A Goldmine Of Radio Shack Goodies Is Up For Auction

Where did you buy the parts for your first electronic project? That’s a question likely to prompt a misty-eyed orgy of reminiscences from many Hackaday readers, if ever we have heard one. The chances are that if you are from North America or substantial parts of the English-speaking world, you bought them from a store that was part of the Radio Shack empire. These modestly sized stores in your local mall or shopping centre carried a unique mix of consumer electronics, CB radio, computers, and electronic components, and particularly in the days before the World Wide Web were one of very few places in which an experimenter could buy such parts over the counter.

Sadly for fans of retail electronic component shopping, the company behind the Radio Shack stores faltered in the face of its new online competition over later years of the last decade, finally reaching bankruptcy in 2015. Gone are all but a few independently owned stores, and the brand survives as an online electronics retailer.

The glory days of Radio Shack may be long gone, but its remaining parts are still capable of turning up a few surprises. As part of the company’s archives they had retained a huge trove of Radio Shack products and memorabilia, and these have been put up for sale in an online auction.

There is such a range if items for sale that if you are like us you will probably find yourself browsing the listings for quite a while. Some of it is the paraphernalia of a corporate head-office, such as framed artwork, corporate logos, or strangely, portraits of [George W. Bush], but the bulk of the collection will be of more interest. There are catalogues galore from much of the company’s history, items from many of its promotions over the years including its ventures into sporting sponsorship, and numerous examples of Radio Shack products. You will find most of the computers, including a significant number of TRS-80s and accessories, tube-based radios and equipment from the 1950s, as well as cardboard boxes stuffed with more recent Realistic-branded items. There are even a few retail technology dead ends to be found, such as a box of :CueCat barcode readers that they evidently couldn’t give away back in the dotcom boom.

If you are interested in any of the Radio Shack lots, you have until the 3rd of July to snap up your personal piece of retail electronic history. Meanwhile if you are interested in the events that led to this moment, you can read our coverage of the retail chain’s demise.

Thanks [Mark Scott] for the tip.

48 thoughts on “A Goldmine Of Radio Shack Goodies Is Up For Auction

    1. FYI, the going rate on eBay is significantly lower than the UBid auction in the link. I think there’s some extra sentimental value in owning a TRS-80 model 100 sold during Radio Shack’s bankruptcy auction. If you don’t care about the provenience, get a used on on eBay.

  1. Dang, if I’d have only known my TRS-80 vIII ‘s were going to be worth this much in 2017, I would have kept that pallet of them I bought in 1995 from US Govt surplus for $1 :(

    1. Things are only worth something because the demand is higher then the supply. So if nobody threw some stuff away we would not be appreciating the stuff still being around. Just because there are less of these machines left (because everybody did threw them away) they are valuable now.
      So think of how you created the now high price(s) for those systems you threw away or sold for a few bucks. Without out you, the consumer, this would not be possible. The people that are discarding things are actually the ones that make the prices go up without them those “precious gems” would just be a bunch of computers that everyone has lying around but doesn’t care for.

      See it like this, next time you throw something away, you are helping somebody by making his/hers similar worthless stuff more valuable (in the far future).

    1. The lead at the local makerspace inquired about the ones going out in a TN radio shack which was closing outside of Nashville. He was quoted 200 apiece for each “cube” of these shelves. I lol’d and told him to go back a week after the store closed and dig them out of the dumpster.

      1. In may places RS employees aren’t as dumb many make them out to be. While I hope your space lucks out. The cabinets may not make it to the dumpster, and if they do friends of the employees will get first notice.

        1. The shelves with some contents are worth more like the 50 that he paid for them. And the employees in our independent Radio Shack were very knowledgeable. The ones outside of town–I’ve run into the stereotypical disinterested, apathetic employees. I’ll refer you to the earlier comments about Radio Shack here:
          https://hackaday.com/2011/05/27/speak-your-mind-and-help-radioshack-suck-less/
          https://hackaday.com/2015/02/05/ive-come-here-to-bury-radio-shack-not-praise-it/
          The comments about the employees (and the environment they worked in, in the franchise stores) are spot on.

  2. No, in March of 1971 I looked in the Yellow Pages, and pretty much at random picked Etco Electronics in downtown Montreal. I no longer remember why I picked that, but it turned out to be a good choice, there was actually a cluster of electronic stores in the area, though I only realized with time. It also happened to be near a subway stop, it wasn’t long before I was going by myself, and then a bit later, I’d walk, which is probably why I walk most places to this day.

    I can’t remember if Radio Shack was in Canada that year, but if it was, it was a very recent thing, and no local stores.

    There was at least one the next year, not very far away. I may be wrong, it seems a bit off that someone I knew was working there in 1972.

    But since there were the other stores, Radio Shack was pretty much for emergencies, when I couldn’t get to the good parts stores. Out of the gate I knew the parts were expensive, except on sale or clearance items, though every o often they had exotic items not so readily available at the local stores.

    Michael

  3. In much of the US there was no option to RS assuming there was a truly local RS. Mail order was the only option until phone order was made easier with generic all purpose credit cards coming into use. Many mail/phone order outlets gave revolving credit to the little guys. As of late I could get the Motorola shop to order items when they did their next order. The shop was affiliated with a phone coop, and they would drop the items by the local office. As far as I can tell they never added a price mark up.

  4. Ah, the memories this brings back… I bought the first TRS-80 in my area. The day it arrived at the store they called me to come pick it up, and when I got there some of the employees that had the day off had come in, and they all talked me in
    to opening it there in the store. They’d never even seen one until then. Two of the employees had come from a store about a half hour drive away to get a look.
    I’d love to have one again just for old time’s sake. But I have better things to spend my money on right now.

  5. Thank you for the stroll down amnesia lane. It was an 89km trek to the nearest electronic shop for components(Radio Shock) when I was a boy and their catalogue was my favourite bathroom reader. You can bid on a piece of history but I will always have my Battery of the Month Club card!

  6. So in 2015, when the news came down that Radioshack was closing, a buddy and I were getting some dranks for our hackerspace. We saw the local Radioshack was closing in 2 days. We went in to see what we could find. I made a post on Imgur. Go check it out. We cleaned out all the electronics they had left. We got a total of $4,587.03 for 1,259 items, and paid $21.65. You can see the post on imgur.

  7. It was Tandy here in Australia and they (along with another recently departed chain Dick Smith) where the go-to places to get electronic bits back in the day until Dick Smith acquired Tandy before going bust late last year due to private equity vultures ruining the company.

  8. I still have my TRS100 laptop (to be correct a TRS-80 model 100) which I last used as a controller for a homebrew CNC Unimat lathe back in the 1980’s. I had upgraded it to 64k memory with aftermarket add-on memory. I could just about get it to respond quickly enough to a G code subset using Basic! In a way the TRS100 was the first Raspberry Pi as it gave access to its GPIO chip via a DIP socket in the back, somewhat like the Pi 20 pin connector. I used that for the CNC controller.

    When our local RS closed they had a 30 bucks for all you could fit into a carrier bag deal and I now have a lifetime supply of high quality switches, indicators, tantalum capacitors and connectors.

  9. Those who’d like something like the classic Radio Shack Model 100 for writing might want to look into getting an Alphasmart Neo or Neo2 (for writers, there’s no difference). They were originally sold to schools for about $200 to teach typing and elementary writing. You can find them now on eBay or Amazon for about $25-30.

    The basics:

    1. A full-sized keyboard that records what’s typed in 8 files totaling about 200 typed pages. Editing is a bit clumsy with arrow keys but still easily done.
    2. Connects via USB and sends the stored text to a word processing app as if the user were typing.
    3. 700 hours (that’s seven-hundred) of use from 3 cheap AA batteries.
    4. Designed for middle-school kids and hence very rugged.
    5. LCD screen that’s easily seen in the brightest sunlight. Great for writing novels (or code) outdoors.

    http://www.williamlanday.com/2009/05/29/things-i-love-the-alphasmart-neo/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AlphaSmart

    It is a one-trick pony, but great for creating rough drafts on the go.

    1. The Alphasmart word processors are wonderful devices (I have 6 of the early 68HC11-based ones and a few of the newer 68000- and Dragonball-based ones), but they’re no match for the Tandy 100 in versatility. The Tandy WP1 comes close, but is still very limited compared to the 100.
      I have been trying to reverse engineer the original Alphasmart (68HC11) and turn it into a general purpose computer for the last two years, but the device it too limited for adding any significant functionality (like mass storage or serial communication) without major hardware modifications.
      The Vtech Laser portable word processors (Z80-based) are a little more expandable and some models even have 80-column LCDs and a built-in BASIC interpreter. Unfortunately, like everything Vtech, the designs of the PCBs are horrible and I still can’t figure out how they work.

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