Are we there yet?

SUBHEAD:  Radio Shack products are easier to replace than to fix. And that is basically the problem with America.

By Juan Wilson on 9 February 2915 for Island Breath -

Image above: Upper front page to Radio Shack ad insert in Sunday's Garden Island News. Photo by Juan Wilson.

"Are we there yet?" You might remember that question when you've been on the road for a long trip and one of the kids asks it when there is still a way to go. The joke is that you left your house just an hour ago and there are 300 miles left to travel.

Well peakers, preppers and doomsters have been jumping up and down in the back seat asking that question since 2007. Well kids, wake up. We are about to arrive at Camp Teotwawki.

For those non-doomsters reading this "TEOTWAWKI" is not a co-ed summer camp in the Catskills nor is it an ancient Mayan name for the Thirteen Baktun cycle in the Mayan long count. "TEOTWAWKI" is a doomster acronym for "The End Of The World As We Know It".

Here, within imperial America, our perception of the world is greatly distorted and disassociated with reality. The internet, mass media, TV, smart phones, game consoles etc. have in effect taken the place of reality. You might as well call this constellation of technologies "The Matrix".

This alternate reality masks the underlying deterioration of the underlying real world that supports us. However, as the underlying reality deteriorates so does the ability of the Matrix to hide this fact.

An example is upcoming collapse of the Radio Shack corporation.

Radio Shack was founded in 1921 as the Fort Worth, Texas, outlet for what was personal high-tech communication at the time - namely amateur (ham) radio technology. The name "Radio Shack" was chosen as it was the term for a small, wooden structure that housed a ship's radio equipment.

Radio Shack provided kits with the parts for building home radio transmitter/receivers. As the company grew it provided Do-It-Yourself hobbyist what they needed.

At its peak Radio Shack had over 4,000 outlets throughout the United States. At first they were in Main Street storefronts. As solid state electronics emerged in the 1960s Radio Shack began selling "solid state" parts for making anything from a transistor radio to a hi-fi component.

Radio Shack sold enclosures, racks, meters, dials, wiring, boards, transformers and anything else that someone making a custom made electronic device - an "invention" for example.

As home computer DIY kits were introduced in 1974 Radio Shack continued to provide a lead supporting the new technology. By 1977 it distributed the TRS-80 computer.  By 1979, the TRS-80 had the largest selection of software in the microcomputer market.

I first started using Radio Shack was in the late 1979. There was one in a plaza just a mile from my home in Connecticut. I used the store to support and repair my home electronics. They had free tube-testers to check components like TVs and radios, as well as the soldering irons, breadboards, tubes, diodes, transistors, etc for making and maintaining various electronic devices.

Radio Shacks also had electronic geeks behind the counter that actually knew the inside of the devices they sold. On one occasion I hired a Radio Shack employee (on the side) to help me out with a particularly delicate soldering repair job on a stereo receiver.

The point I am trying to make here is that Radio Shack started out as a business that empowered and enabled it's customers to create, maintain, repair or even invent the home device they wanted to use.

Yesterday when I opened the Garden Island Sunday paper I noticed a four-page color insert stuffed in with the Funny Pages. It was a Radio Shack sales announcement on perhaps the last weekend of its current corporate existence.

The headline of the insert was "20% OFF".

The top feature were smart phones for "$0 DOWN" with low monthly payments and Sprint carrier financing; plus a $50 gift card and $200 for trading in an eligible smart phone (read iPhone).

Another of the "big deals" were either a "Beats" wireless stereo headphone by Dr. Dre; or a Pill Wireless Bluetouth Speaker for $159.99. Your choice of which.

So what's my point? All these devices are sealed units with no options for repair or maintenance. Once that smartphone stops working it becomes merely a drink coaster. Once that wireless headphone or speaker sizzles for the last time its headed for the landfill.

As I poured over the other pages of the Radio Shack insert I found a lot more of the same. Wireless mice, keyboards, trackpads... more wireless headphones, earphones and speakers... Some cables to plug them into "sources"; batteries to power them and some USB flash drives to store the "content".

All this stuff is is for the narcissistic consumption of other's "content" for a  n self reflection or promotion.  All of it is merely for rent - not ownership.

In early January I went down to Salt Pond Beach Park to swim with my wife Linda. As I back-stroked through the water across the beach I noticed an attractive young woman at the shore break who seemed to be cavorting all alone. I noticed what seemed her boyfriend was on the sand watching in admiration. The woman had some strange device in her hand. Something on a stick.

I stopped to tread water and see what was. It appeared to be a smartphone clamped onto a handle  about three feet long - It was a Selfie-Stick.  Probably a Chirstmas present from her boy friend.

A Selfie-Stick is a tool created to produce better self portraits and self videos with your smartphones. The woman was dancing and twirling waste high in the water while staring into the screen that reflected her own image. I'm sure the results went straight to FaceBook.

Considering the health of delicate electronics in a salt spray environment I imagine that selfie stick and smartphone are already on their way to the nearest a landfill.

And so goes Radio Shack. It's products are cheaper and easier to replace it than to fix. And that is basically the problem with America.

Radio Shack is now in negotiation to have Sprint take over the chain so Sprint can have more boots on the ground to compete with Verizon. Even if they succeed it is likely they will close over 1,000 stores. My bet is the one on Kauai will die an early death.  [Update: As of 2/10/15 three Radio Shacks are scheduled to close in Hawaii - all on Oahu. Our Kauai outlet is safe for the moment.]

My last time in the Kauai Radio Shack, in December, was to replace a small battering in a tiny LED flashlight I had gotten as a gift many years ago. Radio Shack has plenty of batteries these days - for all those wireless Bluetooth devices. They had the battery I needed, a flat jobbie, a #380. It was $7.39. More than the cost to replace the flashlight with its own new battery in a blister pack.

The Radio Shack guy went online and found I could get a five-pack of #380s from Amazon for less money and free shipping. I left the Radio Shack vowing not to return.

I won't go through the litany of problems that America is in denial about at this moment of history. Let's just say that none of the big solutions necessary to save a decent amount of what we have become used as "our way of life" to are in the pipeline to be online when the necessity arises.

We won't fix the crumbling infrastructure; won't provide a real safety net to the impoverished; won't reduce are gargantuan military; won't reduce our claims on the world's resources; won't stop the corporations from sucking the life from the planet. These things don't appear on our list of priorities.

There will be resistance. Greece is providing some in the form of exiting the European Union if they don't regain some of their sovereignty. The European Union is in much more trouble than we commonly understand. For that matter Russia, Japan, China and the United States are not far behind as they swirl around the rim of the event horizon leading to collapse. Things are going to noticeably pick up speed now.

Over $100 trillion dollars of debt and counting cannot save our collective asses.

As we have been saying for some time - hunker down, do-it-yourself, get local, know your neighbors, make food, make music. And don't trust county, state, federal or international organizations that want a piece of you. They can only see you as a disposable component headed to the landfill.


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