This Time it is Different, and that is sad

This time it’s different, is a phase that should strike fear in your heart if you invested in stocks and lived through the dot COM bust.

In the dot com bust of the stock market showed that things may have changed but people and society had not. People and society change very slowly but they do change.

The other day I went to a Radio Shack store that was closing. The place was clean (a tip of the hat to the guy that was running the place) but almost sold out of everything. And there were customers in the place. Sure some of the customers were older but not all.

One article postulated that Radio Shack make a big mistake getting into cell phone in a big way. There was and is nothing to stop anyone from getting into selling cell phones and under cutting you.

Another article talked about how you use to be able to buy radio controlled cars at Radio Shack at Christmas time and the cars were something no one else had.

Another article remembered how you could buy a computer at Radio Shack and it was as good as many other computers.

Today there is a second hand store in town that sells new cell phones. There are a half dozen store fronts selling cell phone in the poorer part of town. How can even AT&T and Verizon compete with those stores?

The Motley Fool calls it having a moat around your business. Something that keeps others from competing with you and undercutting you. Radio Shack does not have anything different to sell.

I remember Radio Shack before computers, back when it sold vacuum tubes and glow in the dark was a warm and good thing. I also remember when Radio Shack was going to have a store within 10 minutes of anyone in the continental U.S. Those were the days before overnight express delivery. Ordering a couple of resistors to repair or build something could take two week to two months for the parts to get to you. There were not that many mail order places to get parts from either. Today if the part isn’t on their doorstep in two days people go ballistic.

Hardly anyone remembers Lafayette Electronics. It was a smaller chain of stores than Radio Shack but it had a big mail order business. The company even sold musical instruments before electronic keyboards were available to consumers. In those days you could buy a guitar in your local drug store. Lafayette stuck with the hobbyist and repair man instead of mass marketing and went out of business in the 1980s.

You could also order parts from Allied Radio and if real cheap you could get parts from Poly Packs. I sent a lot of dollar bills to Poly Packs. In 1960 paying $8.00 to $10.00 for a vacuum tube is like paying $50.00 to $100.00 dollars for a very simple semiconductor like a basic transistor.

Things have changed, people don’t build things anymore. Vacuum tubes are a specialty hobby or elitist item. Surface mount electronic components have made building electronic devices at home very hard and requires special tools.

If you do want to build something then there are many places to buy the components on line. Hobbyist and experimenters no longer grab the old TV set that someone has set out on the curb so they can salvage the parts out of the set. Parts out of an old computer are so out of date that they are unusable before the computer has stopped working.

A few people who are mostly labeled wide eyed fanatics still wonder what will happen if the over night delivery system breaks down, or the country that makes the needed electronics stops sending the equipment to the US for some reason, or if we have a big war or depression where you have to make it work longer or do without and the equipment can not be repaired (because repair parts are not available or the equipment was not built to be repaired).

Society has changed, but is it for the better?

Good bye old friend, you are not the Radio Shack I knew but I will still miss you.

Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

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