Have you been to Radioshack lately ? You might have needed a part for that last moment project, of course you could buy it online but you need it NOW! So you finally decide to step into that quiet long forgotten Radioshack store. You walk in and you see cell phones , batteries , chargers , computer accessories, more cell phones ! , and finally in the back, here they are , on the dusty shelves some electronics parts. In an uninviting metal drawer cabinet you see them nicely marked by category, you look around , is it safe to look inside ? or should I call the clerk , "Naaaah he probably has no clue", is it locked ? will the alarm sound if I open it ? You finally gather the courage to look inside , and you feel like an explorer opening the cabins of Titanic, here is a transistor, a voltage regulator , a kit of resistors – "I might need it", a proto-board – "Nice!". You finally grabbed a cart of parts, although you didn't find what you were looking for in first place, you're little disappointed. You're finally heading to the register, not without stopping to observe the Radioshack branded multimeters and charges – and the whole place still feels just like a museum . The clerk was getting nervous already, you didn't even notice that an hour has passed. Now he is scanning your parts, he looks scared, half of the things he is scanning look dangerous to him, "this guy is up to something dangerous, we are dooooomed !". Oh no , now he is asking your address , is he going to call the cops ? :)
If you found yourself in this funny situation you're not alone, the truth is that at this time there are no serious retail stores for the electronics hobbyist, however there's a booming market ! Due to the current economic environment I doubt that someone would venture to open a nation-wide retail chain like the one Radioshack has, this being the reason I decided to write an open letter to the company. You might not like the Radioshack company but the truth is that we need them and they need us !
I am NOT going to send them this letter, instead I will put it out in the wild-wild web and let the natural selection do its work. If it makes (or when it makes) to someone in the Radioshack management – it means there are enough people who think like I think to make it happen.
That being said , here is the letter, if you'd like to join the petition, leave a comment, post it on your blog, do whatever you feel like, just keep it civilized please.
We the electronics hobbyists of America would like to inform you that we are back ! Our soldering irons got cold during the 90's and 2000's which made you pull all that interesting stuff to the back shelves. But we are the new generation and we are here to continue what our fathers and mothers have started, we are here to invent , change modify and rebuild this country back to it's glory days. We need your help though, we want our voices to be heard, we feel like you're not in touch with reality, while you were sleeping companies like Adafruit, Sparkfun, Make Magazine and many many others , have created a huge online community of new engineers and inventors who are the only hope that this country will once again regain it's edge in the technological field !
You shouldn't be threatened by these online retailers, neither should they be threatened by you, you should instead try to work together with them. In fact as a start you should try to resell their kits, they don't mind anyone copying their work, in fact they publish the schematics, code and advices how to use their products. They are not threatened by anyone, because they will never run out of ideas, they will always be one step ahead, and as long as this happens in our country we all have to gain !
We admire that you started carrying Parallax products, however we find it somehow funny that searching for "Arduino" on Radioshack site returns "The BASIC Stamp Kit" , why not just start carrying Arduino just like Jameco recently did ?
If you're concerned that you don't have the market yet to pull those products from back shelves and create a larger inventory, don't forget that a market is not only the market that you have, but the market that you're going to create. Next time a father or mother enters your store to buy batteries she might see all those interesting electronics kits and decide that's a good thing for their children to do in order to keep them busy and away from trouble. Why not get more involved in the community and organize or sponsor some electronics clubs, because we know you were sleeping – they are called nowdays "hackerspaces". But don't worry they have nothing to do with hackers and bad guys, in fact they are very friendly and open to anyone.
We understand that things might be tough in the financial chapter right now, it might seem strange but we want to give you our money , just give us the stuff we need! We are here to help and give you feedback. Together we can change many things for the better. Never underestimate the power that our online community has!
The Electronics Hobbyists of America
Once again, if you'd like to join the petition please leave a comment or publish it on your site, let's hope they will hear us :)
September 16, 2010