Is This the End of RadioShack?

Once-dominant consumer tech company's best days behind it.


I once got a toy helicopter from there. Today it would be classified as a drone.
Credit: Curtis Gregory Perry / photo on flickr

Decades before the Apple Store, there was RadioShack. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was where many Americans rushed to purchase their very first home computers, the TRS-80. My family was part of that group, and I distinctly remember being adrift in huge crowds at a store in New Hampshire when my dad got one for us at home. As I was about 8 years old, I recall being more excited about all the remote-control cars they sold there and the Simon-esque handheld games. Once I discovered the TRS-80 could also entertain, it helped launch a lifelong love affair with all things video games. I may frequently forget the names of co-workers and which day of the week it is, but I can recite from memory the final riddle in an extremely early text adventure simply called Haunted House. It is embedded now within my DNA.

That was then; this is now. The home electronic scene has changed dramatically since then, and RadioShack has been rendered redundant. You can still buy all sorts of personal technology devices there, but we live in an age of Wal-Marts and Best Buys (and even Best Buy struggles). It's look as though RadioShack is about to say good-bye for good. From BloombergBusiness:

RadioShack Corp. is preparing to shut down the almost-century-old retail chain in a bankruptcy deal that would sell about half its store leases to Sprint Corp. and close the rest, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

The locations sold to Sprint would operate under the wireless carrier's name, meaning RadioShack would cease to exist as a stand-alone retailer, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks aren't public.

The negotiations could still break down without a deal being reached, or the terms could change. Sprint and RadioShack also have discussed co-branding the stores, two of the people said. It's also possible that another bidder could emerge that would buy RadioShack and keep it operating, the people said.

Given that the company has lost 90 percent of its value over the past year, it's hard to imagine that happening. And if "Weird Al" Yankovic couldn't staunch the bleeding, then who could?

It will be somewhat sad to see RadioShack go, in terms of the childhood nostalgia of Gen-Xers and some Baby Boomers (which explains the Weird Al hail mary), but its loss is also a big reminder of how much more accessible personal electronics have become for all Americans. The TRS-80 launched with a home price of $600, the equivalent of $2,300 in 2014 U.S. dollars. An American family today could buy a modestly decent home computer, high-definition television, current generation game console, and a tablet, and still have money left over to pay for an Internet service provider and a Netflix subscription.