One friend was a short-wave radio buff. The rest were the type of guys who built their own electronic gear. From scratch. And dreamed of building their own robots.
They introduced me to the Valhalla of Electronics --Radio Shack.
In those days, the employees at Radio Shack were the high priests of Electronic Gnosticism. They held the secret knowledge of how to become something more than an amateur radio man. They could teach you how to soar with the lightning.
That was a longtime ago. Radio Shacks in American malls have now turned into the type of place where you can hear an indifferent twenty-something yell: "Hey, Bill. Do we sell these electronic plug things?"
I told you about the death of my modem, cordless telephone system, and backup hard drive in last week's storm (death on line). The modem has been replaced. But there was still the hard drive and telephone to deal with.
Commenter "Sparky" suggested that both of them might still be alive. Perhaps only the chargers blew out.
I had thought of that possibility and tested them with a charger I had on hand. Nothing.
Then, it occurred to me that I had no idea if the test charger worked. So, off I went to see my neighbor Omar -- the local computer guru. His rest results? Sparky was right on point. When I asked Omar if he could order a charger, he seconded Sparky's suggestion -- go to Radio Shack.
And that I did today -- right after my last dental appointment for the next seven weeks. The Radio Shack in Manzanillo.
I have repeatedly written about how much Melaque reminds me of my 1950s childhood in the mountains of southwestern Oregon. And I had hoped that this would be another installment. It would have been nice to walk into a 1950s Radio Shack.
Or maybe not. I suspect none of the parts I needed were available in the 1950s. But you know what I mean. I was looking for that 35-year old with the taped glasses who knew everything about electronics, but had trouble finding his way home -- where he still lived with his parents.
The Radio Shack in Manzanillo is in no danger of falling into that type of cultural stereotype. Gone are the little drawers filled with diodes and pins. In their place are a few rows of electronic parts packed in plastic. The type of merchandise you see in the electronics section at Walmart.
The young lady who waited on me had no trouble understanding what I wanted. She was simply uncertain on how to meet my request.
I have often wondered why almost every box and package in local electronic stores have been opened and then resealed with packing tape. My initial impression was that a lot of merchandise was returned in Mexico.
I now know why. Rather than matching up my charger pins with a parts chart, she started opening up package after package to see if the pins would fit my two chargers. That process took almost an hour.
At the end, I had a new charger for my hard drive -- for just under $40 (US). That was a bit more than I expected to pay. But it was cheaper than a new hard drive. (The hard drive is currently busy backing up what it has missed over the past week.)
But I was out of luck on the telephone. She had a charger, but not a pin that would fit.
And that may be just as well. I get almost all of my calls on my mobile telephone, any way. And while I am away in Miami and San Miguel, I do not need a lot of unanswered messages piling up.
When I go north, I always like to visit Fry's. Its computer parts are what Radio Shack once was to electronics. I guess I will need to get my nostalgia fixes there. Radio Shack certainly is not going to do it in Mexico.
I believe it was Frank Burns who said: "I didn't come here to be liked."
To which, Hawkeye replied: "Then you came to the right place."