Retro Radio Shack Flashback

Hubby brought home a few old copies of retro Radio Shack catalogs from the 1980’s. I’ve naturally managed to ignore them quite well for the past few weeks because I’ve never been much of an electronics or gadget girl — but I do have a few fond (embarrassing) Radio Shack memories…

So I finally had to pick up the old catalogs and flip through them.

Here are 13 things you can remember &/or learn about me from retro Radio Shack catalogs.

1 I have virtually no understanding of most of the stuff listed (nor it’s tech descriptions) in the catalogs. Then, as now, I only manage to memorize what I need to for a purchase and then dismiss it.


2 I think I’m supposed to recognize the album cover shown on the catalog cover — so I keep turning back to look at it. But I’m continually distracted by the hip guy in the jogging suit and the sunshine babe in yellow. Twenty Kitsch-Slap Points to anyone who can identify the LP cover.

3 I miss big boomin’ speakers. Everything is so small today, but back then they were massive building blocks in your stereo system. And it didn’t necessarily mean men were over-compensating if they had them. That would take a few more years.


4 I think the chick being protected by her speaker-fort looks like Megan Mullally.  I wonder what she was doing in the 80’s…

5 Ah, scientific calculators… I remember in high school we were specifically told to get Texas Instruments (TI) calculators and any kids who showed up with the Radio Shack equivalents were looked funny — mainly because they were so geeky in their defense of their calculators which were supposedly better and were therefore the choice of brainiacs everywhere.


6 Which reminds me, what’s the first thing we all learned to do with our expensive scientific calculators — TI or Radio Shack brands? Spell “hell” and “Shell Oil”. Proof that brand really didn’t matter.

7 I don’t recall ever having seen one of these red Radio Shack AM radios — but I’m guessing this hot little number adored the desk in many a brainiac’s bedroom.


8 Hey, it’s 1986 and electronic books hit the market. As a parent & a reader, I rue the day.


But the best thing about these catalogs — the 1980 issue especially — was that I discovered the name of a retro computer game I used to play… Consider this 9-13 because it’s full of TMI.

Back in the summer of 1980 I was 16 and my BFF was Mary. We used to walk up to the K-Mart and buy lip gloss Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers (watermelon, please!), wide hair combs to stick in our back pockets, & Tiger Beat magazines — and if we didn’t have money, we’d just flip through issues.

Then we’d head to the strip mall which shared the K-Mart parking lot and cruise albums in a little vinyl shop — until we were chased out for having no money & loitering. Then, still having nothing better to do, we’d giggle over the “real man” who worked at the Radio Shack.

He was a real man, with a thick head of 80’s hair and a full mustache, not the few stray hairs boys at school had above their lips. He was hot.

One day, when they moved the new-fangled computer to the front by the door, the man called us in to test it out. Convinced he was flirting, we giggled our red-faced way into the store and let him teach us about these boxes that I’d one day spend hours of my life on.


The game they had set up for consumer demos was this game where you thought of a question you wanted answered & the “girl” would ask you questions until she guessed your question. I couldn’t recall the name of the game, but there, in blue & white I discovered the name of it: “Eliza” Artificial Intelligence.


Eliza was no oracle; she wouldn’t give you the answer to your question, she’d just figure out your question. Are you as smart as Eliza was purported to be — can you guess my question?

My 16 year old boy man crazy self wanted to know if the man, Mark, liked me and would ask me out.

If it sounds stupid, it was. But in my immature infatuated brain, I thought it would be so romantic to have Eliza “say” to me via the TRS-80 screen, “Is your question, ‘Does Mark like you?'” — with Mark right there to give me the dreamy, “Yes, he does.”

I’m sure he would have uncomfortably said, “No.” (His fiancé called him at the store everyday while I blushed and talked to Eliza.)  And had he liked me “that way,” I’m sure my mom & dad would have been thrilled to have their 16 year daughter bring home a 23 year old man in polyester Sans-a-Belt pants, a short-sleeved white dress shirt & a tie who worked at Radio Shack & flirted with underage girls.

Anyway, I don’t really remember when or why I stopped going to flush & blush my way through conversations with Mark & Eliza… My guess is that summer ended & both of them were put out of their misery by my return to school. But in any case, I can now seriously consider getting an old TRS-80 and an Eliza game. That’s safer than figuring out what happened to Mark.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here


  1. I now officially weep for my youth… it doesn’t look THAT dated to me…

    Ohgodohgodohgod… and my birthday’s coming up…


    Nostalgia, thou art a double-edged sword…

  2. My husband went to Radio Shack earlier this week and he was saying that it’s just not the same. Looking at the retro catalog I guess I can see what he means. Happy TT!

  3. Simon and Garfunkle on that record. I’m not sure which one it was, but that’s them.

    And man, did you bring back memories! … of how jealous I was of my sisters and their wide combs in their back pockets, and their iron-on t-shirts and the hours they got to spend hanging out at the mall…

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