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Offline Tandy

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History of Tandy & RadioShack
« on: April 24, 2015, 02:59:36 am »
A number of people have been surprised to see the revival of the Tandy name and it has generated a fair amount of interest and questions about how it has come about and how, if at all it is linked to the Tandy/RadioShack of old.

With the recent bankruptcy of RadioShack I had an email chat with Dave explaining a lot of the history and he suggested posting the it in the forum, so here it is.

History of Tandy
As most people will already know; the Fort Worth, Texas Tandy Corporation known as RadioShack Corporation from 2000 onward became what we know today when Charles Tandy bought the Radio Shack chain in 1963. In 1973 Charles Tandy embarked on an international expansion programme of the Radio Shack store format, the first Tandy store to open was in Aartselaar, Belgium in August 1973. The international stores closely mirrored the US Radio Shack model but used the 'Tandy' name. Most of the products sold were identical to those sold in Radio Shack stores although sometimes modified where necessary for example to run from the UK 240V supply. The majority of the UK stores were directly owned by the American Tandy Corporation and known as 'Tandy Corporation - Branch U.K’  By the mid 1980s there were over 300 Tandy stores in the UK.

In 1986 The international parts of the business were separated from the American parent company and called InterTAN (International Tandy) the UK subsidiary was called InterTAN UK Ltd. The subsidiary companies held all of the local fixed assets and liabilities such as company owned stores and staff but the parent company retained the brand and intellectual property rights. This is how large international corporations like Starbucks operate today, the international subsidiaries pay royalties to the parent company for use of the brand and other intellectual property to reduce the tax paid in those countries. Essentially InterTAN operated like a giant franchisee of Tandy Corporation USA.

Towards the end of the 1990s the Fort Worth Corporation was loosing interest in the international divisions as they were all either contributing little to the parent company or loosing money. All of the international operations were sold or closed in the late 90s and early 2000s. Except in Australia* the purchasers of the international business in those country were granted a licence to use the Tandy name. RadioShack Corporation retained the all of the copyrights, trademarks and rights to trade as Tandy, keeping open the possibility of re-establishing a presence themselves or the option of granting a franchise at some future date.

Radio Shack by 2011 found itself in difficulties and realised that there could be no realistic prospect of new international growth opportunities. We entered into negotiations with Radio Shack to buy the Tandy brand and other assets from them. The purchase was completed in 2012 and Tandy in the UK was once again a reality.

Why Tandy ?
It is fair to say that Tandy of old doesn’t really have the best of reputations, being known for selling components at ridiculously high prices. So it probably comes as a bit of a surprise that anyone would want to bring it back from the dead and with some of the negative comments made about Tandy sometimes make me wonder if it was a good move myself. Perhaps it is a bit overly sentimental but armed with an electronics book from the school library my parents took me to the local Tandy store where I bought a breadboard and the components to build the circuits in the book. Probably sounds really geeky but that was such an exciting event, seeing all those shiny components hanging there was better than being in a sweet shop. Later after finishing school I went on to study electronic engineering and started a part time job at that store that became a full time position when I completed my studies. From the outset I have been keen to secure the future of Tandy knowing that RadioShack was on its last legs and how influential it was to me in those early days.

The New Tandy
So this new incarnation of Tandy is the official successor to the original but now being an independent company it has the possibility of becoming something interesting. As my main interest is in electronics I wanted to rebuild Tandy in a way that focuses mainly on electronic components and kits for hobbyists. The product range is growing in two directions simultaneously, on the one hand we have a number of new products such as useful development modules from popular companies such as Adafruit. On the other we are re-introducing as many products from the Tandy back catalog as we can, some go all the way back to the 1970s, because we have the suppliers details we can use the original manufacturers of those parts. Admittedly the range is somewhat sparse at the moment but new stuff is arriving each day and we are trying to add them as fast as we can.

The business model of lots of physical retail stores that carry a little bit of everything really isn’t going to work today, but it seems like a decent on-line store dedicated to the hobbyist might work. Places like Element 14 have a huge range and that is great if you are an engineer that understands what all the different specifications mean so can choose the exact component form the hundreds of thousands of options available. But these huge distributors are far from friendly when dealing with someone wanting a small order. Either you have to buy bulk pack or pay a premium for small orders, in some countries they won’t even deal with you unless you have a company account with them. So a lot of people turn to eBay and buy bags of cheap components from traders from the far east where the quality varies anaything from OK to complete junk and takes anywhere from a few weeks to forever to arrive. I figured why not make Tandy the friendly place for hobbyists.

While we were not obliged to take on the responsibilities of supporting legacy products as part of the deal we do maintain an archive of support materials helping people obtain manuals and spare parts. In fact we have found that US customers who are unable to find the help they seek and are familiar with the link between Radio Shack and Tandy have come to us for help.

Perhaps somewhat ironically it is RadioShack that has gone bankrupt this year. If you have any questions about the history of Tandy and Radio Shack, feel free to ask.

Darren

* In Australia the brand arrangement was slightly different, Woolworths registerd their own ‘Tandy Electronics’ trademark, slightly different from the regular ‘Tandy’ used elsewhere.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2015, 09:18:57 pm by Tandy »
For more info on Tandy try these links Tandy History EEVBlog Thread & Official Tandy Website
 
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Offline TimFox

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2015, 03:19:11 am »
I am old enough to remember when Tandy was a company supplying leather and leatherworking tools to hobbyists (starting in 1919). Tandy bought Radio Shack in 1963 and sold off the leather business in 2000.  For a while, they also owned Allied Electronics, which  they bought in 1970 from the over-ambitious conglomerate LTV Ling Altec, (which ran into financial trouble and eventually disappeared).  Tandy Radio Shack sold Allied in 1981.
 

Offline calexanian

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2015, 10:19:29 am »
Great post and good luck!
Charles Alexanian
Alex-Tronix Control Systems
 

Offline pickle9000

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2015, 10:47:41 am »
And for our Canadian viewers, The Source was once Radio Shack (Intertan) and I was an employee way way waaaay back when they where Radio Shack and I was much much younger.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Source_%28retailer%29
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2015, 11:18:22 am »
My first work experience job while at high school was at the Tandy (Intertan) Australian headquarters (which close to my home), repairing TRS-80 models III.
They had an awesome back room in the store front that had all sorts of surplus products that they evaluated but didn't stock, faulty returns etc.
Good times.
 

Offline pickle9000

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2015, 11:24:31 am »
My first work experience job while at high school was at the Tandy (Intertan) Australian headquarters (which close to my home), repairing TRS-80 models III.
They had an awesome back room in the store front that had all sorts of surplus products that they evaluated but didn't stock, faulty returns etc.
Good times.

I took so many defective / clearance things home it was crazy (perk). I worked through many Xmas seasons, 7 percent commission and made excellent money at it. Very fun job and I enjoyed it greatly.
 

Offline lpc32

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2016, 03:32:08 am »
Good luck.

Never had any dealings with Tandy, but the names of their computers are familiar.
 

Offline edpalmer42

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2016, 04:49:30 am »
I am old enough to remember when Tandy was a company supplying leather and leatherworking tools to hobbyists (starting in 1919). Tandy bought Radio Shack in 1963 and sold off the leather business in 2000.  For a while, they also owned Allied Electronics, which  they bought in 1970 from the over-ambitious conglomerate LTV Ling Altec, (which ran into financial trouble and eventually disappeared).  Tandy Radio Shack sold Allied in 1981.

Actually, Tandy Leather is still in business.  www.tandyleather.com

Ed
 

Offline retrolefty

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2016, 05:13:40 am »
A lot of my self learning of electronics as a youth was thumbing through the yearly Allied Electronics catalogs and occasionally sending off my order, often mailing cash.  The radio shack stores were not my favorite as even then I could see the high mark-up they had for small components.

 

Offline StuUK

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2016, 05:22:01 am »
Tandy was my favourite shop until Maplins (mostly mail order back then) opened a retail store near by... I got my first electronics kit, a 150-1 from Tandy back in the 70's for Christmas. I plagued my parents like mad... Still go to Maplins occasionally...
 

Offline starphot

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2016, 08:35:15 am »
  This is interesting. I worked for Tandy-Radio Shack for nearly 20 years in one of their 2 dozen or so regional repair centers. I did everything from CB radios to cellphones and the large receivers. I have seen a lot of changes while I was employed there. There are no announcements of any changes of anything here in the US as they are still under Chap.11 bankruptcy. It was a good company to work for when I joined in 1981. We in service and support were treated better than the retail people. The stock program did pay good dividends at the end of my career. I don't know if they are doing any changes to their website, but I tried to find a couple of jacks last night and the response was that no stores had it except a franchisee ( A Tractor supply and Radio Shack) had it in his small town 20 miles away! The same with any product as well!
  Good luck with your venture!

Joe
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Offline SeanB

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2016, 06:15:22 pm »
The South African satellite of Maplin went separate a while ago, and gad gone through a few iterations since then. http://fort777.co.za/ is the current incantation.
 

Offline HP-ILnerd

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2016, 01:40:33 am »
According to Hackaday, Radio Shack is rising from the grave!
http://hackaday.com/2016/05/30/radio-shack-returns/
 

Offline eugenenine

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2016, 07:22:28 am »
My first work experience job while at high school was at the Tandy (Intertan) Australian headquarters (which close to my home), repairing TRS-80 models III.
They had an awesome back room in the store front that had all sorts of surplus products that they evaluated but didn't stock, faulty returns etc.
Good times.

They wouldn't hire me because I didn't have any sales experience.  Didn't matter that I knew their products better then 99% of their sales droids.
 

Online joseph nicholas

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2016, 01:33:28 am »
Radio Shack has never closed here, in fact they have newly opened a strip mall store.  Unfortunately they don´t sell individual components or the famous Foster Mims books.
 

Offline MrSlack

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #15 on: June 01, 2016, 01:47:14 am »
Never liked Tandy. Sorry. My local one was a dirty franchise poke hole one though.

Always felt dirty being shafted for 33p for 5 Archer branded generic cheap crappy 1/4W carbon film resistors. Even Maplin didn't have the cheek to milk you that hard.
 

Offline Tandy

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #16 on: June 01, 2016, 02:08:00 am »
Radio Shack has never closed here, in fact they have newly opened a strip mall store.  Unfortunately they don´t sell individual components or the famous Foster Mims books.

When RadioShack entered chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, Unicomer Group acquired brands, intellectual property and contracts of existing RadioShack franchisees throughout Central America, South America and the Caribbean on April 15, 2015. It is therefore an entirely separate company that took over the operations in those regions and has no links to the North American company.
For more info on Tandy try these links Tandy History EEVBlog Thread & Official Tandy Website
 

Offline eugenenine

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #17 on: June 01, 2016, 05:38:42 am »
Never liked Tandy. Sorry. My local one was a dirty franchise poke hole one though.

Always felt dirty being shafted for 33p for 5 Archer branded generic cheap crappy 1/4W carbon film resistors. Even Maplin didn't have the cheek to milk you that hard.

I had to leave otherwise I was going to bite my tongue off when one of the 'salesmen' were trying to tell another customer why their batteries were better than the rest so as to justify their high price.
 

Offline MrSlack

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #18 on: June 01, 2016, 05:50:23 am »
Never liked Tandy. Sorry. My local one was a dirty franchise poke hole one though.

Always felt dirty being shafted for 33p for 5 Archer branded generic cheap crappy 1/4W carbon film resistors. Even Maplin didn't have the cheek to milk you that hard.

I had to leave otherwise I was going to bite my tongue off when one of the 'salesmen' were trying to tell another customer why their batteries were better than the rest so as to justify their high price.

I remember them. The old green and red metallic ones. I bought a PP3 one of them with my pocket money when I was about 9 (sweets, coke, cigarettes were for losers), got it home, was about to unleash electric death upon the world and behold, the bastard thing had leaked in the packaging. That and buying a pritt stick and finding no actual glue in it are two notable low points of my life.

Thanks again Tandy :)

Edit: Oh another low that suddenly popped into my head. I bought a 2n2222 and it only had two legs. Fortunately base and emitter so it lived it's life as a eunuch, a mere diode.

Thank goodness for Crescent Radio in north London who are apparently still going. Good job.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2016, 05:54:06 am by MrSlack »
 

Offline eugenenine

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #19 on: June 01, 2016, 08:14:52 am »
Never liked Tandy. Sorry. My local one was a dirty franchise poke hole one though.

Always felt dirty being shafted for 33p for 5 Archer branded generic cheap crappy 1/4W carbon film resistors. Even Maplin didn't have the cheek to milk you that hard.

I had to leave otherwise I was going to bite my tongue off when one of the 'salesmen' were trying to tell another customer why their batteries were better than the rest so as to justify their high price.

I remember them. The old green and red metallic ones. I bought a PP3 one of them with my pocket money when I was about 9 (sweets, coke, cigarettes were for losers), got it home, was about to unleash electric death upon the world and behold, the bastard thing had leaked in the packaging. That and buying a pritt stick and finding no actual glue in it are two notable low points of my life.

Thanks again Tandy :)

Edit: Oh another low that suddenly popped into my head. I bought a 2n2222 and it only had two legs. Fortunately base and emitter so it lived it's life as a eunuch, a mere diode.

Thank goodness for Crescent Radio in north London who are apparently still going. Good job.

The ones I was talking about were their 1200mAh NIMH when 1650mAH Sanyos were available.  So far RadioShack, RayoVac, and one off brand NIMH were the only NIMH's I've ever had leak.
 

Offline starphot

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #20 on: June 01, 2016, 03:39:06 pm »
  Radio Shack was never the one to get cheap parts. When I first got on, I knew that they were the "Convenience store" of electronics retailing. The food convenience stores often charge more for the same product than a chain supermarket. I was buying at least 95% of my project parts through mail order since I started in electronics professionally in 1972. This even when I worked for them.

Joe
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Online rsjsouza

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #21 on: June 01, 2016, 07:28:21 pm »
Darren, thanks for the more complete version of the history of Radio Shack and Tandy (you had written it partially on another post I read a while ago). AFAIK the first Radio Shack store opened in Brazil was in 1994 in my hometown (Brasilia) and, as others mentioned, it had overpriced parts and products not only due to its policy but also to high import taxes. Given its brand was very strong, (we geeks used to drool over their catalogs brought by the few fortunate that teavelled to US), the store was opened in an upscale mall and survived for a while but mostly as a curiosity - it closed no more than a year later. Another factor that contributed to that was the fact the 1980s geeks shifted from electronics to computers (myself included) and they couldn't compete with the local grey market of PCs that were brought in parts directlly from Miami.

Your strategy of being an online supplier for the hobbyist is the one to follow - the sunken costs of having stock, rent, specialized staff, etc. is very difficult to recover by selling parts at competitive prices. That and the fact people tend to complain about price tag before praising convenience.

In any case, I wish you success in your venture.
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Offline Flipflop

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #22 on: June 01, 2016, 07:46:17 pm »
I still have a Micronta digital folding multimeter that I bought in Tandy's sometime during the 80's. I also bought most stuff from Maplin via mail order and occasionally bought things from a surplus shop in Norwood (I think).
 

Offline Tandy

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #23 on: June 01, 2016, 09:00:46 pm »
Selling electronic components in a retail setting is just not viable. To cover costs and make a profit the prices have to be so high that people are quite rightly going to begrudge paying such high prices. As a result you end up with a reputation of being overpriced and lose customers. There are a few stores that sell a good selection of components at a reasonable price but these tend to be small independent stores run by enthusiastic owners. The owner typically owns the premises having purchased it many years ago at a low price or has a long standing low cost lease helping keep the costs down. They are probably also content to simply earn a living rather than having the demands of producing a profit for shareholders. The sad thing is that if they do own the building they could probably make more money by selling it or renting it out than they do from running their own electronics store, chances are when they retire that is exactly what will happen as nobody else will want to take on the hard work of running the store for such small returns.

Some of the reasons why it doesn't work...

Sourcing
Let's take a simple example like the ATMEGA328P as it a microcontoller that is popular enough to warrant being sold in a retail store. Where are you going to get them from? If you thought direct from ATMEL (Now Microchip) you would be severely disappointed. Large manufacturers already have their established distribution partners, and they are often strictly limited to one or two in a particular region. If you want to become a distributor then typically you are expected to carry virtually the whole range from a manufacturer including obscure products in BGA packages etc that are never going to be suitable to be sold in a store. You are also expected to have a significant stock holding, the manufacturer doesn't want to be directing customers to buy from somewhere that never has any stock. Unlike consumer electronics or computer products there are no wholesale distributors serving the retailers, and you can't risk buying from unknown sources on eBay or Alibaba as you need reliable traceable sources. So your only real option is to negotiate some small discount with a distributor but it is not going to be enough to support costs associated with retail.

Handling
So you have found a distributor who is willing to offer you a discount but your components arrive in a bulk bag, tubes, trays or reels. You are not going to sell them like that, you can't just hang the tubes on the wall and leave customers to open the tube and take some out. So either you have a counter service where the person serving must locate the correct item, count out the number required and package them up or you split the bulk package into individual items or at least packs of small quantities. So assuming you create retail packs, it could be simple bags or perhaps something a little more presentable like a blister card. So now you have to add the cost of the packaging materials and more importantly the cost of paying someone to do this, in Taxas where RadioShack were based that is $7.25 per hour minimum wage. Suddenly the cost of your part has doubled just due to re-packaging and labelling it. But your costs don't end there, to get the discount negotiated with the distributor you have to buy in large quantities, perhaps 5000 at a time. You are unlikely to sell 5000 in a month to your hobbyist customers who are just picking up a couple for a project they are planning for the weekend. So now you have to store the extra stock somewhere, warehouse space is not free. Finally you have to send these items to individual stores and replenish stock as required, that is again either shipping costs or staff/equipment costs for having your own drivers delivering to stores. So now your component is at least 3 times the original cost.

Space
Retail store space is typically quite small, it is virtually impossible to have a wide enough range for the convenience. Should you stock PIC, ATMEL, ST, NXP or TI microcontrollers? The more you stock the more space you need and the more suppliers you have to deal with and try and negotiate discounts with.

Overheads
We hear a lot about this one, that retail is expensive. Well you have a number of costs such as energy for heating, lighting etc but such costs are insignificant compared to the two main costs that are floor space and staffing. In the US the minimum wage is anywhere between $7 & $10 per hour so if a store employee is helping you with your purchase even just spending 10 minutes to show you where in the store to find microcontrollers and take the payment from you that has cost a couple of dollars in time. The cost of your floor space is determined by your rent and taxes, it costs the same to have a small tray of a dozen microcontrollers in your store as it is an iPhone. Assuming you are paying minimum wage you are not exactly going to get the most talented staff, to them it is just a job that helps pay the bills. If they had any significant interest or skills in electronics they would likely be either working somewhere better paid or working in a much more interesting job.

The bean counters that run these companies have a very simple way of working out what to sell and how profitable it is...

Cost price, i.e how much each item costs by the time it reaches the store. So our $2 ATMEGA has cost $5 to this point.
Cost of Sale, i.e the average cost in staff time, transaction fees etc that it costs to sell this item. Lets add $1 for arguments sake.
Cost per Sq Foot, In order to cover the rental costs items must sell a certain number per month. All of the items within a square foot of floor area must sell enough to cover the rent for that space.
Profit margin, in addition to those costs there must be a profit margin to grow the business and pay shareholders etc.

So would you pay $6 for a $2 microcontroller that you could probably even pick up 10 from an unknown eBay seller from Hong Kong for $10? You probably wouldn't, I know I wouldn't. So what do the bean counters do?

Well the problem is your $4 costs create a 300% markup on this little $2 component and as a result your already limited sales volume is reduced further by the lack of customers willing to pay those prices. However it doesn't cost significantly more to handle a tablet or a smart phone, only this time your $4 handling cost only represents 2% of the price of a $200 tablet. Far fewer people are going to be bothered by an extra 2% and there is a much larger potential customer base for such a mass market product that is likely to sell much quicker than components would. The solution therefore is simple, if there are enough customers still buying components at the very high prices then keep those items, otherwise drop them and sell something else that does make a profit.

The bottom line is that the low price of components coupled with the high employment costs and property (real estate) value simply makes selling components in a retail environment uneconomical. Electronic component supplies only really work as an on-line business.

PS thanks for all the support and good wishes.
For more info on Tandy try these links Tandy History EEVBlog Thread & Official Tandy Website
 
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Offline VK3DRB

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Re: History of Tandy & RadioShack
« Reply #24 on: June 01, 2016, 09:45:21 pm »
Never liked Tandy. Sorry. My local one was a dirty franchise poke hole one though.

Always felt dirty being shafted for 33p for 5 Archer branded generic cheap crappy 1/4W carbon film resistors. Even Maplin didn't have the cheek to milk you that hard.

Yep, I almost felt like it was worth the petrol to drive into the city to get one resistor at a reasonable price rahter than about $20 for two 1/4 Watt resistors in today's money.

On the other hand, at the Tandy Electronics store in Niddrie around 1976-1977:

(1) I heard a customer at the Niddrie Tandy Electronics store ask for an IC Cookbook. I was in awe of that customer for being so smart to be able to work with IC's.
(2) I bought a Radio Shack DX-160. Crap radio selectivity, but it got me into short wave radio. Then I upgraded to an FRG-7, and I got interested in ham radio. I got my license.

These two events were seeds into becoming an electronic engineer. I have been an engineer all my working life. Except when I was at high school, I worked part time at Myer Children's Shoes in the City of Melbourne, stacking shelves and fitting children's shoes. That is on my resume, too.

Good luck to the guy rekindling Tandy. The only way it will work is to have service that will set you apart from the competition.

In Australia, all the local electronics suppliers have a big problem - being ripped off for postage by the Australia Post government-owned monopoly. It is cheaper to buy components from Red China and have them shipped here than just the postage from the next suburb here. Sometimes it is quicker! Australia Post is run by a fool who has watched Aust Post crumble under his "leadership". A letter from the next suburb can now take 3 days to reach me. It used to take 1. But if you pay a $1.50 postage, you might get it sooner.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-11/critics-question-australia-post-ceos-multi-million-dollar-salary/5514682 This clown has priced surface mail almost out of existence. So mail order electronics suppliers just cannot compete, even on eBay.


 
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