A Eulogy for RadioShack, Written by the Internet
Thanks for the copper wires.
Image: Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr
RadioShack, a store that was cool but then decided to reinvent itself as a dumb store that sells cell phones instead of selling cool wires and auxiliary cords, filed for bankruptcy today. It is going to sell MANY of its MANY stores.
Everyone probably has a RadioShack memory, so the Motherboard staff decided to open up our ~editorial process~ to people on Twitter for this virtual memory board. We have no real way of verifying who actually contributed so maybe Ernest Hemingway didn't actually help author this post. We have no idea who these people are.
Here is what the process sort of looked like:
One time in the lovely hamlet of Dallas, Texas, I kicked my MacBook off my bed because I sleep with my laptop because I love it more than I could love any human ever. I was drunk, and it fell on a chair, and the LCD screen broke. Rather than pay the FATCATS at Apple to fix it, I thought I could do it myself. So I bought an LCD screen on eBay for $50 and then I bought a bunch of TINY TINY screwdrivers at RadioShack. I spent 14 hours taking the thing apart and putting it back together it works perfectly and it's the coolest thing I've ever done in my life. Thanks RadioShack.
I've never purchased anything from RadioShack. I think I stepped in one once when I was, like, 5, and I was with my Dad, who needed batteries for something.
Back in August I was in scenic Lake Tahoe to celebrate a dear, dear friend getting married by hanging out in a big old fancy new cabin with a whole gaggle of dudes doin' dude things. I arrived first and actually didn't have a key so spent about four hours sleeping on the lawn in the backyard, but AFTER everyone showed up we did the usual "let's drink some beers, light up the BBQ, smoke some reefer" and so on and so forth, which was great and awesome because it involved hanging out with many people I hadn't seen in many years.
The house had this cool all-over-the-house speaker system like fancy people have but it only had a CD changer attached. So where do you find an aux cord? I found a RadioShack like 20 minutes away, which seemed like the most amazing stroke of luck, because you KNOW RadioShack has got their aux cord game on lock. No one else was in the store on a Saturday afternoon, which meant I had two separate employees to guide me to the audio cable section, which felt like a very premium experience that Amazon could never compete with.
Then I paid $20 for a single three foot cord and I'm surprised it took this long for the company to die.
An actual RadioShack
I'm still here motherfucker.
Here's a cool thing about having cable internet: TV signals travel across the same line, too! Often at the same time. That's how things worked at my last apartment, anyhow. Even though I didn't technically have a cable TV subscription, I could plug my internet line into my TV, and somehow, watch sports or crappy sitcoms for free, in glorious SD.
Of course, that meant I couldn't use my internet. So I decided to split the cable in two. To make this #content utopia a reality—some might call it stealing, but hey—I needed a splitter. There are many places where one can buy a cable splitter, but for whatever reason—proximity, probably—I went to RadioShack (to be fair, RadioShack is also a different thing in Canada, partly owned by one of our telecom companies, and actually called "The Source" sans Circuit City, but I digress).
It cost me $15. It worked for a few months, I guess? I had to remove the thing last fall because it was causing my cable modem's connection to drop at random intervals, and no amount of illegal, standard definition basic cable was worth the intermittent trouble. So, thanks RadioShack. You temporarily helped me break the law, maybe.
RadioShack always made me feel weird. It was an old-feeling store filled with stuff that was supposed to be new. RadioShack was the consumer storefront equivalent of a dusty Microsoft Surface Tablet, and I honestly can't remember buying anything there besides batteries. Thanks to Seinfeld and capitalism, neither will anyone else.
RadioShack was never a place you went to just browse. RadioShack was always purely a destination of necessity.
"We don't have LR44 batteries. Try RadioShack."
I think the only time a RadioShack was a place I wanted to go was when I was on a 10+ hour-long stakeout for a story and didn't have access to a wall outlet in order to use my charger. I did, however, have a car thanks to the photographer accompanying me. We found a RadioShack in a nearby plaza and I bought a car charger for $10. It saved my butt. But I still won't miss it.
I was a really shitty sixth grader and wanted a cool new case for my Nokia brick phone from RadioShack. All I ever used that phone for was calling my mom to pick me up from class after school, but that didn't fucking matter. I wanted a yellow Nokia case, because yellow was a really cool color. I hate yellow now.
It was a radio-controlled car. It was faster than my sister's. It came from RadioShack. It was awesome.
I got a nice RC truck from RadioShack for Christmas one year. ('96? '97?) I think the only other time I went there was to pick up phone chargers when I'd forgotten them on the road, and one time to get a HDMI cable for a TV. What a mediocre store, in all possible ways. I did, however, enjoy when they briefly changed their name to The Shack, which also happens to be a very popular Christian novel about Jesus.
RadioShack probably went out of business because no one ever bought shit there. I mean that goes without saying but all of my memories are of just staring at things with my grandfather or dad, and maybe picking them up. RadioShack was a place I'd visit as a treat after a dentist appointment or something, a stop on the drive home. Maybe my father would pick up some batteries, but not once did we ever think "I know, let's go to RadioShack!" It was just the cool as hell place with expensive RC cars and Compaqs I could fuck around on and telephones shaped like footballs and Mickey Mouse. It was a hall of small wonders and a terrible business idea.
When I was living my Fast and Furious days, I remember I would go to RadioShack to get speaker wires and amps for my banging sound system. Plus, I also lost my virginity to a girl who worked at RadioShack. That was fun.
I never bought anything from RadioShack. No wonder they went out of business.
The only pleasant memory I possess that concerns RadioShack is when I was 7 years old and living in Bergenfield, New Jersey. My parents would call the Pizza Hut around the corner for takeout, and I would get assigned the insurmountable task of picking it up.
RadioShack was right next to the Pizza Hut.
At some point in my adult life I think I've had to look for some obscure cable, but RadioShack didn't have it.
I only ever bought one thing from RadioShack I ever loved (probably because I stole batteries/splitters when I had the chance. Sorry for that lost revenue!). It can only be encapsulated in in the parlance of our times, an animated .gif:
I was at a junket a few years ago, and the people in charge of it put my video interviews on this weird drive format I had never seen before. I went to RadioShack on my way home to get an adaptor for it, and they had what I was looking for. But when I tried it with my Mac, it turned out that only the audio worked with that adaptor. The lesson is: when it comes to RadioShack, never hope.
The story of RadioShack is the story of a sad, wasted life. When I was young, and RadioShack was still not bankrupt, it was a near-magical zone filled with technological oddities that ranged from the pragmatic and banal—power bricks, audio cables, and the like—to the utterly fantastic, from the perspective of a small town Ontario kid at the mall. I spent a lot of time RadioShack's back corner, where they kept the shitty handheld video games and other toys. The giant RC cars gleamed in the store's harshly-lit center, like holy icons.
Eventually, I got older, and RadioShack started losing some of its magic. Not just because I wasn't interested in cheap electronic toys anymore, but because the store itself started to change. The RC cars were replaced by cell phones and other boring junk that signaled some sort of decline—a tangible decay in the store's once effervescent structure of feeling. Eventually, I stopped going to RadioShack. By the time I was a teenager, I would walk by the store and not give it a second thought. RadioShack was embarrassing. RadioShack was boring. RadioShack was becoming everything a pathetically stagnant adulthood symbolized. And now, RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy.
Welcome to the real world, kid. There's no RC cars here. Just shitty, boring pieces of crap.
I walked in a RadioShack once. Then I walked out. That is my story.
I wrote a whole thing about it! Why I'll Miss Weird RadioShack.