12 February 2015

America does not fix anything anymore.

There was a day when your fan stopped working or your telephone was crackling when you would hop over to Radio Shack and pick up a new motor, speaker, switch or wire to spark the thing back to life. Parents and kids would spend a weekend building a robot or soldering together an FM transmitter, all thanks to parts from your corner Rat Shack. No more.

There are many reasons why those days are already a distant memory to most of us. Yes, Radio Shack did not adjust their business model to take advantage of their original control of the computer market with the TRS-80 or refresh their focus in the model of a tech superstore like Fry's. They treated customers like idiots and their employees like slave labor, all while trying to become just another cell phone hut. One could rightly conclude that they dug their own final resting place.

Even with all those mistakes, their core business should have been enough to allow a meager subsistence. If Americans were still repairing, fixing and tinkering like we were in the eighties then Radio Shack should be doing fine. There are far more electronic gizmos in our home than ever before, so why is it that Radio Shack cannot eek out enough bucks to keep the lights on?

  • The tinkerers have left the building. Arduino boards are great fun, but the number of Moms and Dads working with their kids to program a cat feces sniffing attachment for their Tickle-Me Elmo doll are few and far between.
  • Repairing a power cord is for people with too much time on their hands. eBay puts replacements only a search and click away, so why spend a couple bucks and an hour fixing something when you can buy a replacement for thirty dollars?
  • Who can open up these gadgets, anyway? Apple makes the guts of an iPhone tougher to get at than the trusted network of Sony Corporation, so why bother potentially breaking a precious Siri portal - or, even worse, a nail?
We live in a "throw-away" society. Cell phones are replaced every two years. TV technology is constantly improving. Laptops get thinner, lighter and with better screens every year. And new iPad's are released often than my magazine subscriptions renew. Surely that is better than having repairable electronics that last as long as possible.

Oh well.

Thank you, Radio Shack, for sustaining that badge of honor for those that liked to build and repair. I suppose when the speaker in my phone peters out I will just buy a new phone now, like everyone else.