Computer “Buggy Whips” are getting harder to find each day…

Computer Buggy Whips
Computer Buggy Whips

The Good Old Days

In 1957 I was 11 years old and my dad (who loved gadgets as much as I do) ordered a “crystal” radio kit from the Allied Electronics catalog for me to assemble for a Boy Scout project.  I waited not-so-patiently for our postman to deliver the “box” from Allied Electronics in Chicago. After the “box” arrived I spent a couple of days pouring over the schematics and step-by-step instructions and then wiring and soldering the device.  A day later dad and I strung the dipole antenna from one large maple tree to another and than ran the antenna cable to my bedroom window.  I put my headphones on, and messed with the “whisker” wire over the “crystal” until I finally (and faintly) heard WOOD-AM radio in Grand Rapids.  Over the next week I listened to music, Jack Benny, The Lone Ranger and other cool stuff.

In the 1960’s I spent every dime of my allowance, birthday gift money and my forty-five cent an hour soda-jerk job at the Caleldonia Rexall Drug Store on electronic kits from Allied Electronics, Layfayette Radio and Heathkit Electronics in Benton Harbor, MI.  I built Ham radios, CB radios, short-wave radios and on and on.

Over the last forty years, thanks to Radio Shack I’ve been able to find almost any electronic gadget and widget I’ve ever needed for computers, TV’s, music systems and more.

But… like horse “Buggy Whips” Allied Electronics, Layfayette Radio, Heathkit and now Radio Shack have all disappeared from our American highways and byways.

Finding “Stuff” Today

It’s not impossible to find cables, connectors, circuit boards, and other electronic parts today.  One can walk into Meijer, Walmart, and Best Buy and find the basic parts that you need.  Some of you may have a “Joe’s Electronics” (or Bob’s or Al’s) that was once a proud Radio Shack franchise.  Others on the West Coast may be close by to a Fry’s Electronics store which is similiar to a Best Buy but also carries lots of computer and electronic parts.

And of course we can’t forget that we can use Google to search for anything our hearts desire.  Then go directly to Amazon to buy it at the lowest possible price with free shipping (if we are an Amazon Prime member), and perhaps no state sales tax if you are in one of the few states left that haven’t forced Amazon to collect it.

I won’t get on my soapbox in regards to Amazon killing off local electronic merchants and other Internet merchants – I’ll save that blog for another time.

But How About Tomorrow?

Steve Jobs, one of the co-founders of Apple once remarked that digital devices should be like toasters.  Plug ’em in and push down the bread.  Steve never liked DIY (Do-It-Youself) electronics and is well known to have hated computer “ports”, switches, buttons and the like.  His minimalistic view on electronics shunned almost everything except for the machine itself.

We would not be where we are today digital electronics wise without the DIY pioneers that depended on third-party parts and supplies.  That was then, and like “Buggy Whips” – parts are still parts – but they are a lot harder to find then they used to be. Sigh…

Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a message, or ask a question – Tom Gordon, the iTechGeezer

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