Requiem for a Lost Chain

not a gold chain, but an electronics retail chain,
which I long cherished in my younger days, here and abroad.
What urged me to blog here was the headline news that I read just today:

The Sad, Tarnished Afterlife of RadioShack’s Name  

Prologue
Yes, from the time I was a teenager, I was a tinkerer: Then, I proudly made my own crystal radio that miraculously picked up waves off the ether and delivered live orchestral music to my headset (Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Suite for Orchestra was the very first piece of music I heard ‘wirelessly’ that I recall to this day decades later.)

Later I toyed with chemistry in my home lab: on one occasion, I placed certain innocuous looking white ‘crystals’ in a jar over a Bunsen burner in a backroom of the family apartment, and much to my parents’ alarm it blew up leaving an unsightly black blob on the ceiling – ah! those were the days to be a tinkerer with the whole world opening up before you at your feet – or overhead! – limited only by the extent of your lively imagination and a few simple tools.

Things have changed mightily since those halcyon days: Before all you had to do was to run down to your local equivalent of RadioShack, rummage around and return triumphantly to your lair with the tools to ply your trade – the art of creation; now, with the advent of the Internet, all you may need to do is to fire up your computer or laptop or tablet and shop online without ever thinking of seeing a live human being or two with whom you may swap ideas and suggestions for upgrading your equipment as cheaply as possible, or picking up the latest electronic buzz.

My crowning achievement was in the late 1990’s when I made a serviceable computer for a non-profit in New Jersey – that I was serving as its Membership Director – for the princely sum of $350, when the going rate for the cheapest IBM of similar capacity was $3,000.

RadioShack3

Epilogue
For those not in the know, my iPad snapshot above is of a RadioShack AM/FM Radio circa 2000 . It’s been my trusted companion here and abroad for many moons and untold thousands of miles. Just consider: Whether it’s my daily NPR ‘fix’ during my morning walk, when I pick up  the local FM or BBC news in Englewood, NJ; or in Boston, MA on a visit to family, where WGBH picks up for me what I want to hear during my morning shave; or in London, UK, when visiting friends periodically; or in Lucknow, UP, during my biennial visit to my close relatives, where All India Radio (AIR) has all-day AM broadcasts that include regular news bulletins in English and Hindi with fairly substantial segments on foreign affairs; you name it, and I have those news – and on occasion classical Western or Indian music – segments all covered in the palm of my hand. Remember that’s long before the disruptive arrival of Mac-ware and suchlike innovations in our lives!

Of course, I do use the newbies, off and on, but what amuses me are the stares I get when I saunter along the streets in Englewood and elsewhere clutching my ancient (by mod standards) RadioShack AM/FM – my fistful of magical sound! – without caring a fig of what people think I’m doing.

 Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas

5 thoughts on “Requiem for a Lost Chain

  1. Your penchant for tinkering and that which could and did blow an unsavory black scar onto the ceiling of the family home reminds me of my own chemistry tinkering as a young lad. I became enamored of the chemistry set sold in the local toy store and somehow convinced my parents to get me one, small bottles tucked between test tubes and a bunsen burner containing magical alchemic names like GUM ARABIC, SODIUM SILICATE, FERROUS SULFATE AND POWDERED CHARCOAL. We began following the regimen of the instruction book and made soap, shampoo, and to the amazement of our folks potions that began black and when mixed together went magically clear. It wasn’t long before we retired the instruction manual and pursued a single minded path of mixing chemicals abstractly and very soon after put them into lovely test tubes, fire up the bunsen burner and see what happened when they boiled or often times ignited and on occasion exploded. We made gun powder almost instinctively with a mix of sulfur, powdered charcoal, & salt peter and thought we had come upon the ultimate meaning of the chemistry set, blowing things up, creating noxious smells and frightening friends and family. Activity was shortly curtailed after a particularly smelly experiment gone awry invited mom into the room hysterical and certain we would burn the house down. In retrospect perhaps my first experience in understanding that things combined with logic and intention created entirely and ultimately more interesting things when mixed, heated and fired without a single idea of the outcome. Too early to tell if this was a good lesson.

    1. I knew it was you, Jay, from the get-go! Good to see that your early days on this planet began with ‘chemistry tinkering’ – and look where you are now with your superb media outlet!

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