Does Radio Shack still have the parts bins?

Back in the day Radio Shack had a section in the back of the store that was just shelves of bins with spare electronic components. I haven’t been into a Radio Shack in many years but when I pass by one and glance inside what I see looks like just a typical electronics shop.

Do they still have the bins of spare parts?

My local store moved them off the shelves into a small cabinet with drawers. I bought some glass slo blo fuses about three months ago. I think they had some resistors and disc capacitors. Finding IC chips or transistors is probably tough these days.

It varies by store. Of the two near me, one has a decent number of parts bins on the floor (though you do have to ask for the odder stuff, which they will fetch from the back). The other store has no parts bins on the floor. I haven’t asked whether they have the parts in the back.

The local one by me has two of them, each with about a dozen 2-foot wide drawers. (Description from memories that are about 2 months old.) Not nearly as big a selection as I remember from 30-40 years ago, but the fact that they had them at all totally wowed me.

Here’s an article from Wired about what RadioShack is up to.

But yeah, according to what the article says, Gus Gusterson is right. It varies by store.


And the ad for the “Lightweight Handheld Cellular Phone” is freakin’ awesome.

The selection is really small now but then when I first started going to Radio Shack they still carried tubes. All of the independent shops are gone from my area now so if I was going to do a serious electronics project, I would have to order the parts online now.

As noted, and as my experience confirms, there are often (not always) shelves of drawers in the back of the store, along with hanging larger parts like circuit board and the like. The selection is really pared down from what it was only a decade ago. If you want a larger selection, you either have to find an independent store (In Boston we’re lucky to have You-Do-It Electronics), or order over the internet. Sometimes both – when i wanted supercapacitors, I was shocked that You-Do-It didn’t stock any. Radio Shack sure as heck doesn’t have them.

With Radio Shack rolling up its parts list and chemistry sets disappearing, I have to wonder about the future of home science labs. Heck, I grew up with hand-me-down science kits from my cousins, and books of how-to-do-it science from stores and libraries (which seem to have disappeared as well. Along with the bookstores). What do kids today have? Radio Shack still had home electronics labs, so MilliCal got to build stuff there. Bit Chemistry has been reduced to perfumeries and goop science.

Even if there was a RS of yore in my neighborhood now I’d still order parts for projects from Digi-key or Mouser. Much bigger selection for much lower prices delivered to your door for less than the price of gas. I guess I’m part of the problem, huh?

Although I do go in once in a while looking for connectors or cheap radio controlled toys after Christmas, Radio Shack seldom seems to have anything in the way of components.
I love this piece from The Onion.

“Radio Shack: You’ve got Questions…We’ve got batteries!”

That’ll be $5.12, could I get your phone number.

I was at a Radio Shack last week. After I completed my transaction I stood there for a minute but I couldn’t figure out way I was standing there. When I was finally able to shift myself into gear I realized that I was walking out without having had to give my phone number. I guess they’ve finally given up on that policy.

I have a friend who repairs electronics and I went with him to a Radio Shack to get some capacitors one day. The store near his house has parts bins, but they only have a few of each component and when they run out of any one, he has to really lean on the manager to get them to order more, and it takes weeks sometimes.

I’ve noticed that some locations have practically nothing, and employees who probably don’t even have the technical knowledge to find C cell batteries.

Only 15 years ago, we had a well-stocked Radio Shack that had an entire wall of electronic components and I was able to buy blank 8-track tapes and reel-to-reel tapes off the shelf. At some point they stopped reordering stuff and eventually, they had nothing left except cell-phones and batteries.

Every time I have been in Radio Shack looking for batteries employees have had excellent battery finding skills. The weird batteries for my heart rate monitor and others. They were pretty well trained for what is probably the most frequent class of questions they get. The help finding parts not so much just directions to the parts bin.

I recall in the late 1980’s Radio Shack was aggressively marketing their PC Clones. This was a few years after the TRS 80 came out. They even had a separate store with a bunch of computers setup. Unfortunately, they weren’t 100% compatible. You had to buy their version of DOS. A lot of standard PC software didn’t work unless you bought the Radio Shack version. I worked in the computer lab at college and we warned the students to avoid the Radio Shack pc’s. For the same money they could buy a pc that was 100% compatible from other vendors. Proprietary formats are always the kiss of death for any PC manufacturer. Radio shack blew a great chance at being a major force in the PC market.

Last time I was in Radio Shack, I noticed they still sell a lot of computer gear. But, I’m not sure if they make it or if they are just selling standard brands.