back to article Why can’t I walk past Maplin without buying stuff I don’t need?

Good news – after weeks of slaving over a seemingly interminable office refurb, occupying seven days a week and painstakingly documented in this column ad nauseam, I finally found some time to get some chores done. Time for me! Time that doesn’t involve paying bills or having to apologise for missing deadlines! Time not …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great headline!

    Haha that makes me laugh... I have two weather stations, electronic micro-scales, battery operated fly swatter (that is very good actually!), waterproof thermometer with a probe and god knows how many other things/spray cans/cables that will come in handy... haha, good old Maplins - shame they are so dear.

    1. Dr Insanity

      Re: Great headline!

      It scares me how much their prices seem to have hiked in recent years. When I worked there back in the early noughties it was £1.49 for an ADSL microfilter, and £1.69 for a 30cm SATA cable. Now when I need one urgently I cry, as they are both over £5. (of course, if they are not urgent I get them online).

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Re: Great headline!

        Maplins have to keep stock, pay staff and rent prime (ish) retail locations, which is why it does cost more. On the other hand, you can walk in to a shop on your high street and buy a lot of useful kit that you cannot get other than online.

        I miss the old fashioned kind of ironmongers/everything shop that you went in with a sheared bolt, gave it to the old timer who would wheeze, then scurry off to an impressive wall of cabinets, rummaging around and then pulling out the exact thing you were looking for. B&Q does not compare.

        This may be rose tinted, as when I was a kid almost every saturday involved Dad popping off to Martin & Newby's to get the one thing he was missing. I was talking to him about this the other day, it was brilliant when it worked, less so when it didn't...

        1. Nifty

          Re: Great headline!

          Makes me think of the time I had a local hardware shop in a quiet Cheshire town. My door handles in the house were hanging down so I went there to ask about replacement springs.

          "Don't make 'em any more, sir!"

          My face fell.

          "So I keep a box of second hand ones, perfectly serviceable, in this drawer, that'll be 50p each!".

          Now that's what I call ironmongery.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Great headline!

            I spent an hour wandering around Maplins last week - again, I didn't actually need anything. After inspecting spray cleaners and lubricants (IPA yes, acetone no, alas), flashlights, something called Sugru, and some self-adhesive magnetic tape, I came away with a USB-OTG cable, three little keyring screw cannisters for storing small things, and a microSD card which was, amazingly, very reasonably priced.

            I did notice that they were selling microHDMI > HDMI cables for £45, whereas an independent computer shop near me sells them for £6.00.

            Still, being able to get parts for a project the same day is often invaluable.

            1. ridley

              Re: Great headline!

              Last year I went in for a resistor.

              "That will be 30p"

              "I only want one"

              "That is for one"

              WTF!

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Great headline!

                Sometimes when you're after a less common value and you're 1 resistor away from completing a project it can be handy.

                The more annoying thing is they tend to only keep about 2 capacitors of any particular type in stock. I was in a hurry to finish something and needed 4 capacitors, bought two in my own town and then went to the next town to get the other two, but even though they were listed at being in stock someone must have swiped them.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Great headline!

            Now that's what I call ironmongery.

            Sounds like our local locksmiths. Called them out to repair our modern back door, and while they were here I asked if they could fix the almost ninety year old locks and latches on our interior doors. They did so by making new springs and fashioning replacement keys despite not having an original. They worked out the required shape by taking one of the locks apart. It's a family business, with the grandson minding the shop, dad doing the manual work and grandad (who's a sprightly 85 by my reckoning) providing the expertise.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Great headline!

            There is a shop called Cordens in Warminster which is like that. Sadly, as fewer and fewer people are actually able to fix things, the demand goes down.

            Like my grandfather, I now have a vast collection of emergency spares for things, plus odd bits of metal that can easily be fabricated into other things. But I sometimes wonder if I wouldn't have been better off being sufficiently clumsy that the time I've spent over the years fixing stuff could have been spent on becoming sufficiently rich that I could just call in a tradesman at any hour of the day or night.

            1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

              Re: Great headline!

              "sufficiently rich that I could just call in a tradesman at any hour of the day or night"

              Assuming there are any to call. Or if you manage to find somebody, living in the place you've never heard of, you'll have to fly him in at great expense. So much for the riches then.

              Hyperbole? Yes. But craftmanship is slowly fading away. There is already a shortage of people able to maintain critical infrastructure (ahem, mostly referred as the legacy stuff, which is still standing, despite desperate attempts to offload it to someone else), and the future may well go by the Asimov's Foundation series. Unless the lessons are learned early enough to reverse the underlying processes.

              Cherish the skill you have. Even if it won't make you rich today.

        2. Raedwald

          Re: Great headline!

          Some of us used to work at Martin & Newby's on Saturday mornings to finance vinyl purchases at lunchtime. And yes, we would sell sell nails in quantities of one.

        3. Raedwald

          Re: Great headline!

          Some of us who worked in Martin & Newby's on Saturdays were sixth formers with a vinyl habit to support, not old blokes. The cellars under the shop floor were reputedly left over from the monastery that had previously occupied the site.

        4. Naughtyhorse

          Re: Great headline!

          Not so sure, Maplins have always been.... tres expensive.

          Even when they just had a few shops i think about 10 or so in the 80's

          That said they were much easier to trade with than RS or Farnell that wanted trade only and all manner of proof that you had enough money to pay them.

          Still, the catalogues were always a damn good read :-)

      2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Great headline! re: prices

        It scares me how much their prices seem to have hiked in recent years.

        It's surprising how many retailers have responded to the threat posed by cheap online prices by increasing prices in-store.

        You can never find an economist when you need one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great headline! re: prices

          "You can never find an economist when you need one."

          You can and this has already been studied.

          So long as a large number of people do not have access to prices, price transparency doesn't operate efficiently. The high street shop that manages to charge the highest prices makes the most money from the fewest transactions, so stays in business. The one that tries to compete with transparent on line prices goes bust.

          This was studied with doctors in the US in the days before widespread medical insurance by very large companies. Small town doctors were much more expensive than busy city ones. Why? Because they had an idea of how much they expected to earn and priced accordingly, and people in small towns did not check prices in the city (or want to travel there for a surgery visit).

          1. Sarah Balfour

            Re: Great headline! re: prices

            Okay, I can sort of see your point, but that doesn't translate to behemoths like Tesco over here (and Wal-Mart in the US).

            We got a Tesco Extra here a few years ago (no fucker wanted it, but Tezza bunged Prezza a few squillion and we got it anyway - you may recall a news item regarding a railway bridge collapse in a small town in the Home Counties about 9 years ago - THAT was because the fucktards building the tunnel over the line decides to make the fecking thing SQUARE; now, I'm no civil engineer (I'm neither civil, nor an engineer ;oD) but even *I* know that a 'squared-off' arch is inherently weaker than an arced arch. Obviously the firm doing the engineering - whose name escapes me now - had failed Civil Engineering 101; they built the tunnel, dumped several megatonnes of asphalt on top - and then looked shocked when the whole thing collapsed faster than Berings Bank! It was mere minutes after the 18:05 from Brum to London had shot through - the vibration from the train was probably the straw that broke the concrete camel's back).

            So, unless I'm being extremely dense (and the old grey matter ain't functioning at the mo - think I've got 'blancmange brain' again, dammit!) we got Tesco and the family-run supermarket, bakery, and deli effectively went out of business (they've only really been salvaged by a link-up with Sainsbury's). Sharks will always swallow up minnows, because they've got the buying power (and they also rip their producers off; Tesco's just slashed the price of their milk from 35p a pint to 25p (in a 4pt canister) They claim this won't affect how much their farmers are paid - I call BS). In these straitened economic times, NOBODY is going to pay the 'Mum & Dad' store 45p a pint, when they can nip over the road and save 20p. The only times small concerns win out are if it's an obscure item (though Tesco are beginning to cater for the 'Tory-class' palette, stocking as they do quail, woodpigeon, grouse and pheasant, as well as venison, buffalo, boar and ostrich (I shit you not!). They DID backpedal rather rapidly on the foie gras, thankfully) or the big store's shut. Likewise, people will only pay higher high-street prices if they absolutely MUST have whatever it is *NOW*.

            Captive audience is another reason. If it'll cost more I'm petrol to go to the big Tesco out of town, which would, obviously, negate any savings made, then small local stores will survive.

            And, of course, this is all made all the more true by the fact we've a Tory govt.

            Apologies if I've missed the point, but I don't see how charging MORE makes good business acumen especially in the current economic climate. People don't have the money, so they'll find whatever they require at the cheapest price possible, therefore bricks and mortar are going to lose out to the 'net. Our kids will be showing their grandkids nostalgic photos of high-streets. Kids these days don't know the pleasure of popping to the corner shop for a Double-Dip, quarter of penny chews, an Aztec bar (showing my age now, ain't I…?) and the latest Smash Hits - and still having pocket-money left. It was flying saucers for me; where I used to live, we had posh ones - 2-tone saucers with FLAVOURED sherbet. Don't make 'em like THAT anymore. They were probably full of 'prohibited substances', but they never did US any harm… and if you were still young enough to be losing teeth, well a Wham! Bar would get it under yer piller that night, no worries…

            Okay, I'll shrrup now, I'm taking this WAY off-topic (again!). Apologies, once again, if it makes feck-all sense…

            1. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: Great headline! re: prices

              @ Sarah:

              We have a small supermarket in a local town. It is about the size of a Spar in the UK and is part of a national chain. The prices are about 20% higher for, well, everything that doesn't have a price printed on the box.

              I think they are working on the "captive audience" concept, public transport in rural France is limited and expensive, and towns around here are not close to each other so it will cost in petrol to go any distance for a better deal. So they mark up the prices because a sufficient number of people (still) put up with it.

              PS: You still get milk in pints? Over here it is about €1,10 a litre and the farmers are saying that's too little, so god knows how viable it is for your farmers. Problem is if the model is unsustainable, the low prices will cause suppliers to jack it in, which means less supply which means prices will rise. Everything needs to be reasonable and in balance. Messing up one part of the chain for a short term gain will cause problems in the long term. As you noted - a big supermarket moves in with lower prices, and the older shops in town die off...

        2. Terry Barnes

          Re: Great headline! re: prices

          "You can never find an economist when you need one."

          Convenience cost. You can buy cheaper online - but you're not - which must mean that your need is urgent and thus there's additional value to you in getting the thing now. Never be a panicked buyer.

      3. Irongut

        Re: Great headline!

        Pffft the noughties? I've been buying from Maplin since the 80s when they had no shops, just the catalogue, and their prices have always been expensive. Try comparing with the RS or Farnell websites and weep at how much Maplin have ripped you off over the years.

        This is nothing to do with having to pay staff, etc as another commentard mentions. They were expensive when they had no shops, and RS and Farnell have some shops too.

        1. PhilThompson

          Re: Great headline!

          Maplin always had a shop - the original one was in Wescliffe-on-Sea in Essex. As a teenager in the 70s I travelled down from Manchester to buy the case of the 4600 synthesiser I was building.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The 80's Maplins.

          The Maplin shop on Oxford Road in Manchester used to be a Holy Grail stop as a teenager. Kits for mono amplifiers and 'robots' I had only a vague idea how to build (and so never bought). And lots and lots of REAL electronic components, not the rebadged Far Eastern tat gadgets they're full of now.

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Great headline!

      Yup - I know that addiction well. It even gets worse if you're into electronics as well :)

      My best buy ever there was a remote control which elegantly solved the problem of losing it under the cushions on the sofa by being laughably large. I don't think I've bought anything of true *practical* value since :)

    3. Alan Edwards

      Re: Great headline!

      I think I'm at about a 50/50 useless to useful ratio from Maplin.

      I got a big mat of that sticky rubber stuff at least 10 years ago. I still have 90% left, and it's made mats for the oddments tray in 3 cars and a piece is stuck to the bottom of one of the remotes to stop it falling off the arm of an armchair.

      Their label remover spray is seriously good stuff too. It shifted the remains of one of those security labels once.

      However, I also have a box of 'ends' for a power supply that is still in the packet. They were bought for an enormous multi-voltage adapter (probably the only thing left on the planet that can charge a Nokia 2110) and never needed an 'end' that didn't come with it.

      I did get a pair of £9 Sennheiser headphones from there once (they were much better than they had any right to be), and bought a box of CD-R discs from them and walked back to the car and wrote the disc I wanted on the laptop.

      1. Delbert

        Re: Great headline!

        That sounds about right 50/50 split sadly though they have lost the plot in the same way Tandy did pricing themselves out of the market for those without urgent need. These days I check the 'specials' flyers when stuff actually gets marked down to the true street value. Why pay a couple of quid for a pretty blister pack with two plugs when you can buy 10 delivered for less money?

    4. Toastan Buttar

      You're not the first naked engineer to use that story.

      Obligatory Dilbert classic:

      http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1990-08-27/

  2. TheOtherHobbes

    Maplin catalogs from the 70s (ruh roh...) had Concorde, and improbable but shiny starships boldly delivering packs of 5% resistors to planets beyond the final frontier.

    Maplin catalogs from the 2010s have CCTV kits, SAD lightboxes for sad people, 5mW Special Mini Disco Laser Multipacks and Volcanic Heated Insoles.

    I can't help feeling this is not the future we were promised. [sniffs and wipes tear]

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      The future that wasn't

      Ah. The disappointments.

      One magazine from the late 50's, which shall remain nameless, had some bold visions of the future - by the year 1980 we would have flying cars (obviously), no poverty, no unhappiness, etc, etc.

      And...gasp...there are power lines running over the beautiful hills and valleys, on the pylons that are made out of PLASTICS!

      Well, screw those flying cars, screw those utopian societies, screw those frikkin-sharks-with-frikkin-lasers! I want my plastic pylons and I want them now!

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Re: The future that wasn't

        Your wish is my command :-)

        I build overhead lines for a living (well i do the easy bit in a nice warm office with a computer to do all the hard sums - other people actually bolt em together for me)

        And just this wekk i discovered that due to the projected scarceness of stout wood poles in 2015 we are shifting to a laminated plastic construction.

        this will be the thin end of the wedge, you mark my words, we'll have plastic pylons before you can say 'knife'

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: The future that wasn't

          Thank you, that's just wonderful. Being 35 years late is not a problem, no grand vision has ever arrived on time.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      The catalogue...

      also used have an enormous amount of information - sample circuits for the ICs, suggested ways of wiring things up, resistor colour codes reproduced in black and white...

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: The catalogue...

        Oh hell yes, now I remember the resistor colour codes... in black and white. And other gems such as sample circuits that somehow got mirrored in printing or not-so-carefully (or was it a ploy to buy more) skipped power regulating components.

      2. Naughtyhorse

        Non PC colour code

        0 Bad

        1 Boys

        2 Rape

        3 Our

        4 Young

        5 Girls

        6 But

        7 Virgins

        8 Go

        9 Without

        1. Boothy

          Re: Non PC colour code

          @ Non PC colour code

          For 9, we always used "Willingly" instead.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All too true

      Though I laughed out loud, I also share your disappointment. Those of us who enjoyed the 70s are now approaching our 70s... Hopefully we'll retain the ability to laugh at ourselves.

  3. John 110

    Two words (and an ellipsis)

    Tandy catalogue...

    1. Martin Huizing

      Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

      You're killing me! Had the trs80 in it and the got it for xmas. Best present ever.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

      Used to work for 'em.

      5 resistors for £1.79.

    3. Stoneshop Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

      Ouch.

      Back around 1980 Rat Shack decided to inflictintroduce their shops onto the Dutch electronics hobbyists. Which market didn't exactly have a gap urgently needing filling anyway, back then. Add to that the prices, apparently set by having each component handled individually every step of the way from manufacturing to shop shelf, and sent first class airmail from Taiwan via the US to Europe, the shop assistants' excruciating cluelessness, whose collective IQ would still be less than their smallest shoe size (in US unit), and the horrible ratio of usable stuff to unmitigated tat, made them last not even a year.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

        Oddly, Tandy started as a shoemaker in the US.

        Intertan - what it did enable me to do was to get instant employment in Canada for the BUNAC scheme. And yes, Frank, it is me if you read this and think, "Do I know that guy?"

        1. PaulWizard
          Unhappy

          Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

          I used to love Tandys. Spent many a lunch time in there buying electrical bits and bobs, that I may or may not have needed. Then they dropped most of their range of electronics components (apart from a few resistors and 555 timers) and concentrated more on consumer tat and mobile phones. Not many years after they pretty much vanished. Maplins went from catalogue to shop so I got a new haunt. Now it seems that Maplins have decided to go down the consumer tat route, I just wonder if they learnt anything from Tandys demise? So who will be next when Maplins disappears? Rapid?

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

            Ah yes. The bottom 1500 IIRC. Many hours of fun stocktaking on a Sunday, pegboards around the back of the store, sorting the packets out onto the right peg and reading out the stock codes to the manager's wife who was ticking them off on a mahoosive pile of green and white lined 12" fanfold. The top 400 was the microwaves, tvs, hi-fis, computers etc. I used to know all the stock code series... can't quite recall now... 15- was for TV + HiFi? 479- was resistors? Damn.

            Anyway, you're right. Maplin are likely to go the same way. I recall a manager's meeting once where they showed the Christmas advertising campaign. All very modest, old-Argos like advert - a conveyor belt of goods with prices. What actually came out on TV that year was an 80s neon acid trip with a legging-clad girl wearing a Walkman-clone walking a dalmatian through puddle lined streets whilst a radio controlled monster truck splashed up and down the kerb and various characters sauntered past enjoying their tech gear. Cue the queue of people in the new year who were bringing back the RC monster truck as it wasn't waterproof...

            1. Synonymous Howard

              Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

              Yup .. 26 series for the TRS-80 stuff. I was a part-timer there for 5 years in the early 80s (got a gold TC pin and everything) ... learnt programming there and even wrote a stock control system for the local store that ran on the Model 3 ... ahh those lovely yellow hand written receipts (typing them in on the system at the end of the day).

              Stock takes were fun .. trying to do it faster than before ... climbing around the 'stock room' which typically consisted of rather dodgy wooden racks in a 20 foot square bit at the back of the shop.

              Counting thousands of pounds out on the floor on Christmas Eve after managing to push people out of the door so we could close on time.

              Happy Days ... although I did recycle all my wages back on their stuff 8-/ (but I got the pick of the 'sales' and 'discontinued' items .. still have the original TRS-80 Model I .. and a top of the range logic-controlled tape deck picked up for £25)

              1. A Man from Venus

                Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

                Ah yes, I forgot the pin, I was quite prod of it at the time, I think it's in a box of assorted tat in the spare room now

            2. A Man from Venus

              Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

              I seem to remember it as top 400 and bottom 16(hundred), was 42 series audio interconnects etc, I think 274 series were assorted plugs and adaptors, off the top of my head I though resistors were 279 but I could well be wrong. . . it's > 20 years ago after all.

          2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

            So who will be next when Maplins disappears? Rapid?

            http://www.conrad.com/ ?

    4. Anonymous John

      Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

      Ah yes. Tandy. Didn't they invent the "£=$" concept?

      1. Irony Deficient

        Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

        Anonymous John, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 is a more likely source for that. (Sellers have greater responsibilities in the UK than in the US, and it looks as though they’re compensated for that by equating £ with $.)

    5. The First Dave

      Re: Two words (and an ellipsis)

      For the love of $Deity, stay away from the RS catalogue(s)!

  4. GregC

    Yup, Maplin syndrome

    Although my affliction is less severe - I am able to walk past if I am disciplined about it.

    However if I do go in it's game over. Money will be spent, on something I will never need and will probably stop working within hours, or days at best.

  5. Scott K

    Scary,

    It's almost as if you're inside my brain!

  6. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Gotta' love Maplin

    The reason I like Maplin is that it reminds me of my garden shed - full interesting techno stuff that serves no real practical purpose to my life, but with better decor and heating.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Gotta' love Maplin

      I presume you are implying that your shed has better decor... and if it's a proper man-shed, heating as well.

    2. Elmer Phud

      Re: Gotta' love Maplin

      "The reason I like Maplin is that it reminds me of my garden shed"

      I've never tripped over half a bag of solid readymix in Maplins

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Ah, yes, Maplins...

    "Of course this is a compatible IC, sir, it has the same number of legs..."

  8. deshepherd

    There's a Simpsons quote for this

    Homer: We'll search out every place a sick twisted solitary misfit might run to.

    Lisa: I'll start with Radio Shack.

  9. Grease Monkey

    "This is the magical period during the working day that American psychologists call "personal time", British wage-slaves refer to as "lunch hour" and which only the French get right by making it last twice as long."

    IMHO the French get it totally wrong. I was horrified that my new employer enforces a full hour's lunch break. I haven't had to take the full hour since about 1988. I'd much rather take half an our (legal minimum and all that) and get home half an hour earlier. Actually I'd rather take nothing other than drink and piss breaks and get home even earlier, but the law demands that I am given half an hour and must take it.

    Even if you happen to work in town rather than an out of town "business park" wandering round the same old shops every day gets old after a few weeks. If you work, as I do, in a motorway-side business park you've killed all the time you're going to in buying and eating a sandwich and the rest is enforced web browsing, reading, or whatever. Time that could be much better spend if you weren't at work.

    Lunch breaks of over 15 minutes? Waste of time. And in your case, money.

    Even more annoying is the fact that working as I do about ten minutes from work the temptation is to come home at lunch time and thus spend twenty minutes travelling every lunch time.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Having exhausted the entertainment potential of my work town,

      I just pop in some earphones, and take a walk. It does you good to get away from your desk, rest your eyes, and take in some fresh air.

      Good grief, that sounded smug - maybe I should take up jogging!

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Happy

      "which only the French get right by making it last twice as long"

      Taking less than an hour over what the French consider a good lunch is a crime against culinary art. Simply relaxing under the Provencal sunshine whilst savouring first class food is an excellent way to relax and unwind (I realize that it can rain in France as well ;-) ).

      Mind you, they are clueless about breakfast. For breakfast, bring on the British! Bring on the bacon, sausage, fried bread, eggs, baked beans ... THE WORKS!!

      Maybe the French need their extensive lunch because they eat a tiny bit of bread and jam for breakfast, so when lunchtime arrives they are half starved. The British, being fortified at breakfast with a much bigger meal can survive off the odd sarnie for lunch.

      Darn, I'm hungry now!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "personal time"

      Did anyone else snigger?

    4. Synonymous Howard

      I thought it was a 15 minute break every 4 hours? .. so 15 minutes at 'lunch time' and then home even earlier.

      1. Grease Monkey

        30 minutes out of every six hours. So that's a maximum of five and a half hours without a break. I think we got that from europe. But on past form we're probably the only country who adheres to it.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge

    90s ???

    I discovered Maplin in the 70s. In conjunction with Electronics Today International. Drooling over pictures of the monophonic synthesiser you could build, and a pre-Sinclair computer of some description.

    In those days, they were a mail-order only outfit AFAICR. And there was intense rivalry between Maplin-ers, and Tandy-ers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "In conjunction with Electronics Today International. "

      And, for the upmarket end of town, Elektor. Still around too.

      On the other hand, ETI begat Computing Today, and look where that led.

      OK, Elektor wins.

      "[Maplin] were a mail-order only outfit AFAICR"

      I think so too. Until recently I still had the green-covered catalogue with the Concorde on the front (?).

      Before Maplin there was Home Radio. Who else remembers them?

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: "In conjunction with Electronics Today International. "

        Before Maplin there was Home Radio. Who else remembers them?

        And Watford Electronics. And Henry's.

        Still, if you can't leave Maplin without buying something, you should try Fry's in the US: http://www.frys.com/

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: "In conjunction with Electronics Today International. "

          And Watford Electronics. And Henry's.

          Henry's had an actual shop in Edgware Road. In the late 1970s I worked in Westbourne Grove, near the shop of Zaerex Valves, another regular advertiser in Practical Wireless. One night the shop burned down - probably the sensible course for a valve supplier in the solid-state age.

          1. Fr. Ted Crilly

            Re: "In conjunction with Electronics Today International. "

            One word, 'Proops'

            I still have surgical forceps and assorted dental picks and probes bought in the V early 80's.

            1. Michael Dunn
              Thumb Up

              Re: "In conjunction with Electronics Today International. " @ Fr. Ted Crilly

              "One word, 'Proops'" Now you're talking. Remember Smiths of Edgeware Road - cases and cases of EF50's; and all the 'surplus' shops in Newport Street cheek by jowl with St John's Hospital. We actually used a fair amount of 'surplus' gear at work, adapting some of those aerial cameras as recorders for oscilloscopes. Gernsback's Radio Electronics, Wireless World were my staple reading on the train home from work long before ETI came out; they were only 2/6 each at W H Smith's in Victoria station.

              Mind you, the department I worked in did still have a couple of gold-plated quartz fibre electrocardiographs wirg rgeir massive magbets - sadly no longer in use their place having been taken by the Almqvist and subsequent 'tronic models.

        2. DuncanF

          Re: "In conjunction with Electronics Today International. "

          >> And Watford Electronics. And Henry's.

          I remember my Mum driving me down to Watford Electronics when they were in Cardiff Road in Watford on a Sunday morning. Tiny little shop. Queues out the door. Hobbyists picking up chunky old 0.5W carbon resistors, Mullard "tropical fish" capacitors and glass bodied OC transistors!! I am that old ...

          BiPak were another mail order supplier I remember

        3. Ivan Headache

          Henry's

          There's still a Henry's in the Edgware Road, same location for the last 40-odd years. Not sure if it's the same ownership though as all the other shops seem to have gone.

          Then there was Lasky's (the length of TCR)!

          I've still got a load of Bulgin plugs (but no sockets) bought from Home Radio.

          With regard to Maplin prices, they were the cheapest place to buy the little half-length lithium PRAM batteries for the original iMacs. I seem to remember buying them at about £3.90 or thereabouts. Now they are over £9.00 - which is a bit steep when I can buya pack of 4 AA Lithium Enenergisers for less than £6.00.

      2. Neil 44

        Re: "In conjunction with Electronics Today International. "

        >> "[Maplin] were a mail-order only outfit AFAICR"

        No they DID have one shop - in London Road, Westcliffe-on-sea in the mid 1970s

        My mother in law lived just round the corner from them :)

        Also in the area were Scientific and Technical who sold all the tat that you didn't want by mail order ...

        (Still waiting for a calm, dry day to try out my Christmas present : a radio controlled helicopter - from Maplin!!!)

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: 90s ???

      How can you compare '70s Maplin to Tandy?

      Maplin actually sold the components you wanted, and also put together the kits of parts from the ETI projects to save you having to order them seperately yourself. And the catalogue was as good as a reference book when it came to the pin-outs for transistors and that 74LS105 and 4114 static memory that you were soldering on to the project you were making out of Vero-board.

      If you went in to Tandy, all that you came out with was a realization that they were not really an electronics store. You only used Tandy when they had the week long cumulative 10% discount per day sales that they needed to have in order to clear the stuff they could not sell full price, or you were so desperate for a component that you would risk disappointment because they did not have what you needed.

      And for the people who mention Radio Spares and Farnell, at that time you had to have a trade account before they would even send you a catalogue, let alone sell something to you! For the hobbiest, Watford Electronics were the only real mail-order alternative, although they did run from a shop on Watford High Street which was a real blast to visit because of all the miscellaneous useful junk they had there.

      Unfortunately, Maplin today are a shadow of what they used to be. If you want specific components (last time I wanted a set of capacitors to repair the power supply in an out-of-warranty Sky HD box - yes a Thompson one) they did not have all of the values I needed, so I had to go somewhere else. All they appear to have now are the component grab-bags, a small number of kits, many dating back to the ETI days, some tools and various gadgets you can buy cheaper elsewhere.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: 90s ???

        "For the hobbiest, Watford Electronics"

        Somewhere in my attic is a complement slip from Watford Electronics with a hand written note (in red felt pen) stating that "this a a credit note for 4p due to price changes since your order was placed"

    3. David Bradshaw

      Re: 90s ???

      I'm chuffed that someone still remembers Electronics Today International. For my sins, I was the editor or ETI for a while, though it was at the end of the 70s...

  11. John Riddoch
    Terminator

    I still have a guitar amp I bought from Maplins catalogue about 1990. Still works fine :)

    1. Grease Monkey

      I remember trying out all the guitar amps that Maplin sold back about 1988/89 then and not a one of them "worked fine" new. The tone of every one of them was awful. Sure most were cheaper than the Lead 12 Stack I bought in the end, but that sounded fantastic the Maplin kit didn't.

      Those Maplin things were worse than the much cheaper things you could get from discount shops and mail order catalogues. Which sums up an awful lot of Maplin's stock. It's sheap and nasty stuff sold at an elevated price.

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Excellent! Just one small question. Do you own a guitar?

    3. Toastan Buttar

      Guitar amp

      Tandy sold a tiny 'guitar amp' during the '80s. It was quite sought-after as a distortion unit. Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics loved it.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two way adapters

    "I now have exactly twice as many two-way electrical plug adaptors as I do devices that require plugging in."

    Yet I guarantee that as soon as you need one, you will not find one free.

    1. Ivan Headache

      Re: Two way adapters

      And then, after christmas, you'll find them all where the wife put them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two way adapters

        >where the wife put them

        If only.

        Once my wife moves something, that's it, gone forever. And if there is one certainty in the universe it is that if you ask her where she's put it, wherever she says, it will not be there.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Two way adapters

          "...if you ask her where she's put it, wherever she says, it will not be there."

          What- you don't get "I haven't touched it." Even if if you saw her with it?

          1. deshepherd

            Re: Two way adapters

            What- you don't get "I haven't touched it." Even if if you saw her with it?

            I just get the oh-so-helpful "well, I haven't thrown it out so it will be in the house somewhere"

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Two way adapters

          Then ask her where she hasn't put it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two way adapters

      My 'bedroom' has eight outlet sockets. Plugged into those are six extension leads and two three-way adaptors. (30) I have three vacant sockets left, and most of the stuff that is plugged in with 13 amp plugs draw less than 300mA anyway.

      How dare you have too many adaptors! No-one has too many adaptors and never will until someone standardised a low voltage home rail circuit to replace the exponentially growing population of adaptors for everything since someone figured out that it was a neat way of reducing heat in stuff.

      Did you see that? I very nearly exploded there. I had to say goodbye to an old amp that thoughtfully provided power outlets to everything connected to it and it cost me six sockets!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: stuff that is plugged in with 13 amp plugs draw less than 300mA anyway.

        "a low voltage home rail circuit to replace the exponentially growing population of adaptors for everything since someone figured out that it was a neat way of reducing heat in stuff."

        Power over Ethernet. You know it makes sense (even if the stuff has no need for LAN connectivity, the Ethernet socket with a 75c PoE chip behind it is (to my eyes) a very sensible way of getting more-than-USB power (20W or so maybe, realistically?) to a variety of small devices without each needing a different wallwart.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: stuff that is plugged in with 13 amp plugs draw less than 300mA anyway.

          >No-one has too many adaptors and never will until someone standardised a low voltage home rail circuit

          You do realise that the lower the voltage the larger amount of energy is lost as heat?

          At least a good number of my 'wall-warts' are USB-based these days, so phones, mice, tablets, ereaders etc are catered for. Half the time you don't need the wall-wart because there will be a device (PC, TV, stero etc) near by that has a USB socket.

          A 12v standard would be nice, but to be honest I don't have much in the way of 12v kit... and in any case, I guess 12v kit might vary too much in the amount of current it draws.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: stuff that is plugged in with 13 amp plugs draw less than 300mA anyway.

            "You do realise that the lower the voltage the larger amount of energy is lost as heat?"

            ?

            Switched mode power supplies can be designed so the same power supply barely cares whether the input (or output) is 5V, 12V, or somewhere higher. And they're efficient too, largely regardless of the input and output voltages.

            Or did you have something else in mind?

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: stuff that is plugged in with 13 amp plugs draw less than 300mA anyway.

              >Or did you have something else in mind?

              Sorry, I wasn't very clear. I meant energy lost in the cabling between the end device and the step-down transformer.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: stuff that is plugged in with 13 amp plugs draw less than 300mA anyway.

                "the step-down transformer."

                You do realise that practically no routine consumer or professional electronics device powered from the mains has used *transformers* in power supplies for the last decade or more? Switched mode rules. Cheap, compact, cheap, flexible, cheap, high efficiency, cheap, and above all, cheap. Even wall-warts tend to be switched mode these days. They're cheap, you see.

            2. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge
          Boffin

          No, PoE's a very bad idea for this.

          The problem is that there aren't enough sockets, so replacing something that can be daisychained (multiple BS1363 four-ways) with something that's purely radial (so massive bundle of cable) is going the wrong way.

          Aside from that, PoE is only 13W anyway, and even the new PoE+ is only ~20W after cable losses. As the wattage increases the efficiency drops rapidly due to the thin wires in Cat5/5e/6.

          10W USB sockets could actually replace most of the adapters in an average home.

          You can already buy a big block of 'fast charge' USB sockets for not very much - eg This one from Maplin. (Oh no...)

          That EU idea of standardising laptop PSUs is basically the only hope of more-than-10W supplies. Once you have a standard voltage and connector the market cna provide.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No, PoE's a very bad idea for this.

            10W USB sockets could actually replace most of the adapters in an average home.

            And if you're handy with a soldering iron, it's also easy to re-purpose an old PC power supply to power quite a few 5v and 12v devices (or other values that can be made up by combining the 3v3, +/-5v and +/-12v rails). It's a whole lot cheaper than a proper bench supply, but quite adequate for a lot of uses. The older ATX standard supplies more current on the 5v rail, so it's quite suitable for the plethora of 5v devices (like Pis, phones, tablets, etc.) around now, so providing the PSU still works, even ancient PCs can have some salvage value.

            Extra credit for running a small controller (eg, 'duino or Pi) off standby voltage and using it to switch on/off the main PSU transformer and/or individual power outputs so you can remotely switch devices on/off as needed to save on leccy costs.

          2. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: No, PoE's a very bad idea for this.

            I was surprised at how efficient and cheap DC-DC converters are these days (a byproduct of switchmode supplies becoming commonplace I think). A rail at 24 or 48v, short circuit protected (thus allowing lower insulation requirements and less fire risk than mains) with switchmode voltage converters at point of use. Maybe even with a data pair allowing the device to request the correct voltage from the outlet?

            Yes, another standard, but with modern trends, maybe a good idea?

  13. Chozo

    psst.. want something more hardcore? try an RS catalogue ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Farnell

      What about Farnell.

      1. Luke McCarthy

        Re: Farnell

        or Digikey

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: Farnell

          And what ever happened to Verospeed?

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Farnell

            Mouser. It's all US though.

        2. Neil 44

          Re: Farnell

          I have a Digikey JACKET!! (from Thief River Falls in Minnesota).

          Went there on business once and they gave me one of their staff jackets!

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      rs catalogue

      You remember when I said I already had a perfectly good supplier?

  14. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Boffin

    Maplin...

    Ikea for the technophile.

    Can't walk out of that bloody place either without a bag full of stuff I didn't need when I went in. Plus of course there's the additional lure there of the damn meatballs.

    1. Annihilator

      Re: Maplin...

      "Plus of course there's the additional lure there of the damn meatballs"

      They have those in Maplin too. They're the ones asking you every 15 seconds if you need any help and lying to you about product features.

      1. RainbowTrout

        Re: Maplin...

        "They're the ones asking you every 15 seconds if you need any help and lying to you about product features".

        We get the same kind of "help" here in the US at the lamentable "Radio Shack" but here they are trying to sell you a cell phone plan. Sad to see so many of them closing but they are not the store they were 15 years ago for replacement components etc.

    2. roytrubshaw
      Happy

      Re: Maplin...

      "Can't walk out of that bloody place either without a bag full of stuff I didn't need when I went in."

      You mean you know of an IKEA store where you can actually pay for stuff before your credit/debit card has expired?

      At least in Maplins I never have to wait to be served.

      Best thing I ever bought were some replacement drivers for my spare speakers and a couple of pretty nice passive crossover circuits and all for less that 30 quid.

      1. Steve Foster

        @roytrubshaw

        "You mean you know of an IKEA store where you can actually pay for stuff before your credit/debit card has expired?"

        There are two key items of knowledge for successfully visiting an Ikea store in less than three lifetimes:

        a) where the internal shortcuts are (so that you aren't forced to circumnavigate the building), and

        b) never, under any circumstances, visit after 4pm or on a weekend.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RS?

    I get turned on with the Screwfix catalogue. (it's got bricks in it)

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: RS?

      (see icon). git.

    2. AdamT

      Re: RS?

      What about Machine Mart? Where do you stand on that?

      1. Phil_Evans

        Re: RS?

        I don't believe he stands for anything, he's walking past.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RS?

        What about Machine Mart? Where do you stand on that?

        The Machine Mart catalogue? I have to make sure I only read it sitting down so I can hide quite how excited I am.

  16. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    Time is an illusion...

    Lunch time doubly so...

    Just be glad there is no Akihabara where you live - I once lost several days around there, I was found in Yodobashi Camera. Its crystal meth for tech heads.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the hardware bollocking did require matrix broad

    Ahhhh, Carrie-Anne Moss in PVC ...

  18. hugo tyson
    Stop

    Maplins real purpose...

    Very much NSFW:

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/maplin-is-where-men-meet-for-sex-2014013183134

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Maplins real purpose...

      Haha!

      Eleanor Shaw of Bristol, whose husband is a Maplin regular, said: “I knew he couldn’t need that many external hard drives. Deep down, I knew it.

      “It even has pulsing disco lights in the window.”

  19. Tromos

    I must be cutting down.

    So far this year, I seem to have only acquired:

    16GB microSD

    4TB External drive

    Marble run game (half-price Manager's Special - couldn't resist)

    A long standing addiction I'm afraid, started nearly half a century ago in establishments such as Henrys of Edgware Road and Proops of Tottenham Court Road. True caves of Aladdin they were.

    1. Andrew Newstead

      Re: I must be cutting down.

      We still have an establishment like that in Derby, R F Potts (Bob's to most of us).

      Wonderful place and worse than Maplin's for great stuff. Even the Maplin's in Derby refers people to Bob's if they don't have it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I must be cutting down.

        I remember the first time I wandered into R F Potts, I can't recall what I was looking for though but I hadn't been in Derby for long. It was actually a startling experience, a moment of acute self-awareness as I realised this was no ordinary store and that I was being eyed by the other customers - or staff, it was impossible to tell. I was out of my depth, and disorientation quickly set in as stock seemed to be crammed anywhere and everywhere in no particular order. In the end I think I made a show of browsing before making a hasty exit back outside to the real world feeling certain I'd made a lucky escape.

        It's been a few years since I've been to Bob's, and I've no idea if it's changed at all in that time. Maybe I'll pop in there again this weekend, after all I'm a local now so I should be safe ...

        As far as those 'gems' of stores which seem to have defied time and competition from the big boys, there's a family run hardware store local to me which is an aladdin's cave, if they have what you're looking for - and they almost always do - it's always cheaper than B&Q, Screwfix etc. What makes it really great though is that you can still buy screws, nails etc individually - no matter the size, material or style. No more buying packs of 10, 25, 50 screws when you only needed 2.

      2. Synonymous Howard

        Re: I must be cutting down.

        Ooohhh .. haven't heard of R F Potts before ... will have to have a butchers soon.

  20. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Joke

    Where's doggie?

    Ultrasonic dog-chaser: A totally practical gadget for any central London office

    Look around you - are there any dogs in the office snarling and waiting to tear your throat out?

    No? Well it obviously works then ;)

  21. Tom 11

    Arrghgghghghg MAAPLIIIIIIIIIIIN

    Robot kits, hover bots, soldering makes, home disco. What is not to love? I went in for screen wipes yesterday and came out with a Corsair K60 keyboard, a 64gb flash drive and the wipes and had to stop myself on the quadrocopter as I could not think of a feasible way to expense it :(

    1. Annihilator
      Happy

      Re: Arrghgghghghg MAAPLIIIIIIIIIIIN

      " I went in for screen wipes yesterday"

      What, had you run out of bog roll and spit? What's wrong with you!!

    2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Arrghgghghghg MAAPLIIIIIIIIIIIN

      Speaking of hover-stuff, saw this yesterday and it gave a good laugh (and is quite well done):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4vE_vpkr90

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Arrghgghghghg MAAPLIIIIIIIIIIIN

        Remember the old 'pan books of horror stories' many years ago that had about 30/40 short horror/sci-fi stories in each volume?

        I read one once whereby a group of USA scientists were shown a film smuggled out of the USSR showing an anti-gravity machine in action, and they were given 6 months (or so) to create the same type of thing.

        Of course, after the time limit they did succeed - then it was revealed to them right on the last page of the story that the film was a fake, and was just used for motivation in that if they believed it, then it must be possible.

        Great old books.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Arrghgghghghg MAAPLIIIIIIIIIIIN

          I think that was Arthur C Clarke, Tales of the White Hart - but I could be wrong.

          If I am, just read that anyway- it's well worth it!

        2. A J Stiles

          Re: Arrghgghghghg MAAPLIIIIIIIIIIIN

          At least one invention of the Industrial Revolution was created after seeing Baron von Kempelen's "Turk" chess-playing "automaton". (Which was reckoned to be a fake.)

  22. chivo243 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Matrix Broad?

    Wasn't that Trinity?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Matrix Broad?

      That was my first thought. A pity Maplin don't sell them.. But, mmmmmm, there's a pleasant thought to while away a lunch hour with.

    2. Luke McCarthy

      Re: Matrix Broad?

      I guess he's referring to perfboard

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Matrix Broad?

        Thank you, Captain Obvious

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Matrix Broad?

        Pervboard?

      3. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Matrix Broad?

        Veroboard, you insensitive clod!

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Matrix Broad?

          Who remembers wirewrapping?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Matrix Broad?

            "Who remembers wirewrapping?"

            Trinity wrapped in wire? I didn't see the film that was in, but I'll look out for it.

            This sub thread is just getting better and better.

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Matrix Broad?

            I learnt wire wrapping just last year.

            Was a lot faster and much less error prone than stripboard, I quite enjoyed it.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wot? No Helicopters?

    I'm very surprised that you haven't succumbed to a remote control helicopter or a disco light. I have several.....

  24. Emo

    Try living near scan.co.uk!

  25. Lamont Cranston
    Thumb Up

    Very amusing.

    I tend to find that I go in Maplin a lot, but leave empty handed as, if I pop in for a browse, I've enough self-control to avoid picking up armloads of crap, but if I pop in for something specific, they either haven't got it, or have it at too high a price.

  26. Doozer

    Im glad I live near CPC

    I went into Maplins the other day for a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable and they were asking £11.99.

    I drove about 4 miles to CPC and got the same cable for £1.19 (plus vat).

    Even with the cost of fuel I saved a fortune.

    Dabbsy would be in heaven if he went in their. Or he would go bankrupt quickly!!

  27. 080

    DO NOT LOOK AT THIS

    If like me you are hard core Maplin (or RS or Screwfix) fan, whatever you do don't go to bangood.com, it will take up all your spare time.

  28. Dr_N Silver badge

    If you think Maplins is bad ...

    ... for your self control, never go to Fry's in the US.

    It's a veritable hypermarket of tech tat.

    1. Number6

      Re: If you think Maplins is bad ...

      I was in there this morning. They've been rearranging the local one, so the big signs hanging from the roof aren't necessarily above the items you'd expect. Still, it's a good excuse to wander round even more. Some of them are themed, too, the San Jose one and the Palo Alto ones spring to mind here.

  29. James Boag

    Cured !

    My name is James and im a crap-o-holic,

    It's been 3 weeks since i was in a maplin store.

    Now i just mainline sorry just order direct form China !

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Cured !

      I almost bought a load of cheap cheerful junk from China last week, but I took so long assembling my order that the website cleared by virtual shopping basket. I escaped!

      I haven't yet placed an order - let alone be in a position to recommend them after receiving my goods - but banggood.com is somewhere I can waste a lot of time just looking at things.

      1. Synonymous Howard

        Re: Cured !

        banggood is good, odd juxtaposition of electronics and ladies wear though ... however can't stop ebaying for arduino bits at the moment.

  30. Joefish
    Happy

    My wallet is glad I don't live in a town

    With a LEGO brand store in the town centre.

    Even so with the Maplin I have a small stash of logic chips and matrix board that will constitute a miracle if they ever get built into what they were meant for - and that's a home-made Kempston joystick interface!

  31. Bad Fish
    Happy

    Cheaper is worse ...

    My problem is that I've discovered that anything I want from Maplin (LEDs, transistors, resistors, bits of wire,...) can be bought from China on Ebay for half the price per unit. Provided, of course, that I buy a bag of 100 instead of just the one that I need... I just keep telling myself that of course I will get round to using the other 99 some other time.

  32. ukgnome

    Maplins is crack to tech whores

    I want to call you Mr Dabbs, by every expletive I know! And what should prompt such a reaction, well duh!

    You see it's Friday, and on Fridays I am more open to suggestion. So before even commenting I found myself browsing on the maplins website and immediately thinking about this....L68BH

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Maplins is crack to tech whores

      I heartily recommend brother labelling machines.

      Bought a PT85 from Maplin in 1997, it's still working fine, and the tapes are still fairly easily available.

      With the amount I use it, it lasts a good year on a set of AA batteries too :-)

  33. Oldgroaner
    Happy

    Fatal attraction

    Online there's Proto-Pic -- like being given the key to the sweetshop. And your order arrives in a useful plastic box.

    1. Synonymous Howard

      Re: Fatal attraction

      Oooh .. another useful one ... now where's the credit card gone ... "wifey, where have you put my wallet? No, honest I'm not going to buy anything, I just want to look at my card numbers."

    2. Return To Sender

      Re: Fatal attraction

      Hadn't heard of that one either... hang on...

      Ooh - right on the front page; the bench PSU I've been telling myself for *years* it'd be a good idea to have. And slotted aluminium extrusions; just wow!

  34. petur
    Happy

    DX

    I get the same thing when visiting the DealXtreme website :)

  35. Ketlan
    Happy

    No Maplins within walking distance but...

    "And where does the average slipper-and-cardigan home computer owner find matrix board, resistors and the like in the mid-1990s?"

    Tandy (Radio Shack). I managed one of their stores for three ghastly years and while they may be the shittiest of companies from the point of view of the employee, for a geek/nerd they were the resistor/capacitor/componentofyourchoice wet dream. Even now, donkey's years after I left that shit-ridden company, I find it hard to resist (hah - geddit?) going in and rummaging through the bubblepacks of goodies while drooling and fondling everything in sight*.

    *I appreciate that this makes me sound a bit weird but fuck you, I don't care.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: No Maplins within walking distance but...

      "And where does the average slipper-and-cardigan home computer owner find matrix board, resistors and the like in the mid-1990s?"

      Barton Brothers, if you were lucky enough to live in Coventry. They had *everything*, even the valves for my Dad's old early 60s-era Echo telly (repurposed for experiments after the shift to 625 lines only).

      But you had to know what you needed 'cos they were a counter and back room place, not a supermarket shelves and stealing one. I restocked my Phillps Electronic Engineer kit from them when wires snapped off LDRs or capacitors due to too much re-use.

  36. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    He keeps a box of unnecessary cable extensions, adapters and gadgets under his desk at home, another in the garage and three more at work, despite the fact that half the contents are racing towards obsolescence while the other half is so old and pointless that they could be sold as collectors’ items.

    Ah, erm. I think I may, just possibly, on a tiniest smidgin of an off-chance... have a similar affliction.

  37. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    eBay

    ... while the other half is so old and pointless that they could be sold as collectors’ items.

    Thank God, there is eBay and an outlet to buy and sell said obsolescent crap.

    There is still a market for, say, graphics cards that allows your monochrome compact mac to display greyscale, and in this case, a very healthy market. One might even get half the original starting price.

    I empathize with the box of cables and gadgets. Mine are filled with SCSI drives, MO-disks and drives, NuBus cards as well as many other things I could never afford back in 1990.

  38. Peter 53

    A mere 5 boxes?

    Not to mention boxes of 'practical wireless' magazines, featuring "take 20", and also 'Practical Electronics', 'Wireless world' (for serious people), 'elektor'

  39. Robert Sneddon Bronze badge

    M and B Radio

    Anyone from Leeds remember that place when they had the M2 machine gun set up as an anti-shoplifting precaution? I don't know if it's still in business, I've not been in Leeds city centre for a few years now.

    1. Jon127

      Re: M and B Radio

      Sadly M & B are long gone. The place is now a newsagent. Fortunately there's the Farnell trade counter just down the road, which contains shelves full of discounted returns which you often end up spending more on than the stuff you'd gone to pick up. (Who can resist a bargain!?)

  40. earl grey Silver badge
    Happy

    No Maplins around here

    At least not on this side of the pond. Nor the other establishments mentioned at all. I have to get my fix at the hardware store and the resellers of used tat where i can find not only the hardware, but the tools to take it all apart; er, I mean, fix things. Yeah, that's it.

  41. Kevoc
    Unhappy

    Dammit

    Dammit, I'm jealous. I work out in the suburbs and haven't ready access to a Maplins or any similar retailer. Generally 'lunchtime' is spent carrying out virtual nerd window shopping – nowhere near as instantly gratifying as hitting the old bricks and mortar shops.

  42. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Alternative electronics retailers are available.

    I only ever use Maplin for 'distress purchases' - like when it's 15:00 on a Sunday, you're miles from home, and the ferret's just played tug-of-war with the TOSLink cable.

    Thankfully for most things there are other proper components/goodies providers available via that new thing called "The Interwebs" - allegedly made from string and Badger's paws - that I hear talked about.

    Farnell, CPC, Digi-Key, Mouser... the first two of them even do free shipping to UK addresses if your order's valued at anything more than trivial.

    Alas the *proper* electronics surplus stores - A.H. Supplies, GWM Radio down in Hove, Thacker's in Cheslyn Hay - where you bought stuff by weight and needed a sack-truck to move it - are no more.

  43. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Ap Liu Street in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong

    A whole street of various tech shops, with a tech street market down the middle.

    If your wallet survives that, the Golden Computer Shopping Centre is just a short walk the other side of the main road (if you reach Fuk Wing Street, you've gone too far).

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Ap Liu Street in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong

      if you reach Fuk Wing Street, you've gone too far

      I'm sure many a young man has thought that in the cold light of the morning after...

  44. Bigbird3141
    Thumb Up

    I still have the joystick-port-controlled speech synthesizer for my Atari 800 that I made from Maplin parts in the mid-eighties. Those old catalogues were great...

  45. Fihart

    Overpriced and no longer over here.

    The best thing that can be said about Maplins is that it's not Radio Shack (aka Tandy) which died in the UK about 10 years ago.

    However, anyone living in North West London would, in my opinion, be better off heading to Cricklewood Electronics, perhaps the last real hobbyist electronics shop in this part of London. For example, components such as capacitors are sold there loose in wider variety and at better prices than you'd expect to pay for pre-packs.

    1. John Lawton

      Re: Overpriced and no longer over here.

      I remember buying bags of transistors by mail order in the '70's from BI-PAK Semiconductors.

      In Cambridge we are lucky to still have H Gee in Mill Road, a local electronics emporium still stacked with component drawers. See here: http://we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2009/09/parrworld-the-collection-of-ma.php#.Uxo8Kt95S5M (scroll down to the bottom). I have been shopping here for forty years, in that time Tandy has been and gone. We still have two Maplin shops here.

  46. Phil_Evans

    Try walking past Ikea instead.

  47. Having said that..

    I can easily walk by it...

    Unless it's an emergency, I wouldn't understand why anyone would choose to buy anything there, as opposed to online. The quality you get for what they charge is a joke!

  48. strum

    I have just one word for you all

    Proops

    1. Fihart

      Re: I have just one word for you all @strum

      Too right. Much wasted youth spent pawing ex-RAF gyroscopes, mini spirit levels (still in use on turntable) etc etc. Tottenham Court Road must have been pretty low-rent in the 1960s as it had a number of electronics surplus stores like Proops in addition to independent hifi shops.

      Ditto Edgware Road near Church Street Market and Lisle Street (now in Chinatown) in Soho.

  49. Alistair Dabbs

    Maplins vs Ikea

    I'm getting a 'Maplins is like IKEA' vibe from a lot of these comments. I wonder whether Maplins would consider installing a ball pond at the entrance... but then I can't ever recall seeing a child in a Maplins, nor indeed a woman making a purchase.

  50. Blue eyed boy
    Unhappy

    "waving away offers of assistance every 15 seconds"

    What branch was that? I'm lucky if I get noticed by a member of staff within 15 minutes. Everybody seems to be on a mission from one part of the shop to another.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buy the whole store

    Well you can have the whole lot if you've got a couple of hundred million quid in your pocket, it's up for sale:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/i/matrix/the-business-matrix-monday-03-march-2014-9164142.html

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The tech version of poundland, (apart from the prices)

    There is resonance, we have all done it in various shops from time to time, bought tat on the spur of the moment and then thought...... whyohwhyohwhy?

    Under certain circumstances from a work point of view a nearby Maplins is cost effective for components when they are needed NOW and a trade counter visit to RS or bike delivery from others is marginal.. Phone `em, pay for it AND send a junior to pick it up.

    I was in the middle of nowhere on a TV location setup, we needed noddy stuff: more chocblock, self amalgamating tape, some cables and connectors. The non-tech manager for the high profile event was bored as all was under control and volunteered to pick stuff up.

    Maplins did it, his inner geek/child was activated " I`ve never been in Maplins before, that`s interesting !"

    I have no definite on what else he bought, but I believe that some offspring got something remote control though. ( Unless THEY didn`t? :) )

  53. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Electricians and fuses. Heh.

    When I was at UEA I was once accused of blowing the 52 amp breaker in B02 Suffolk Terrace, and returned to my digs to find my small cluster of adaptors sans fuses and indignant electricians just leaving. I demanded the return of my fuses, pointing out that since they were not the cheap as chips 13 amp variety but quite expensive 1 and 3 amp ones that had been chosen so that the socket over my desk would never experience anywhere like 13 amps draw let alone the 52+ the men from Volt Central were accusing me of.

    Once they had seen for themselves that they were a) wrong and b) idiots they uttered the standard whine of the incompetent and lazy: "If it wasn't you then who..." whereupon I suggested they continue their room-by-room search. Four doors later they discovered the former Entertainment Secretary's mobile disco rig plugged in and ready to rock and a light dawned.

  54. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I made the old Syntom, Synchime and Synwave kits from Maplins, along with a Synclock that could theoretically control them (if only they had had provision for that built-in).

    Sadly, the designer of the Synclock chose a positive going edge for the trigger and all my Roland kit used a negative-going edge trigger, so life was more complicated than it needed to be.

    I still have two Synclocks in bags ready to be assembled, or would if I hadn't scavenged one of the decade counters for some project or other years ago.

  55. Gannettt

    Just wanted to add my 2p!

    Started shopping from the Maplin catalogue in about 1988 - even then wondered why you paid 5 quid for the catalogue but they never gave you a discount or free postage on your first order.

    Along with cables and a set of PC speakers, i recently bought a MEGA-EAR, looks like an MP3 player with a condenser microphone and headphones and amplifies the sound to ridiculous levels - just holding it in your hand you could hear your heart beating. Totally useless but fun...should be Maplin's advertising slogan.

  56. Azzy

    I'm like that on ebay - it's even better!

    About half a monthly-rent-check worth of electronicrap shipped from china, ordered over the past month.

    The best part is, it takes forever to ship, so you A) can't make the mistake of buying anything you actually need (can't wait for delivery) and B) forget what you ordered and why by the time you got it, so you don't waste time using it when it does arrive - the second point has the added bonus of giving you a chance to buy it again without remembering the initial order, and finally C: You don't even need a place to put it for at least a month.

  57. spaner

    Mad i say Mad

    At the prices maplin charge for almost anything , you should just walk away.

    Spaner

  58. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I end up drifting into Maplin's because I first encountered them in 1980, and I subconsciously think they are still an electronics supply store instead of the consumer electronics retailer they've morphed into.

  59. Number6

    Feeling Old

    I remember going to the Maplin shop when they only had one, in Southend. We were visiting relatives in the area and I persuaded my father to make a side trip.

    They've gone well downhill from those days, now it's mostly overpriced tat and the component business is almost a sideline at the back of the store. Also, back in the day, the likes of RS and Farnell didn't deal with individuals, whereas now they will. I remember the local electronics shop in Bath would order stuff from RS for people.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Feeling Old

      Ah me...

      I can remember when Maplin was an Aladdin's cave of delights underwritten by its superb catalogue. Page after page of specialised integrated circuit data and the fun of thinking "now what could I do with that?".

      Still, everything else in the world seems to be turning to rat sh1t, so why not Maplin too.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was there, but my memory has gaps

    Hmmms......"only did mail order". from the days of the first badly drawn Concorde catalogue(76/77). If you were brave enough to venture to Southend, nearby was Westcliff-on-sea where there was a stupendously large (not, hence frequent delays) warehouse/headquarters. There was a counter where you could bowl up and buy stuff ( if it was in stock). So it wasn`t mail order only, but not worth a special trip unless local.

    Their first retail outlet as i remember was in King Street Hammersmith circa 1980, The rot set in around 1990, I went in for a standard 15-0-15 miniatrure transformer and was told they could order it. I said something about a distant queue and that I was going to Edgware Road.

    I stopped using Maplin almost completely when Ambit opened up (81?) and you could buy things that previously were impossible and RS and Farnell didn`t d,.It was as if one of us had opened a mail order catering to all our needs: RF, hifi computing.....they were the first people that stocked micropolis hard drives that mere humans could buy. ( and they were 20 minutes away from my mum`s and had a counter)

    The "trade" cartels were rife. as stated elsewhere RS and Farnell were "trade only" if you wanted specific bits for audio you could only order them if you were a "dealer" Ambit blew that one up, stocking many common Japanese components that were otherwise several hundred percent mark up. Bulgin took over and screwed them as Cirkit after the demise of the inhouse R+EW mag.

    RS woke up (83?) and produced a hobbyist catalogue called electrospeed (IIRC) but it was pricey for common things. I have it in the loft somewhere so could check the date, but CBA ( can`t be arsed).

    Maplins were not originally very expensive because there was a shedload of competition some of which also had retail premises in Edgware Road.

    Avert your eyes young persons, nostalgia follows.

    I was very young, (not far from being the best remnant of what went down the milkmans leg) when it was my first time, with a similarly geeky mate we bunked off school and went to London and Tottenham Court Road and Edgware Road.

    It was a one off, but the lure remained. these bad ways led to a proper electronics degree from QMC but that was when the habit was formed.

    Wednesday afternoons were free, so a geek armada would go to Tottenham Court Road, and to Proops for ex equipment god knows , odd things with servomotors and pulleys, keyboards that had a latched key that lit up armed with one bulb and and fire with the other,YEAH! and Z+I aero for valves for grannies telly that she will not forsake for some "modern piece of Crap".

    Going for a beer at the angel ( now Sam Smiths) got rid of most of the geeks then, it currently is an IT meeting place, ironic.

    On to Edgware Road, home of the radio shack ( now long gone) which is why it was Tandy in this country, they lost the court battle. The only one left is Henry`s radio.

    From exiting the underpass on the west side every shop was an electronics shop, but HL Smiths was something else, it was like a Victorian ironmongers, wooden boxes and shelves, they produced boxes and chassis to order, many of the ETI and Practical Electronics project boxes. No-one will forget the old chap in the Arther Daley coat come winter or summer who was a valve TV guru. He had a very old fashioned name (Isaac? not right but near) and celebrated his 100th Birthday somewhere near 2010. According to the chap in Henry`s anyway.

    Components from Smiths came wrapped in a brown paper bag like nuts and bolts.

    I am struggling, 10 years ago I could have listed all the component shops that have now gone

    No visit was complete without the 1950`s milk parlour/ ice cream parlour, now finally gone but it was home made ice cream and lovely.

    Oh And the magazines were summed up in a spoof 30 years ago: Wireless world : 10 part series on resistor colour codes including pigment and paint production and quality assurance ETI: Sound to light unit part 2: Correction TH3, 4, 5, 6 should be an xxxx not an XXXXX for UK line voltages. Elektor "building a particle collider at home"

    Getting back in my rocking chair now.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The old chap in Edgware Road Smith`s has popped up as Cyrus, I think It is correct

      I have had a cup of tea and the braincell has fired.

      Most of the useful places mail order have gone or gone ambit>cirkit restricted range too:

      Willow vale

      SEME and the rest

      Nice to hear Cricklewood still running,

      CPC does very well.

      Don`t tell anyone but as part of Farnell, their prices for the same bits are usually cheaper.(?) I had to source a particular BNC and the Eqpt manf. quote was £20, got the BNC manf. code, and 70p vs 1.20. Not the first time either.

  61. Zot

    I've gone off Maplins a bit.

    Last thing I bought from there was a small stereo to 2 mono jack adapter, and unbelievable it was wired incorrectly!! The boss came over when I took it back, saying that they buy them in batches of 2500 and there was probably no point in swapping it as they're all have the same error!! He's clearly been there before.

    He then went on, lamenting the old days and that everything in 'his' shop was imported from China. I got my 2 pounds back and bought the parts from a musty old electrical shop tucked down a side alley that's been there for decades. Should have gone there first.

    I bought a halogen heater in Maplins once as well, the power switch broke and one of the lamps failed in a few weeks.

    Although, I see weak quality control in many products over the last few years, from everywhere.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it Maplin that have lost their way...

    ... or the lack of hobbyist enthusiasts like me in the 80's and 90's who knew what all the electronic parts in the Catalogue were for & how to use them?

    I see fewer repairable electronics these days - vast majority are sealed units, custom parts, surface mount components - there's very little to repair today.

    Also the electronic kit market seems to hold little interest for the youth of today. Why build an FM receiver, walkie-talkie, etc when the kids £10 a month smartphone can do all of this an more with an app.

    The loss of engineering skills in the kids of today makes me weep. The education system does little to encourage electronic engineering in kids, and school IT classes are even less relevant.

    Building bugs, and hacking school networks and other tricks were par for the course for the smart geeks in my day. Today you'd end up with a criminal record, with no ability to get a job beyond cleaning toilets because of it.

    Every now and then a bright spark bucks the trend - 13 year olds building 'fusion' reactors - that being said, hardware hackers like these kids should be the norm, not the once-in-a-decade event they seem to be these days.

    Rant over.

  63. Anguilla
    Happy

    ""Allan George Dyer"" makes mention of Kowloon's Ap Liu Street - but if one just crosses the "Bamboo Curtain" beyond Hong Kong's ancient "New Territories" - to Lowu, and rides 6 stations down their MTR - exiting at Hua Qiang underground railway station in very close proximity to SEG Electronic Market (just across the road) one can immediately enter an "Aladdin's Cave" - well about 10 stories full of electronic goodies, the lowest floors given over to hundreds of small counters selling almost any electronic component you would ever need. And it close proximity to OTHER multi-storey emporiums selling similar components.

    It is my "Mecca" and I go there fairly frequently to pay homage & to buy the things that CAN'T be found in ShamShuiPo's Apliu Street or the Golden Computer Centre across the road!

    That it co$t$ me HK$900 [ ~GBP70] (I think it was, or maybe it's upped to HK$1200) for a 3 year unrestricted Commie China Visa is annoying, especially as my HK Chinese wife & our daughter get in and out for free, but I don't have the wallet battering experience too often.

    Apart from Ap Liu Street, a place I discovered about 37 years ago, there's little else in HK for the few electronic experimenters to gather components.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Golden Computer Centre

      God, it would take me *hours* to get out of GCC!

  64. Smitty

    Hard sell tactics could harm them

    As a radio amateur I buy a lot from my local Maplins. I go in for components and come out with multi-coloured LED rope lights, cheap quadrapcoters and weird disco ball thingies. I know I could get it a LOT cheaper online, but I'm a sucker for instant gratification.

    I've noticed two distinct type of Maplin. The city centre ones which are focused firmly on consumer tat and whose staff are a bit clueless, and the out of town retail park ones which have a pretty decent components selection and staff who are a bit more knowledgeable.

    What is starting to put me off going there is the ever increasing hard sell. I was buying some solder a few weeks back and the cashier tried to sell me some batteries, a chubby screwdriver thing and and an LED inspection torch. I had to say no to each item a few times. It used be the case that sometimes they tried to sell you extra batteries, now its worse. And those sort of tactics are going to get them a bad reputation.

  65. Alan 19

    Only the mid 1990's??

    Only a true veteran remembers the 20p A5 1970's catalogue, or the later ones with spaceships on the cover, and Maplin's 'supersonic same day service' 'cos it was named after Maplin Sands, the proposed site of London's third airport. I still have a customer card (Customer No. four thousand and something). I chatted recently to a 20-year-Maplin-something in a local store reminiscing what things used to be like. He looked at me like I was an alien, and never before did I feel like an ancient old dinosaur. I shut him up by asking for some NFC stickers. Pricey yes, but it's retail so what do you expect, and I can't fault them for being helpful and generally knowledgeable, all of which costs money to put on. Farnell was going to buy Maplin but they bought CPC instead.

  66. Ivan Headache

    Proops (in Lincoln)

    Not really. Back in the 60s and 70s there was an amazing shop at the bottom end of Steep hill that was a lot like Proops. It was run by an amiable soul called Johnny Birkett.

    He sold loads of 'government surplus' and had all manner of stuff in his window and store rooms (plus all those cheap Eagle things). It was where you went if you wanted an HF receiver from a Lancaster bomber or a servo gun-sight for your Aden cannon.

    Rumour has it that when a Vulcan at Scampton was desperately short of an item that stores couldn't get (even VOG) (never understood what that meant) a quick call to Johnny Birketts was enough to keep our nuclear deterrent on QRA (I knew what that one meant).

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I popped into Maplin last time I was back in the UK and it seems to have followed the same "consumer tat" route that Dick Smith Electronics have down this end. Thankfully our local DS has had an Altronics open up right next door to them and they are similar to Maplin/DSE a couple of decades ago - useful!

  68. goldcd

    I detest the place and rebuke every voyage to them

    In summary every trip to Maplin is an indication of my own inability to plan or resist instant gratification.

    There is absolutely nothing they can provide that isn't available cheaper on Amazon prime. Lunchtime trips are solely due to me *needing something* that couldn't be in my hand within 24 hours.

  69. heyrick Silver badge

    The catalogue was awesome

    I remember the Maplin catalogues of the mid '80s with their hardcore sci-fi covers and a wealth of information inside covering things as diverse as TV tuning from all known transmitters to pin outs of all the logic chips you're likely to want to use, resistor colour codes... There were no repeats, everything was listed only once, and the information inside made it worth it's weight in gold. I spent weekends in dormitory flipping through to pages absorbing as much as I could.

    I really miss the old Maplin catalogues...

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