Dave Richards AA7EE

February 1, 2010

Radio Shack Saved My Life Tonight (With Apologies To Elton John)

Radio Shack (I cannot bring myself to call it “The Shack”) has never been my first port of call for electronic components and associated items, but when I was a teenager in the 1970’s and went shopping in Worcester with my Mum (Worcester, England, as opposed to the one in Massachusetts) I’d hit up 2 places for parts for my latest electronic building project.  There was a mom and pop electronics parts store on Foregate Street (I think), and if they didn’t have it, I’d try Tandy (as Radio Shack is called in the UK). Back then they actually had quite a lot of discrete components. It was often possible to find a schematic for some simple project in an electronics magazine (lie detector, light dimmer – that kind of thing) and actually get all the parts for it from Tandy.  Wow – think of that.

As we all know, Radio Shack is carrying less and less stuff of interest to the electronics hobbyist.  I don’t blame them; it’s a shrinking market. I rarely even consider going there for parts now. But this evening I decided to take a look at the KD1JV Digital Dial kit that had arrived from Hendricks QRP Kits a week earlier with a view to putting it together.  The instruction manual recommends .02″ diameter solder to help with soldering the SMT devices instead of the usual .032″ size. I’ve been making do with .032″ diameter solder but knew that I actually wanted to try using some nice thin solder for this kit.  It was 6pm on Sunday evening. Where was I going to get .02″ diameter solder? The instructions mention that Radio Shack carry it, which surprised me, because my local electronics emporium, Al Lasher’s in Berkeley, doesn’t.  A quick phone call to the local RS revealed that they did indeed have a roll of the stuff in stock.

I realized that my bike had a flat rear tire (I don’t own a car), changed the inner tube, and got to the store at around 6:30. Had a quick chat with the employees there and got back home, solder in hand, at 6:51. I didn’t think I’d have occasion to say this nowadays, but a big thumbs up to Radio Shack.  I bet their employees haven’t heard of SMT devices, but their store certainly carried the solder to work with them.

How much longer before RS don’t carry anything I want………maybe not long but they came up trumps this evening.

(Incidentally, Al Lasher’s is a really great place for discrete electronic components with good old-fashioned personal service, if you’re ever in Berkeley, CA. The fact they didn’t have this one item is no big shakes.  There have been so many other times they had exactly what I wanted.)

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