10 products you could only find at RadioShack

At least at one point, RadioShack was the only place you could find these tech products.

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Remembering the Shack

RadioShack announced recently that after 94 years the company would be going into bankruptcy, selling off a number of stores and shutting some others down. As a techy who was born in the 60s, RadioShack was a huge part of my life. I remember hitting the RadioShack every time I visited the Duncan Mall just to see what was new. For you younger people out there, understand that at one point, there were no other options for many of the products you could find at RadioShack. No Best Buy, no Amazon.com or Tiger Direct. Here are 10 of the products that I could only get from RadioShack.

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Capacitors, resistors and other electronic components

As I kid, I liked to take apart everything and figure out how things worked, and sometimes even improve on them. For example, when I was in middle school I had one of the electronic football games, but it was too noisy to use in a classroom. So as a solution, I went to RadioShack, purchased a small switch, opened up the game, and installed a switch on the wire so I could turn the sound on and off. I later improved the design with a variable control so I could have volume control.

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Free Battery Club card

Without a doubt, my favorite thing ever from RadioShack was the "Free Battery Club." Every month, I could go in, get my card stamped, and get a free battery! Truth be told, I had several of these cards and would get anywhere from four to six batteries per month, free! Unfortunately, they were the general purpose ones and lasted only a few hours in a radio or flashlight. It was certainly a good draw, though.

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Do-it-yourself electronics kit

Any kid who was into electronics or science had to have one of these. The kits ranged from 25-1 experiments to 300-1. The kit included instructions on how to build things like strobe lights, clocks, cool sounds like machine guns, electronic dice, and a bunch of other fun things.

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Crystal Radio Kit

In many ways, the crystal radio kit was a purpose-built version of the previously mentioned science kit. However, it did let you build a functioning AM radio that you could plug a headphone into. I listed to many Vancouver Canucks games on CKNW, 98 on the AM radio dial, with Jim Robson and Howie Meeker doing the call.

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TRS-80 desktop computer

Remember the DOS wars? It seems every manufacturer of an "IBM-compatible" computer had its own version of DOS. RadioShack was no different, and offered "Tandy DOS" as the operating system that powered its TRS-80, also known to owners of the fine product as the "Trash 80." I initially had a cassette deck, as shown in the image, but later upgraded to dual floppies. With the floppy drives and 64K of RAM, there was virtually nothing I couldn't do. Edit files, play Leisure Suit Larry, print on my dot matrix printer – I had the world in my hands.

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TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer

Before there were MacBooks and laptops, there was this RadioShack portable computer. Seeing one for the first time was one of those seminal moments in one’s life, like remembering where you were when the U.S. won the gold medal in hockey. I was in the RadioShack in my local mall when I first gazed upon this portable computer. It had an integrated 300-baud modem and the base unit came with 8K of memory, upgradeable to 24K. I purchased one of these when I started my college career, and that integrated modem came in quite handy as all of my computer science assignments were on a Unix mainframe that we could dial in to do work on remotely.

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Video game switch box for TV

For you youngsters reading this, there was a time when TVs didn’t have multiple input ports. They had exactly one, and the only way to put a gaming system on a TV was with one of these switch boxes. Every game system – Atari, Intellivision, Coleco, and the rest – came with one of these. However, they always broke. So what’s a gamer to do? Hop on down to your local RadioShack and pick up one of the models made by Archer, RadioShack’s TV brand.

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Home phone

There was a time when most people rented their phonesfrom the local phone company. In Victoria, BC, where I grew up, that meant paying an extra $4 per month to BC Tel. When I started my university career and got my own apartment, there was no way I was going to let the phone company stick it to me, so I ran down to RadioShack and bought my own home phone.

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Cables, cables, and more cables

Almost everything with a computer connects wirelessly today. The network, mouse, keyboard, printer, etc. That wasn’t always the case, though. Cables were used to connect everything, including this handy 30-inch parallel port printer cable. RadioShack also had a wealth of equipment to make your own cables. I hated short cables, so I was always making my own RJ 11 (phone) and RJ 45 (computer) cables, and I got all the parts – spools of able, ends, and crimping tools – at RadioShack.

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Radios

With a name like RadioShack, the company couldn’t fall short in that area. You could get virtually any kind of radio there. AM/FM Radios, with or without tape players, HAM, Short Wave, CB Radios – all of them were available at RadioShack. One of my better finds at RadioShack (although I couldn’t find an image) was a portable cassette player with an “FM Cassette,” so if you got tired of listening to the same 10 songs on the tape, you could pop in the FM cassette and listen to the radio. Genius!