On the way down, turning the stores into a chain of cell-phone kiosks staffed by hucksters alienated the DIYers. Dana Macri, a 32-year-old from Queens, N.Y., reminisces about poring over his local store’s array of radio-controlled cars as a kid, then graduating to the bins of transistors and capacitors as a teenager. He recalls a trip he made to the same store six months ago. “I needed a Y cable to turn an RF into a mini, and I thought they would at least know that,” says Macri, who now works at a video production and equipment rental company. “I went in and asked for the cable, and the woman looked at me like I spoke a different language. She basically walked me over to the rack with all these adapters and cables and stuff and said, ‘This is what we have.’”
Losing the allegiance of people like Macri led to a particularly cruel irony: RadioShack missed a trend it started. In the last several years, as tinkering became cool again with the rise of Maker Faires, 3D printing, personal drones, and tiny, dirt-cheap computers such as Raspberry Pi.