Radio Shack computers

Radio Shack computers

Radio Shack released one of the first home computers, the TRS-80 Model I, in 1977. Between 1977 and 1979, it sold 100,000 units. Radio Shack sold them just as quickly as Tandy could make them. You can count Radio Shack and its parent company Tandy among computer companies that failed, but they enjoyed a good run. For a time, Radio Shack computers, later marketed as Tandy computers, were very popular.

Radio Shack and Tandy computers included the TRS-80 Model I from the inaugural class of 1977, the pioneering Model 100 portable, and the Tandy 1000 series, which helped bring PC clones into homes.

There were several reasons why Radio Shack computers were hard to compete with in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s.

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When KB Toys closed

When KB Toys closed

When KB Toys closed is a relative question. While KB Toys went out of business in 2009, the store closest to you may have closed earlier than that. It was a sad end for a staple of my childhood, and possibly yours. KB Toys isn’t the only toy store to go out of business of course, but it was one of the more notable ones.

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The old Montgomery Ward building in Kansas City

The old Montgomery Ward building in Kansas City

I remember the old Montgomery Ward building in Kansas City. I spent plenty of time in the sprawling complex at 6200 St. John Avenue in Kansas City near the intersection of Belmont Boulevard.

When I was growing up, the three most dreaded words in my (and my cousin’s) vocabulary were “Ward’s over town.” That was what our family called the monstrosity, which was home to a regional distribution center, an outlet store, a catalog store, and corporate offices in a mere 2 million square feet.

When we were eight years old, this store was where Saturdays went to die. I don’t know how many of its 2 million square feet were open to my mom, aunt, and grandmother to look for bargains, but there was plenty of room for bargains to hide, and if there was ever anyone willing to spend the whole day in that store stretching a dollar just as far as it could go, it was my aunt. Read more

Fare thee well, Radio Shack. Hello, Battery Shack!

The new owners of what’s left of Radio Shack want to specialize in batteries. Although this isn’t a guaranteed survival plan, it makes sense to me.

Last week, I went to one of the few remaining Radio Shack locations to get some overpriced diodes and D-sub connectors for a project. My oldest son tagged along. He asked about the store. I tried to describe it, and finally I said, “It’s kind of like Batteries Plus would be if it sold electronic parts too. And phones.”

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An insider’s account of the fall of Radio Shack

When I heard Radio Shack was going to be open on Thanksgiving day, I wondered why they would bother. The few Radio Shack stores near me are deserted on normal days, so I didn’t know why anyone would take time out of Thanksgiving Day to go to Radio Shack.

Based on this sad account from an employee who spent hard time working at Radio Shack, I was probably even more right than I thought. The first story, from Black Friday 2004, tells the tale of a store that, when all was said and done, probably lost money on Black Friday. And this was in an era when tech blogs would say, “Believe it or not, there are worse places to be at 6am on Black Friday than Radio Shack.”

I’m not sure anybody believes it now. Read more

Unintentional showrooming

My mom asked me a few weeks ago to recommend a tablet or e-reader. She’s really only interested in reading, so that pretty much answered half the question. You can read on a tablet, of course, but when you sit down to read on one, it’s almost a guarantee you’ll end up doing more than just read a book. You’ll see that e-mail notification and you’ll check it, and next thing you know, you’re on to something else.

So… Kobo, Nook, or Kindle? For me, it was an easy decision. The Nook was the best hardware at the time, so I went with a Nook. Ve hev vays to get the books we want onto the hardware we want, but Mom doesn’t want that hassle. She just wants to be able to buy the books she wants and read them right away. Amazon’s done a hardware refresh, so their hardware is as good as any other at this point, if not a little better, and they have the largest library of books, so it was an easy decision. The newest Kindle Paper White it is.

So, the day after it came out, she went to the nearest Best Buy to buy it… and ended up ordering it from Amazon. That practice is called “showrooming,” and retailers hate it, but sometimes they shoot themselves in the foot. This was one of them. Read more

Farewell, Crestwood Plaza

Farewell, Crestwood Plaza

The Sears anchor store at Crestwood Plaza near St. Louis closed in May 2012. It was a long, slow decline, and nobody knew what was next. More than five years later, there’s still nobody who knows what’s next.

I went there a couple of weeks before it closed, and I bought a multimeter at a heavy discount, but most of the kinds of things I would have been interested in buying were long gone. The rest of the old mall was mostly empty. The last of the smaller tenants left in 2013. Read more