It’s possible that folks of the current generation can’t even parse this thing. Today’s electronics don’t open up, even for a fleeting glance at a circuit board while replacing a battery. No one takes apart their TV or radio or telephone for any reason. So a box full of raw electronics is probably a puzzling artifact.
These were sold by Radio Shack, back when that name meant something. It was a collection of mounted electrical components: resistors, transistors, a speaker, an LED display, even an integrated circuit! Each one had springs next to it, and you used wires to connect the spring of component A to component B, then B to C, and so forth, until you had a completed circuit that did a thing. An included book featured diagrams on how to hook the wires up.
A lot of folks who grew up when I did and are into electronics and engineering will point to this kit and say it’s what they cut their teeth on and got them interested in their field. Me, though: I would dutifully follow the instructions in the booklet but I was just connecting dots. I never absorbed any actual knowledge of how electronics work from this. What I know about electronics came from — ha ha, I kid, I don’t know anything about the topic!
I don’t know if the instruction book included information I just didn’t bother to read or what, but this didn’t spark any interest in me at the time. It wouldn’t be until later, when I saw my friend Gene being able to design circuits on a breadboard that I wished I’d gotten more out of this toy, but even then, prior to college, I didn’t take the opportunity to, like, learn the skill.
I’ve often thought that this would make a cool “retro” iPad app. It seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to program up a simulation of one of these kits and how it worked. If it’s been made I haven’t found it. And to be honest, I know so little about the topic, I’m not sure if it would have any value to anyone other than nostalgic.
When did I get it? It looks like they made their debut in 1977. Based on my memories, I probably got one not long after that.
Do I still have it? Nope, which isn’t surprising. If I had one now, would I try to learn from it?