but can’t remember the name of. Next door was a Piggly Wiggly in a big shopping mall. It’s all at Arapaho Road and Coit Road in Dallas in Spanish Village. I’d ride by bike up to Radio Shack and just sit and screw around in the store forever. I was always amazed at the diodes, capacitors, resistors, wires, and cables. Eventually that they had a CB Radio that I somehow convinced my father to by for his car. I was totally into Breaker-breaker-1-9 and the best move to make was to state Breaker-breaker-1-9 I have to have a 10-100. When the TRS-80 arrived, that was the finish of that. I acquired an Apple II instead so when the Epson MX-80 printer arrived, I was finished with Radio Shack for years.” ~ Brad Feld, venture capitalist
• “Within my early teenage years in the 90’s, my father was posted in Sana’a, Yemen. For a youngster in the MTV generation this spelt a death knell. Socially speaking, the town was as barren as its desert. But… it had a Radio Shack! For kids like me that was the epitome of cool. The Technic earphones and Sony tape decks were sights that people saw only on TV. However the Shack brought it alive for all of us. Many a dull afternoon have I spent foraging through their shelves. Hence nostalgia abounds whenever I believe of these. Doubt if others view it my way, but Radio Shack would continually be my yardstick so far as cool quotient comparisons go.” ~ Raju Joseph
• “I was an early on pc hobbyist, and in 1981 entered Johns Hopkins University’s first national seek out applications to benefit the disabled. My entry was a design and prototype for a word processing service that could hire typists who were blind to type dictation over calling and return finished text by e-mail. I used a TRS-80 and Radio Shack answering machine to prove the idea. THE AIR Shack store in McLean, Virginia was where I acquired the gear, but also found helpful people who have ideas and encouragement. Word processing centers and services were, of course, quickly eclipsed by advances running a business technology, but I still got that certificate on my wall.” ~ Alan Kotok, editor and publisher at Science & Enterprise
• “I was an early on RS consumer having spent paperboy delivery money on countless ‘free’ baseball bat sized d-cell flashlights, the mystical p-boxes and subsequently, Band-Aids (early life lesson on what hot a solder iron can get…) to returning later as a college co-op student to the Fort Worth, TX headquarters. Tandy’s Research & Development division offered me a full-time offer upon graduation where I became section of the Team behind the TRS-80 and the brand new Tandy 2000 COMPUTERS. Had the opportunity to meet up Dell and Gates who were each just starting their respective companies.” ~ Don Metzger
• “Our dads built Heath kit stereos and offered soldering skills and the maker spirit in projects we built from parts purchased at Radio Shack. I recall wanting my very own radio, and us creating a crystal radio to match in the 7-up can. One-part James Bond, one part learning the abilities of engineers. The air was my first project constructed with my father, doing something he did as a boy. We later built a launcher for Estes rockets with buttons, switches, wire and solder from Radio Shack to start out us space program! Turning screen-time into ‘us time.’” ~ Joe Salesky, CEO of Ustyme
• “I learned how exactly to program Basic on a Radio Shack (Tandy) TRS-80 in NYC in the first 80s. I’d sit in the store all night, program, and play. The program was downloaded from an audio cassette at a 300 Baud rate. A straightforward pong-like game would take about 5 mins to download from the cassette. Fun times.” ~ Bart Schachter
• “I purchased a 101-in-One electronics kit in the 70’s to have a blast tinkering. In the 80’s my little daughter took a liking to it and how things work. Her educational path lead her to a PhD in chemistry. I don’t doubt that the kit I purchased from Radio Shack created her first science foundation. Many thanks Radio Shack!” ~ Len Charmichael, CFO of Sunnyside Corp.
• “When I was 12-14 years old (1979) I acquired into talking on CB radios. I believe it had related to Smokey and the Bandit. I visited Radio Shack weekly to have the latest antennae, amplifier, speaker, etc. I recall extending wires to all or any four corners of my room. The idea was the bigger the antennae the more distant signals we’re able to grab.” ~ Keith Wasserstrom, consultant
• “When I was in senior high school, I was in a band. I thought we were the very best band in school, but another band (whose lead singer was the son of the guy who owned the Detroit Pistons) always won competitions and I thought it had been because that they had better equipment. We couldn’t afford better equipment, so my father and I began to head to Radio Shack and bought raw parts to construct a complete P.A. system. We never lost again. And I’ll always treasure hanging out with dad and studying the science behind the music. ” ~ Jason Mendelson, venture capitalist
• “For me personally, Radio Shack was the same as today’s Apple store. I loved moving in there and just searching, wondering what half the stuff was, particularly their walls of transistors, capacitors, plugs and patch cords. Among my first at home/Saturday morning projects as a 10 year-old boy was to create a robot with tin cans my Mom had trashed and a lot of lead solder and an ‘Archer’ soldering gun, which still works after 50 years, even the tiny light on leading! Unfortunately the robot never did. I also still have an Archer voltmeter from the first 70’s that works great. In my own teens I used some of these transistors they sold to create a device that allowed me and a pal to make long-distance calls for free, despite the fact that we didn’t genuinely have one to call. My dream as a youngster was to someday work in a Radio Shack and, dare I believe it, even manage one! Today I run a software development company and credit a lot of my tech curiosity to days past wandering – and wondering – around in my own local Radio Shack. I’m sorry to see them go.” ~ Frank Kenna, CEO of The Marlin Company
• “I still remember my buddy and I as kids on a road trip fighting over a Walkman until my parents had to discover a radio shack (without googlemaps) to get a headphone splitter. Then we just argued over which cassette tapes to play.” ~ Chris Livingston, associate with Summit Partners
• “I was a geek when being truly a geek had not been fashionable. When portable computers weighed 40lbs and the idea of a laptop was only a dream.I was a geek whenever a mouse was a furry thing that you chased out of your property not made a home on your own desk.I was a geek when computers had names like Tra