Hey Radio Shack. It's us, the makers.

Do you remember in the 80s and 90s, when half of your stores' real-estate was dedicated to sliding pegboards of myriad components 3 layers deep, Engineer's (Mini) Notebooks by Forrest M. Mims III, genuinely good electronics experimenter kits, prototyping breadboards (not these) and Tandy/Archer/Heath-branded customer-soldered kits that were genuinely useful?

We want it back. You see, DIY electronics is en vogue again. Guitarists are excited about their stomp boxes. Teenagers are building awesome robots that are more than just cheap plastic toys. The economy is fostering a serious DIY revolution. People are going on MakeCations (staying at home, making things) or doing weekend projects instead of weekend road trips. We are once again learning how to fix our ailing gadgets rather than chucking them into the garbage, and looking for ways to make our own simple and useful electronic gizmos and toys instead of buying them. It's cheaper and a lot more fun. Building and fixing things yourself instills a sense of joy. Who doesn't LOVE a sense of joy!?

Just as the old-school PIC gave way to the easier-to-use BASIC Stamp, the electronics deities have given us the Parallax Propeller and Atmel AVR Microcontrollers, and the easier-to-use pre-packaged versions: SPIN Stamp and Arduino. There are literally thousands of well-documented and useful projects out there for budding electronics engineers and computer scientists, yet we no longer have a good, local source for discrete components to help us finish these projects. That used to be you, Radio Shack, but you've lost your way.

Last night, I was horribly saddened at what your component selection has become: a dozen drawers or so containing only two or three of the most popular values of components, and only a lone 555 timer hanging out with a few different SCRs and op-amps in the IC bin.

We are the makers. We are many. Hear our plea: Lose some of the chintzy, easily-broken children's toys and pare down (or get rid of) your selection of overpriced and useless home theater junk. Other stores do consumer electronics much better than you can with your small, shack-like storefronts. Bring back the big sliding racks full of components, chips, and kits. Bring back the spring-jumpered crystal radios and projects that kids can build with their parents. Bring back the shelf full of electronics project books and experimenter kits. Bring us Arduinos, SPIN Stamps, stepper motors, servos and robotics platforms.

You were once our hyper-local, affordable source for all kinds of DIY electronics hackery. We liked that. We do not like having to beg all of our friends to go in with us on a huge order from the all-encompassing catalog companies.

Also, a bit of a shout out: here in Kansas City, we do have the HMS Beagle store and Electronics Supply. Unfortunately, they lack the ubiquity and convenience of Radio Shack and they still have to special order a lot of things. Mostly, I'm just being a ranty retro-grouch as usual. I'd really like to see "The Shack" return to its roots. The things they currently do, they're doing poorly, and there's a huge niche left behind by their old business model that I feel would probably thrive quite well. I hoarked over $1.49 each last night -- happily, I might add -- for a pair of LM386 Op-Amps. I'm betting Radio Shack made 700% profit on each of them, at minimum.

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