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Author Topic: So why are there no good electronics shops?  (Read 4814 times)
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Oklahoma, USA
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    Why in the world are there not good electronics shops that have an inventory similar to Sparkfun or the like?  The shops could have beginner and advanced classes, and it'd be great to go look at stuff in person!  But there's just nothing.  Fry's has some stuff but there are none in my area, and Radio Shack sucks and has only the most basic piece parts.  Is there just not a big enough market or what?
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I have friends who have electronic shops, and it is such a lot of effort to sell a handful of components - i.e.  5 different resistors, a couple of chips, and a few capacitors all from a project the customer has from an old magazine .

And the counter staff have to help with looking up equivalents, and so on. 

It is far better for them to sell an amplifier or expensive speaker.
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Two words: The. Internet.
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I started playing with electronics back in the 1960s. Even then if you really needed access to specific component values or other then ordinary parts, we used mail order from the big electronic firms like Allied Electronics, Lafayette Radio, Newark electronics, etc. There were few pure electronic stores other then in the large cities and even those might not have the selection you desire. Today the internet makes things even quicker and easier and buying from Asian sellers on E-bay for common parts has prices cheaper then ever. I can say that there has never been a better time to be involved in the hobby of electronics then today Vs any past time in my opinion. The only exception I can think of is that we back then had access to tons of cheap world war II electronics surplus stuff that was very cheap that one could scrounge parts from, now that was fun.

Lefty
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I hear Jameco has a willcall window.  If I lived nearby I would call that a good electronics shop.
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I remember when there was electronic stores

You either paid out the arse for a limited selection, much like SF and Radio shack, or you drove across town to find out they didnt have what you needed it but could order it.

It really was a big pain in the butt, back in high school I had a semi complicated project I wanted to do and ended up spending an entire day running around chasing parts

now its just mouser/digikey/whatever and 20 min later I am done. The stuff is in my mailbox 2-3 days later, and its cheap.
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nr Bundaberg, Australia
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In Aus we had Tandy, Dick Smith and Jaycar (among others) in or near most towns. Tandy and Dick Smith are just toy stores these days selling TVs and have been for a long time.

Jaycar still have a reasonable range of components, usually expensive but at least there on the shelf. They sell Freeduinos so can't be all that bad smiley

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If you are in robotics it doesn't stop at the electronics shops.

I'm lucky enough to have a VAT number (costs money)
This way I can order on professional sites like RS (not radioshack) http://www.rs-online.com/index.html. They mostly have a policy of order before 12 and the next day it is at your door. For me that is quicker then going to the closest shop. Compare this to conrad who takes at least 2 days just to ship the products (at least to me) and you know why you pay extra.
Unfortunately no shop in the world has all components I/you need. I think they never will; because some things just don't sell enough. For instance I ordered some motors in July which have not yet been send due to "out of stock". I guess this is also the reason why kits are so popular. All components in one go.

Maybe one day 3D printing will solve all of this  smiley-cool

Best regards
Jantje
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Oklahoma, USA
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Maybe one day 3D printing will solve all of this   smiley-cool
Yeah that would definitely make everything a lot easier.

And the internet is great and all, but I think a business that bought components in bulk and sold them for a minimal profit, but then made their money off of all sorts of different workshops and tutorials would be in high demand, it's a totally untapped market if the interest was there.  It's hard for me to wrap my mind around something until I can see it and touch it, and in this sort of hobby I feel like I'm probably not alone. 

They could offer classes where once you pay for it, the store provides an Arduino Uno and a starter kit, then you get to keep it once you're done.  It'd be more about teaching people to make stuff and spreading the open source movement then it would making money.  And what college kid working on an electrical engineering/computer science degree wouldn't want to work at a place where they get a slew of equipment and components at their disposal that they couldn't necessarily buy themselves?
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Maybe one day 3D printing will solve all of this   smiley-cool
Yeah that would definitely make everything a lot easier.

And the internet is great and all, but I think a business that bought components in bulk and sold them for a minimal profit, but then made their money off of all sorts of different workshops and tutorials would be in high demand, it's a totally untapped market if the interest was there.  It's hard for me to wrap my mind around something until I can see it and touch it, and in this sort of hobby I feel like I'm probably not alone.

Yes it would be great for new people wanting to enter the electronic hobby. However any such business must be able to have a minimum volume of business to be able to stay in business. And to expect someone to risk the initial investment required to start up, just to hope that there is enough local customers to support the business is probably an unrealistic expectation, that is just not how people invest their resources. Radio Shack would have never survived just selling electronic components and tools and such, without also selling much more stuff like stereos, TVs, and today Cell phone contracts.

They could offer classes where once you pay for it, the store provides an Arduino Uno and a starter kit, then you get to keep it once you're done.  It'd be more about teaching people to make stuff and spreading the open source movement then it would making money.  And what college kid working on an electrical engineering/computer science degree wouldn't want to work at a place where they get a slew of equipment and components at their disposal that they couldn't necessarily buy themselves?

So basically you are saying 'build it and they will come'? Certainly it is possible that a specific store at a specific location might be able to turn that into a viable self-supporting business. It just takes someone to believe that and to the risk and make the initial investment required. There is no shortage of opportunity for possible investments in small businesses in this country, but of course most don't survive their first year of operations.

So your dream/idea is not a bad one, but however if depends too much on someone else taking a personal risk to see if it is actually viable. Dreams and ideas are good, but the best ones are those that you yourself can work towards accomplishing.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2012, 10:12:00 am by retrolefty » Logged

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I remember when there was electronic stores

You either paid out the arse for a limited selection, much like SF and Radio shack, or you drove across town to find out they didnt have what you needed it but could order it.

It really was a big pain in the butt, back in high school I had a semi complicated project I wanted to do and ended up spending an entire day running around chasing parts

now its just mouser/digikey/whatever and 20 min later I am done. The stuff is in my mailbox 2-3 days later, and its cheap.

I actually found a small parts store in an industrial park near my house, along with a 2-way radio store. The owner is awesome and helpful. He does have consumer electronics like HDMI cables and UPSes that are all more expensive than online sources, but the prices on small parts are close, if not better. He has 10mm low-power, but brite, LEDs for $1 (that I cannot find equivalents for anywhere) and 4x4 matrix keypads for $8. I havn't been able to find either of those parts online for similar prices. The student discount helps too...

I do a lot of building projects in-my-head and on-the-fly, so it's nice to be able to grab all the switches and sockets I need, and check them for fit by actually putting them in the project box I want.
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so it's nice to be able to grab all the switches and sockets I need, and check them for fit by actually putting them in the project box I want.

I use cad drawings and measurements which are common on datasheets, then I know if they will fit before even considering them
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nr Bundaberg, Australia
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Yeah, these days with the availability of 3D models for just about everything the need to physically have the object is less important. It's still nice to have a real enclosure for example but OTOH you can try stuff in 3D you can't with the real thing.

I've got to the point where I try not to use a component that does not have a 3D model available.

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even datasheets are starting to come with 3d models in them, fer example

http://www.hammondmfg.com/pdf/1553B.pdf
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nr Bundaberg, Australia
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I use Hammond's models a lot. That can really sway my choice of enclosure. Polycase also supply them.

This makes them my first point of call for a box.

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Rob
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