RadioShack is in trouble.
The consumer electronics retailer, once America’s leading seller of phones, radios, televisions and countless other gadgets, has announced that it is closing 1,100 underperforming stores after sales fell 19% in the most recent quarter.
In light of this news, we decided to flip through RadioShack’s old catalogues to remember its golden years, when cell phones sold for $US1,500 and you could buy a radio to wear on your head. For this post, we selected some of the best RadioShack ads and catalogue covers from an extensive collection belonging to Michael D’Alessio, who runs the website RadioShackCatalogs.com.
We’ll start with RadioShack’s first ever catalogue, published in 1939, 17 years after the company was founded.
In a letter to customers in the first issue, Radio Shack wrote, “We here at the Radio Shack want to take this opportunity to say ‘hello’ at one time to all who receive this first Radio Shack catalogue, and to thank the many thousands of customers who, in the past seventeen years, have made our establishment the headquarters for their radio supplies.
“This catalogue is intended to serve as a comprehensive and accurate listing of what we believe to be the essential and unusual requirements of the radio amateur, the serviceman, laboratories, industries and schools.”
Most of the ads from the early catalogues were illustrations. Here’s the cover from 1962:
RadioShack began including more photographs, like this one, in the 1960s:
In 1965, two-way radios (also known as walkie talkies) were all the rage. Here’s RadioShack’s “Space Control” walkie talkie, which could communicate with someone up to a quarter mile away, as advertised on the catalogue’s front page in 1965:
In 1966, RadioShack introduced a two-way radio system that could communicate with someone up to 30 miles away.
In 1968, a compact, portable radio — that was also a tape recorder! — was the most exciting new product on the market.
Speakers took on a new purpose as chairs in 1969.
These televisions made their debut in the RadioShack catalogue in 1970. The 12-inch TVs were advertised as “feathery light” and “brighter and black-and-whiter than competition.”
In 1980, home sound systems with compact stereos were popular.
Also in 1980, RadioShack debuted the cordless telephone. “Telephones will never be the same!” the company declared in this ad.
At the time, stereo systems were selling for $US230:
In 1985 RadioShack announced on its catalogue cover that it had “more breakthroughs than we’ve ever introduced in a single year” with multi-line phone systems, a pocket-sized television, a compact disc player, and a personal computer.
A programmable, remote-control robot debuted in 1987.
1987 also gave us car phones, which came with a “portable adaptor pack” with a shoulder strap that was about the size of a textbook.
In 1988, RadioShack featured cordless cell phones, laptops and video recorders on its cover.
For the “affordable” price of $US1,500, you could own RadioShack’s first cordless cell phone.
1990 brought us this gem of a catalogue cover, which is presumably meant to show that RadioShack caters to all ages:
Here’s a precursor to the iPod from the 1990s… that you wore on your head:
Also in 1991, RadioShack tried to make the case for personal computers, explaining that they could “enhance your life like no other purchase could make.”
In 2002, RadioShack attempted to create a hipper, cooler image with this catalogue cover:
With the turn of the century came an influx of portable consumer electronics, including wireless speakers, a talking photo album, a travel sleep machine and an “iPAQ Pocket PC.”
And finally, an email “companion” that lets you answer email “anytime, anywhere!”
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