10 PRINT "CARMI RULES"
20 GOTO 10
(Modesty was not my strong suit then. Perhaps it still isn't. But I digress.)
Inevitably, a small crowd would gather around as I slowly coaxed a bit of BASIC-based ridiculousness from the monochrome-screened machine. Being in the middle of the scrum was somewhat intoxicating, and in retrospect I think some powerful seeds were being quietly planted for me.
In a 2014 context, those TRS-80s were laughably limited. But at the time, they seemed like almost magical pointers to a boundless future. You knew something changed as soon as they were first installed in the middle of a store better known for its Battery of the Month Club and its chaotically labelled bins of electronic doodads and cables way back in the dimly lit rear corners.
Ah, good times!
Eventually, Radio Shack disappeared from the Canadian retail landscape, with enough lawsuits and branding changes thrown in to make for a great book someday. Many of the old sites became The Source locations, and while they're now owned by Bell, I still get pangs of nostalgia every time I walk into one. The one near my house is a lot neater than the locations from my childhood, but it still feels strangely homey.
Radio Shack continues to function in the U.S., and its inability to transition from the pre-Internet economy to the post-Internet one seems to have left it in the retail equivalent of Neverland: Not quite dead, but nowhere near alive, either. Now that I've become an adult-writer-nerd, I can see just how loudly the clock is ticking. Drop in while you still can.
SBNation.com published this brutally harsh first-person piece earlier, by former employee Jon Bois, this week. And if you ever found yourself bathed in the glow of a TRS-80, or engaged in deep, thoughtful discussions with Radio Shack employees on the merits of NiCd vs NiMH - or why those 100-in-one hobby sets were gateways to scientific hooliganism - this is a must-read: