Tag Archives: RadioShack

Radios that may not be benchmark, but are pure fun–!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John R Palmer, who replied to our previous post about radio regrets with a question.

John asks:

Name a piece of radio gear that for some reason, technical, emotional, design etc. that you’ve gotten more fun using than you would ever have expected based on its price, maybe more so than other much more expensive radios you’ve owned. Just a piece of gear that really hit the spot and you’ve had a blast using.

That’s a tough question indeed, John. I hope readers will chime in with their replies–I’m very curious!

So I gave this quite a bit of thought and came up with two radios–one shortwave portable and one general coverage ham radio transceiver:

The Radio Shack DX-351

In 1996, I worked for a Radio Shack corporate store in Athens, Ohio. I believe we were getting ready for the Black Friday/Christmas season and the store manager decided to go through a pile of broken items customers has returned using their extended warranty. He had accumulated quite a number of returns in a box next to his desk in the back of the store. I stayed after hours to help him organize the shelves and prepare for incoming shipments.

Most of the items in his box were physically broken, but still covered by the extended warranty (to their credit, many RS store managers were quite flexible with extended warranty returns). He pulled out a Radio Shack DX-351 from the box.

The customer returned this portable because the AM/FM/SW slider switch was broken. My manager knew I was an SWL, so asked if I wanted it. He said, “If you don’t, it goes into the trash can because we can’t re-sell it.

How could I resist?

This DX-351 was “well-loved.” I can’t remember all of the details, but the AM/FM/SW band switch could not be fixed, but I didn’t mind because the receiver was stuck on the shortwave band and the other shortwave band switch worked perfectly.

The DX-351 was a joy to use and amazingly sensitive! It wasn’t particularly selective, but it served me well for many years living, primarily, in the glove compartment of my car. If I took a road trip, a lunch break at the park, or if I was simply waiting in a parking lot to pick up my wife, I’d pull out the DX-351 and tune in the world.

The thing was pure fun to tune.

The Icom IC-735

In the world of general coverage ham radio transceivers, the Icom IC-735 would be my choice.

The IC-735 was my first ham radio transceiver. I used my hard-earned savings (from working at Radio Shack!) to buy a used unit via the now closed Burghardt Amateur Radio Center in South Dakota. My friends, Eric (WD8RIF) and Mike (K8RAT), believed a used IC-735 would serve me well. They were right!

What I really loved about the IC-735 was that it had all of the features and modes I needed. It was easy to operate and, while I couldn’t call its receiver “benchmark” by any means, it was amazingly sensitive and selective.

I logged hundreds of hours on this radio in both SSB and CW, working DX across the globe.

But I spent even more time SWLing. Turns out, the IC-735’s general coverage receiver did justice to shortwave broadcasts. The AM filter was wide enough to produce wonderful audio (especially via an external speaker or headphones). For years, the IC-735 was my go-to shortwave radio because it performed so much better than any other radios–mostly portables–I had at the time.

The IC-735 was so much fun to use.

I did eventually sell it, if memory serves, to purchase my first Elecraft K2 transceiver.

What are your choices?

So what are the radios you’ve owned that may not sport the best performance, and may not have been terribly expensive, but were pure fun to put on the air–? Perhaps you still own one? Please comment!

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Radio Waves: Libre Space Foundation Reviews SDRs, ARRL VEC Statement, Pandemic Pastime, and Former CEO of RadioShack Now C-19 ER doctor

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Ron, Paul, Marco Zennaro, and Richard Langley for the following tips:


The Libre Space Foundation reviews software defined radios (Hackaday)

If you want to go to the next level with software defined radio (SDR), there are a lot of choices. The RTL-SDR dongles are fine, but if you get serious you’ll probably want something else. How do you choose? Well, your friends at the European Space Agency Libre Space Foundation have published a paper comparing many common options. True, they are mostly looking at how the receivers work with CubeSats, but it is still a good comparison.

The devices they examine are:

  • RTS-SDR v3
  • Airspy Mini
  • SDRPlay RSPduo
  • LimeSDR Mini
  • BladeRF 2.0 Micro
  • Ettus USRP B210
  • Pluto SDR

They looked at several bands of interest, but not the HF bands — not surprising considering that some of the devices can’t even operate on HF. They did examine VHF, UHF, L band, S band, and C band performance. Some of the SDRs have transmit capabilities, and for those devices, they tested the transmit function as well as receive.

The review isn’t just subjective. They calculate noise figures and dynamic range, along with other technical parameters. They also include GNURadio flowgraphs for their test setups, which would be a great place to start if you wanted to do these kinds of measurements yourself.[]

ARRL VEC Issues Statement on Video-Supervised Online Exam Sessions (ARRL News)

Very few ARRL Volunteer Examiner teams have successfully conducted in-person exam sessions (following social distancing guidelines) and video-supervised exam sessions using fillable PDF exams and documents. So far, we have found that both types of sessions take volunteer teams two to three times longer to conduct and accommodate fewer candidates than sessions conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the video sessions have included only one examinee per session.

We ask the community to be patient with our volunteer teams as they navigate uncharted territory. Please remember with the introduction of significant new processes such as these, that there should be proof of concept, establishment of protocols and procedures, and beta testing before expanding to a larger audience. Video-supervised exam sessions require a different skillset than in-person exam administration. Not all teams will be equipped to deliver video exams right away.

The ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) has been investigating options for an online examination system.

Fillable PDFs are cumbersome within a video-supervised exam session process. We recognize that online testing would represent a large-scale solution for our thousands of VEs and would make session procedures easier for our teams, but this will not happen overnight.

The ARRL VEC will continue to adapt and respond to the evolving crisis as we search for viable and easy-to-use online examination system solutions and conduct exam sessions in innovative ways.[]

Pandemic Pastime – Shortwave Radio (KFGO)

Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated that at night you could listen to radio stations from all over the country. My little Heathkit radio, which I built myself, could pick up stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Little Rock, Pittsburgh to name a few. West coast stations were rare because it was tough getting a signal over the Rocky Mountains.

Then there was shortwave radio. A buddy of mine had one and he showed me a list of all the countries he was picking up. England, France, Germany, Latin American countries, numerous stations on the shortwave bands in America. Even Radio Havana coming out of Cuba. Anything from religion to hard edge rock and roll. He also noted he picked up Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.

Well years later I would stop by my local Radio Shack and decided it was my turn to take up this hobby of monitoring shortwave radio. This particular radio also had a built in cassette player so you could record your found stations as well. It was really interesting to hear the news from other countries and get their take on what was happening in America.

One of the first frequencies I tuned in was WWV a shortwave radio station out of Fort Collins Colorado, that broadcasts the time via the atomic clock. The seconds tick off until the top of the hour when you hear a voice announce the time, followed by a tone that hits the top of the minute exactly on the nose. Great way to set the clock.

Now I know you can probably find all these shortwave stations on the internet, but what fun is that right?

With the covid-19 pandemic, this is a little something different than binge watching television, or building that 10th jigsaw puzzle or cleaning out that closet again and again.

Have a chair on the patio, a glass of your favorite beverage, extend the antenna, and start turning up and down the dial and see what you can find. I had a little notebook that I kept track of my searches. Don’t have it now though…lost it.

I’ll start a new one.

Stay safe everyone![]

Former CEO of RadioShack now an ER doctor (National Post)

‘I am just one of those people who was very fortunate, where things worked out, and where I could do not just do one thing I really enjoyed in life, but two’

Brian Levy loved science as a kid. He had a microscope, read up on stuff in the encyclopedia and messed around with home experiment kits. During his high school years, he took every science credit possible. By his own admission, he was a “geek,” one with an equally strong passion, alongside science, for electronics.

Levy knew how to operate a shortwave radio. Weekend teenage heaven, in his mind, was hanging around the local RadioShack store, a warehouse of gizmos where he scored his first part-time job in 1974, earning US$1.40 an hour at a shop in downtown Atlanta. He was 15, which, alas, was too young to be working for the company, according to the folks at corporate headquarters in Texas, who fired him upon receiving his paperwork.

The dismissal didn’t sit well with Levy.

“I actually called the vice president of human resources in Texas,” he says. The executive was impressed by the moxie of the kid. On the day he turned 16, Levy was hired back.

[…]Levy did not foresee the premature end to his business career. When it came, rather than being crestfallen, he felt liberated, and free to pursue an “itch” that he had always felt the need to scratch. So he applied to medical school at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON. (Levy came to Canada in the first place after relocating RadioShack HQ north of the border as CEO. He is now a dual citizen, although his soft, buttery accent betrays his roots in the American south.)[]


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Maplin goes into administration

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Hirst, who writes:

While it can be useful for picking up components at short notice, sells kits, and has a small amount of CB / licence free radio equipment, it seems to be a peculiar mixture of computer cables, battery powered children’s cars, overpriced PC parts, chargers, disco lights, tools, and a few electronic project items.

Always nifty to have around, sadly there are often better options online.

Maplin has finally gone into administration. They were roughly equivalent to Radio Shack.

(Source: WIRED)

Farewell, Maplin. One of the last remaining tech stalwarts of the UK high street is going into administration, putting 2,500 jobs at risk across its 200 stores. So how can it be saved, if at all? And is it even worth trying?

There was an inevitability to Maplin’s demise, but there needn’t be. While Blockbuster famously lost out to Netflix and Toys ‘R’ Us (seemingly) to Amazon, Maplin does meet a need that is otherwise neglected. Yet the numbers beg to differ. Maplin had hoped to find a buyer, but talks failed. It is now up to administrators at PwC to sell off what they can. Stores will remain open for now.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the internet that killed Maplin. It was Brexit. Sort of. “The business has worked hard over recent months to mitigate a combination of impacts from sterling devaluation post Brexit, a weak consumer environment and the withdrawal of credit insurance,” CEO Graham Harris said in a statement.

Online shopping definitely played a part, but it wasn’t the fatal blow. That’s a view shared by administrator PwC, which blames “a slowdown in consumer spending and more expensive imports as the pound has weakened” rather than Maplin’s outmoded business model. But now, if it is to have any chance of surviving, Maplin has to belatedly change.[…]

Click here to view the full article at WIRED.

Thank you for the tip, Mark.  When I lived in the UK I would frequent Maplin for various components and parts but as you suggest, it truly catered to generic consumer electronics. Like RadioShack here in the States, I imagine they will be missed as a convenient local source of some components.

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RadioShack store re-opens: offers ham radio classes, Maker’s Space and educational outreach

Many corporate RadioShack stores, like the one above in North Carolina, closed after headquarters filed for bankruptcy.

I love it! Yet another story of a RadioShack store finding opportunity and serving their community in the wake of bankruptcy.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel, for sharing this article from The Citizen Tribune:

It is not often that you see a company go out of business and quickly reopen in the same location, but that is exactly what Jeff Pederson and Trevor “Reed” Freers have done with the Jefferson City RadioShack.

Freers was the manager of the original store for six years before RadioShack went bankrupt and closed all of its stores nationwide.

“I saw a lot of people lose their jobs,” Freers said. “As the marketing manager, I was the one who had to let a lot of those people go. It was really sad.”

Freers’s store was one of the last to close as they continued to do well under his high level of customer service, which often including going to customers’ homes to make sure they were satisfied with their purchases and helping customers set up or troubleshoot new devices.

“Running this store, I really grew to love the community,” Freers, who is originally from Kansas City, Missouri, said.

When Pederson contacted him about managing a privately owned RadioShack in the same location, Freers was excited at the chance to get back to doing what he loves.

[…]The newest addition to the store, unique to the Jefferson City location, is the area Freers named the “Makers’ Space.”

This open area of the store will be home to the many classes the store now offers, such as soldering classes, drone classes and monthly training sessions on how to set up and use a cell phone.

Freers has already partnered with a local gym which has requested a monthly class teaching older participants how to set up their Facebook profiles, as well at the Lakeway Amateur Radio Club to offer HAM Radio classes.

Schools and other learning programs are welcomed to use the area for classes, and Freers will also make himself available to travel to schools to teach those classes.[…]

Click here to read the full article at The Citizen Tribune.

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RadioShack franchises expand in wake of corporate bankruptcy

(Source: Twice.com via Tom Hacker)

RadioShack’s second bankruptcy in two years may have brought its company-owned stores to the edge of oblivion, but it has apparently sparked a renaissance among the chain’s approximately 425 independent franchisees.

As Wisconsin dealer-owner PJ Kruschel explains, inventory is beginning to flow again, and the departure of the corporate stores has ramped up customer demand and unshackled RadioShack dealers from restrictions on expansion.

Kruschel, who will grand-open the country’s first post-bankruptcy RadioShack tomorrow in Baraboo, Wis., shared his observations in an email to TWICE, which we posted below with his permission:

“I’ve owned a RadioShack dealer store for the past ten years and just opened a new store a couple weeks ago. It’s the first new RadioShack since the latest bankruptcy. There is another store opening in Utah and a couple more in Tennessee coming in the near future, but I’m the first.[…]

Continue reading at Twice.com.

Thanks for the tip, Tom!

This is encouraging news indeed and verifies what I’ve seen at the two RadioShack franchises I’ve visited since the bankruptcy. In both cases, they are serving the needs of a local community–their inventory and services have always included products and services the corporate stores weren’t allowed to offer. RadioShack franchises have always had more freedom to expand their offerings, but now it appears they can even expand their locations. Excellent news, I say.

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RadioShack auction includes a number of shortwave radios

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who shares a link to this RadioShack auction:

UBid Estate & Auction Services LLC

ICONIC RADIOSHACK MEMORABILIA AUCTION
From humble beginnings in Boston in 1921, over the past 95 years RadioShack established itself as a globally recognized leader and the go to retailer for consumer electronics. RadioShack has always been known as the place for answers to the American public’s technology and electronics questions. “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.”

Over the years, RadioShack introduced consumers to exciting and affordable gadgets and electronics that have become household items. As we cleaned out our historic archives in Fort Worth, Texas, we uncovered a cache of iconic memorabilia in 12 huge safes, including: unused original TRS-80 Microcomputers, Realistic Transistor Radios, Tandy computer software games, original brick cell phones and so much more. We all remember coming into RadioShack whether it was for the battery-of-the-month, new walkie-talkies, or to check out the newest RC toy cars. Now we reintroduce many of those nostalgic items and more with our rolling online memorabilia auction.

Click here to view the auction items.

Allied Shortwave Receiver

I must admit, it would be fun to own a few of these new-in-box/unused RS items. Besides the shortwave radio offerings, I used to drool over the TRS-80 systems.

I still own my original Tandy Color Computer 2 (the “Co Co 2”). Someday, I plan to hook it up and show my kids what a proper volatile memory meant–turn it off and the memory is wiped clean! I remember how revolutionary the cassette tape was–it changed my world!

No doubt, these RS offerings will fetch top dollar. Even though it’s still early in the auction, many items already have a rather high price and all of them have a soft closing:

“The closing time of this lot will be extended by 2 minutes if a bid is placed on this lot in the last 2 minutes.”

Most, if not all, of these auctions end on July 3, 2017. I doubt I’ll bid on anything…still…I’m enjoying the stroll down memory lane.

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More RadioShack store closing details including dates

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow (N9EWO), who writes:

Here is a very interesting PDF legal document (via Prime Clerk) that not only has the “COMPLETE” RadioShack store list that are closing by early April (Tranche One and Two) but with important dates given.

Click here to download Docket 98-2 (PDF).

(more info: https://cases.primeclerk.com/generalwireless/Home-DocketInfo)

Yes, sadly the store I worked in for over 8 years is closing by (before) April 6th when this store will become Sprint only. Being in a Mall , its funny it was not closed in the first bankruptcy ?? It’s been in that spot since late 1981.

Many thanks, Dave. As I mentioned in this previous post, poor RadioShack is all but dead for us hobbyists and Makers–one last chance to grab some closeout deals before the retail outlets become Sprint stores.

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