The Shack Is Back
May 24, 2016 by Lou Frenzel, W5LEF, in Communiqué
The exterior of a typical free-standing RadioShack store in Texarkana, Texas. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Back in February 2015, Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy.
Many of us feared that we had lost a popular source of electronic products and parts. Well, in case you didn’t get the memo, Radio Shack is alive and well as a new company. It did not come out of bankruptcy as is the usual case. Instead, Standard General, a New York hedge fund, bought the assets and brand and formed a new company under the ownership of General Wireless with the name Radio Shack. It retained about 1,700 of the original 4,000-plus stores. Roughly 1,400 of the 1,700 are co-branded with Sprint and the telecommunications giant will sell cell phones and subscriber plans on-site.
More Blog Posts from Lou Frenzel
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RadioShack: Tragedy or Inevitable?
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Radio Shack is now a greatly scaled-down company and more focused on building a new business model around its stores and a greatly expanded online presence. It will continue to sell popular consumer electronics items, but also will take advantage of the growing DIY/Maker niche. Look for a growing number of Radio Shack smaller electronic kits in stores in the months to come. What they really need is a few signature larger kits to generate some significant buzz and dollars. Drones and robots come to mind, but that has been done. How about more radio products? Why not ham radio products, as this is a known and growing market? Besides, the former ham kit company Heathkit is not doing anything.
Radio Shack is also pursuing an educational approach to the hobbyist market. It plans to participate in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) movement in schools to introduce students to these technical fields. It will also offer in-store learning sessions and demos. I urge them to do even more educational projects like offering books, learning kits, and online webinars.
I am glad to see the survival of Radio Shack. It will continue to be a valuable resource for parts and accessories that many of us have come to rely upon. Let’s hope it flourishes with the new focus and direction. Check out the new website for an update.
The whole Radio Shack bankruptcy and re-emergence took place in less than a year. Yet here we are many years later still waiting on Heathkit to come back to life as the premier kit maker. So far not much is happening. A few years ago, Heathkit conducted an extensive survey of old and potentially new customers to find out what they wanted. What came of that was a $149 AM radio. A TRF rather than superhet version at that. Battery powered with no tuning dial or speaker. What were they thinking? Who is the market for this anyway? Kids? Really? People still do listen to AM radio, but mostly in their cars. It is an adult news and talk radio business. Kids and millennials listen to online sources mostly and FM if it is radio.
Anyway, what’s up with Heathkit? Such a great name and reputation is just going to waste. We all know that designing new kits is not easy, especially the larger and more complex kits Heathkit is known for. But how many years does it take? Is it a cash problem? Or maybe the new owners do not believe they can live up to Heathkit’s glorious past or new customer expectations. Whatever. Hey, Heathkit guys, do something soon. Radio Shack is already showing you up.
There is a single individual who claims the assets of Heathkit and as near as I can tell he is trying to make a business out of selling copies of Heathkit manuals for those of us trying to resurrect older units that we acquired sans manuals. There are a few Ham radio oriented sites that sell NOS or salvaged parts for Heathkit as well. In any event the market may indeed be ready for another Heathkit style company but I think the old one is moribund and stifled by the low aspirations of the current owner of the Heathkit assets. We used to have Knight Kits (Allied Radio) and Eico Kits too (Lafayette Electronics?) Maybe Allied Electronics, with its interest in supporting the MAKER phenomenon, could be encouraged to bring back Knight Kits. Amateur Radio, Electronic Test Equipment, and Embedded computer applications come to mind as likely markets. My 2 cents worth.
Lou Frenzel, W5LEF, writes articles and blogs on the wireless, communications and networking sectors for Electronic Design. Formerly, Lou was professor and department head at Austin Community College...
The TZ .19 Remote Receiver at UCSB is back on the air. Persons operating
a 1/2 watt HT from Goleta should be able to be heard 100% thru the
downtown Mesa TZ .79 repeater. Thanks to Matt Lechliter, W6KGB, and
Calli Marquez, KD6OVS, for their work in aligning the Mesa Voter and
link radio system with the GE M3 Repeater.
We are testing our Yaesu 440 FM and digital repeater up at the La Vigia
site for a couple of weeks before it goes back to it's permanent
location at the WB6OBB site on Broadcast Peak. The repeater does both
regular FM and Yaesu System Fusion digital voice. We are inviting
everyone to give it a workout whether you have digital capabilities or not.
The frequency is: 449.300 - minus offset - PL 131.8
Several of us will be monitoring as time allows. There are quite a few
of us in the local area who do have Yaesu digital radios and it is a
really different experience! Join us on this repeater if you can!
Brian - K6BPM
This coming Friday Calli Marquez, kd6ovs, and Matt Lechliter, w6kgb,
shall be conducting in-depth fine tuning adjustments of the 19/79 Mstr
III repeater and GE Voter at that the Mesa site. The repeater may be off
the air from 1000- until completion. Please disregard any unusual
on-the-air test activity unless the tech's request an outside response.
The refined tuning and limited controller script additions should
improve overall user functions as we move forward.
Thanks for your consideration.
Part of the process at Gordon's will be to perform any alignments during
the transition. He has antennas up so not an issue. Your only a block
away from Bruce and also in a good location. But we sure appreciate the
offer of SB Electronics and keep that in mind for any future build-outs.
The Chatsworth racks are what I'm looking for. I'm partial to a 7 footer
with 12-24 mounting holes if you have one.
Thanks for the offers.
On 5/4/2016 6:50 AM, Ken Alker wrote:
> 1) You are welcome to locate the receiver at Santa Barbara Electronics
> Supply (roof) in the Magnolia Shopping Center as well. Bruce may
> already have a better solution, but I figured I'd throw that out there.
> 2) I will donate a 19" open-frame rack if you need one (I am pretty
> sure I have a few Chatsworth racks I'm not using).
> --On Tuesday, May 03, 2016 10:19 PM -0700 Bill Talanian
> <w1uuq(a)cox.net> wrote:
>> For over 20 years SBARC has operated a linked remote 146.190 MHz
>> at UCSB. The coverage enables low level signals from Goleta to be voted
>> along with the main input at the Mesa site. Recently UC rebuilt the
>> electric power transformer and switch room where our equipment enclosure
>> bay is located. The expansion in this utility room now leaves no space
>> for the enclosure which requires us to completely remove the enclosure.
>> In its place I am proposing an open bay 19 inch rack pending approval by
>> UC facilities. During the process of performing all this mechanical work
>> the remote receiver will be removed and temporarily located at the
>> QTH of
>> Bruce Gordon, N6OLT. Gordon's location is near the Magnolia shopping
>> center. Since this is to the west of Campinal Hill it should cover many
>> parts of Goleta. However, this location may be less than what we have
>> seen from UC. The system should be down not longer than two days during
>> the relocation process.
For over 20 years SBARC has operated a linked remote 146.190 MHz
receiver at UCSB. The coverage enables low level signals from Goleta to
be voted along with the main input at the Mesa site. Recently UC rebuilt
the electric power transformer and switch room where our equipment
enclosure bay is located. The expansion in this utility room now leaves
no space for the enclosure which requires us to completely remove the
enclosure. In its place I am proposing an open bay 19 inch rack _pending
approval by UC facilities._ During the process of performing all this
mechanical work the remote receiver will be removed and temporarily
located at the QTH of Bruce Gordon, N6OLT. Gordon's location is near the
Magnolia shopping center. Since this is to the west of Campinal Hill it
should cover many parts of Goleta. However, this location may be less
than what we have seen from UC. The system should be down not longer
than two days during the relocation process.