Radio Shack and Heathkit catering to the Amateur market?

I really hope so.

How many HAMs been to a Radio Shack recently? I have and it’s sad… really sad. Over the years, the component and DIY electronics section of Radio Shack kept getting smaller and smaller. The cell phone section kept getting bigger and bigger to the point where the electronics section is just a couple of cabinets and a 6ft wall of soldering irons (that are not good for SMD type soldering) and their assessories. And that’s even if your lucky enough to come  across a store with an electronics section. Now you go in looking for a component but instead you get hassled by the untrained staff to get you to buy a cell phone or batteries.  I am not old enough to know what it was really like but the Radio Shack catalog was what really got me interested in wireless communications. I was “oooh”ing and “awww”ing  over the things that were in there and I just had to get my hands on a CB radio.

The only thing I don’t get was WHY? Why did radio shack go the cell phone store route? Is it because of the high margin of cell phones, low overhead and back-end benefits to drive up profits? Damn right! IMO Radio Shack decided changing to a cellular phone store too late when there are already hundreds of  established stores within a 10mi radius that sell the same contracts, phone and accessories. That combined with the BIG box electronic stores, online electronic parts dealers (that dominates RSs markup) and the fact that most electronic devices are either no longer serviceable or too complicated  drove Radio Shack into a deeper hole which I thought were never going to dig out of. Heck, even The Onion made fun of Radio Shack.

In recent months, someone at Radio Shack finally kicked the board members (or whomever runs Radio Shack) in the ass and woke them up to a grim reality of what will happen to Radio Shack if they do not do something (Well, that’s what I imagine happened). Recently Radio Shack  is trying to dig and is going back to its roots and asked the DIY electronics community for help. Based on their answers, they actually posted a list with the Top 10 suggestion.  You will notice that HAM radio is listed and I hope that this is not a sales gimmick or some kind of publicity stunt or marketing ploy. At this point in time it looks like Radio Shack is joining up with Parallax (Company that manufactures and sells electronic kits) to release DIY electonic kits to the masses. I just hope with the quantity of product that RS is buying will lower the price.

I’m not sure if it’s directly related but a brand that almost every Amateur Radio Op knows is also throwing their hat in the DIY electronics game (again). HEATHKIT announced that they are getting back into the DIY Electronic kits for the consumer. They are starting out with a Garage Parking Assistant and a wireless swimming pool monitor kit with many other kits planned for the future. HEATHKIT is also asking for input from the DIY electronic community. So if you’re a ham (or not!), I would e-mail and let them know that there should be Amateur Radio related kits!

I never had the chance to actually build anything from Heathkit so I hope a something come across that I’m interested in learning! Maybe teach the kids when they are old enough about basic electronics.


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