Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ode to RadioShack

Way Back When in a City Far Far Away.....
If you have been around as long as I have, you have a history with RadioShack. Recent news seems to indicate that RadioShack's days are numbered. I am saddened. Maybe I am a bit sentimental, but their products have given me years of DX'ing excitement and enjoyment. A very large piece of my DX'ing over the years utilized products, equipment and peripherals sold by RadioShack.

My working-class parents bought me my first Shortwave communications receiver in 1965 at a Bellaire, Texas RadioShack, a 4-tube Halicrafters S-120 for a whopping $69.95 . It was the bottom of the line for Shortwave receivers, but it opened up the wonders of this hobby. It was a thrill listening to broadcasters such as, Radio Moskow, Deutsche Welle, Radio Australia and hundreds of Amateur Radio operators throughout the world, plus Citizens Band radio. This begat my first Archer 20 mW CB Walkie-Talkie for $14.95 and now I was trying to communicate beyond the line of sight, or least out of the neighborhood.

As a teenager, I focused on High School (hated it for the most part), girls, cars, a garage band and a bunch of trouble. The radio hobby took a back seat, although the interest was always still there off and on through the stresses of growing up. I graduated high school in 1970 and a year later began a 30 year career in Banking. Tandy stock had to have increased.

I moved from Houston to the Mid Cities outside Fort Worth Texas in 1978 and worked a block away from the Tandy Center in downtown Ft.Worth. It was a unique office and major shopping/entertainment complex in a downtown setting served by a Tram from a large parking lot a mile away.

So here is what is left of my collection from RadioShack and its uses they have been for me in the past and now. There are some articles I no longer have, and will mention them.

Pictures of the Collection:

Left to Right:
1. My second Shortwave communications receiver was a Realistic DX-150A (1971) It became my Ham Band receiver in 1979 when I became a Novice (same call as today). Used it for the first 10 months as a Ham, then switched to a TenTec transceiver. It still works, but needs alignment for the higher bands.
2. My first CB radio was a Realistic Navaho (1971). One fine CB Rig. I used a RS Quarter-wave Ground Plane, a Super Maxim (end fed half wave ground plane), a four element Yagi and a mobile antenna made by Antenna Specialists (Hustler brand). I worked a little Skip with it barefoot. One time DX mobile on the Southwest Freeway in Houston. The radio was converted to 10-Meters in 1981 and worked all over North America using the old CB Yagi and on a few long road trips. Does W-A-1-H"Yell"Rrrrr ring a bell? Works now on 75% of the channels (24) because one crystal went bad.
3. A DX-351 LW/MW/SW/FM radio purchased on clearance in 1997. Analog and a surprising good receiver with external antenna help. Excellent battery life. Used when I traveled.  TECSUN sells a similar radio today.
4. Realistic headphones from the advent of the Walkman days.

My original Archer FM/VHF/UHF-TV V125 Log-Periodic antenna purchased in 1974 to watch the Indy 500 while I was fishing down at a Bay home on the SE Texas coast. The UHF elements were cut off in 2013 because of rust and corrosion. By the way, the 3-element 10-Meter Yagi on the tower is my original CB Yagi (Hustler). Not pictured is a RadioShack FM Turnstile (crossed folded dipoles) mounted 20 feet up the tower. I gave away 2 other outdoor RS VHF/UHF TV antennas over the years.

Left to Right:
1. Micronta 12-24 Hour Alarm Clock- Circa 1982 with bright blue LED's. It replaced a RS Weather Radio Alert Clock with Red LED's. It is much easier to read than my computer when paper logging QSO's.
2. Pro-74 VHF/UHF/Race Scanner (29-956 MHz). The only gift in this collection. My wife gave it to me for Xmas in 2000. It was last used in 2016 at the Phoenix IndyCar race and in 2013 at the Indianapolis 500. I also use it for 6 &10 Meter FM, Aircraft, Weather Radio and Satellite monitoring.
3. 49 MHz Walkie-Talkie with a Code Key (orange button). Changed a crystal to use it on 6 Meter AM (50.4 MHz). No luck with that. It does hear, but not transmit.
4. Realistic's copy of the Turner+2 amplified desk microphone. Still works. I use it with my Yaesu FT-726R and FT-747GX on occasion.
5. Noise cancelling amplified Trucker microphone. Used with my 2 Meter all-mode Yaesu FT-290R that is notorious for very hot microphone input. It used a 7V battery that is no longer made. I will have to manufacture something (watch batteries in series) one day.
6. DC-AC Voltage/Ohm/Amp Meter - Purchased in the mid 1980's. Takes a licking, keeps on ticking. Not 100% accurate, but still good for simple applications.
7. Archer TV Antenna Rotor. Besides rotating a TV antenna, it was used to spin around a Cushcraft 3-element 6-Meter and 424B 70 CM Yagis for 10 years. Still works after greasing the gears on the rotor. Always required re-adjusting. I have 100 feet of unused RS 3-conductor rotor cable. The CDE (Ham-IV) rotor was not sold by RadioShack. At one time I had a larger Archer rotor to spin the CB Yagi. It died in a flood while in storage in Houston. 
8. Ceramic microphone used on the Navaho CB rig.  

Left to Right:
1. Realistic Stereo Pre-Amplifier primarily used to amplify record turntables into stereo amplifiers that did not have a Phono input (8 track/Cassette/Early CD era). I used it a lot to record a number of my Psychedelic era LP's to CD on my desktop computer.
2. One of  two Mono-Computer Headsets /w microphone. One used on my Yaesu FT-290R, the other on my Wouxon U/V handie-talkie. I also have a third spare.
3. RadioShack AM Broadcast Loop Antenna. It can be used as a passive loop (placed next to internal antenna) or has a mini-plug connection for radios/receivers that have external AM antenna ports (current use Kenwood or Pioneer Stereo Receivers). I have used the antenna when traveling and as an extra boost loading a 4-Foot Box-Loop. Today, Kaito sells a look-alike of this antenna. 
4. Optimus 12-603A AM/FM Radio. This a GE Superadio III copycat and supposedly the main board is made by the same company that makes the GE SR. It has external antenna ports for AM and FM. It was not a good performer out of the box and I had to re-align it. I remember in Fort Worth Texas using the radio with my 4-foot box loop one early evening listening to afternoon traffic reports from a Phoenix/Mesa Arizona AM broadcast station.
5. Realistic Power/SWR/Modulation Meter. I really think this device was designed for CB'ers that operated illegal power amplifiers (has setting for 500 watts). This meter has been a godsend. It works efficiently and accurately from 80 Meters all the way to 6 and 2 Meters. The antenna and rig connectors detach from meter box for easy hook up.

My last purchase for Amateur Radio at RadioShack. A HTX-10, a 25-watt all mode 10 Meter transceiver. I bought it in 2004 when Radio Shack was getting out of selling Ham equipment. It was purchased for $44.95 and was the last one in stock at a Hurst Texas RS.  I have worked some of DX mobile with it, but it really has been a workhorse with my 10 Meter PropNET efforts. Used as a Lurker rig, it has captured PSK31 packets and CQs for real-time plotting and database analysis for more than 10 years. Its broad-banded front end is great for picking up PSK31 signals in a 3,000 Hz range.  I plan to put it back in use for the Spring/Summer Es season on PropNET or WSPR.

Other articles:
1. Apartment Spring-loaded vertical CB Antenna (end-fed coiled 1/2 wave). Worked better in the attic.
2. A few hundred feet of RG8-X. The only coax that Tandy made that was decent. Still have some feeding an HF Vertical. Their RG58 & RG8 (RG213) was not very good. I also use a 110' Inverted-V Doublet with RS High-Quality 300-Ohm feedline. It about 40 years old.
3. A few hundred feet of 75-ohm RG59 & RG6. Some good, some bad. Still have some.
4. A collection of RG58 patch-cables. None worth 50 cents.
5. 5-Inch Black&White 12V Portable TV with a glass mounted V-shaped antenna. It kept the daughter entertained on road trips and me informed on VHF propagation on my road travels. Still pissed that we converted to HDTV. 
6.  Several VHF and UHF outdoor and indoor antennas for my Scanner and Radio Shack Patrolman receivers. The reception of distant NOAA Weather and Fire/Police stations was my introduction to Tropo.

Thank you RadioShack for passing the time and enjoyment in this hobby.

Their liquidation has started similar to what has happened at K-Mart. Retail prices have been raised 50% with a 20% reduction. Way overpriced!! I will patiently wait. There are a few final odds and ends I want to buy before they shut the door for good.

73 Art Jackson KA5DWI

Epilogue:
My local Radio Shack closed on May 30, 2017.
I was surprised that many components and parts were purchased in mass by several individuals.
Besides getting a few antenna (TV & Cable) and electrical parts before someone bought them out, I honored Radio Shack by buying a FM/AM/SW Travel Radio for $25. It works well with the RS MWBC Passive Loop and a 1-Foot Box Loop (Idaho and Washington logged). I even experienced a semi-rare propagation event. A couple of weeks ago, I heard five WWV Ft.Collins CO stations at the same time (5, 10, 15, 20 & 25 MHz) with its whip antenna. A major Sporadic Es event was going on.

A lot of fun done cheap.
73 Art

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing Art. I enjoyed your walk through time. It brought back alot of memories for me.
    73,
    Orb WK0DX

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  2. I too grew up with Radio Shack. Tandy Corp. was just down the road in Fort Worth. The Allied-Radio Shack catalog provided a map to dreamland.Took many years to get my General ticket but my dreams have come true. Thanks for shareing. Jim KE5KNH.


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    Replies
    1. Hi Jim,
      I am glad you enjoyed it.
      I use to frequent the Pipeline/Brown Trail, and Mayfair Shopping Center (Grapevine Hwy/Hurstview) stores. I bought the HTX-10 at Northeast Mall. I seldom shopped at the Tandy Center store. I lived in Bedford, then N Richland Hills. I retired in 2014 and immediately moved to Arizona. Rare for a native Texan. Enjoying starting on new WAS's and VUCC's. 73 Art

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  3. Sad that this great brand could not be saved. My local store is closing and I have been popping by almost daily buying every resistor, fuse, etc. that I may need in the future.

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