Tech

Goodbye Fry’s Electronics: All stores close, the end of an era

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Watching Fry’s Electronics finally shut down this week was truly the end of an era for me.

When I was younger, I’d cobble together a PC by combing through ads placed in the local computer weekly newspaper (yes, they had those) and driving to some non-descript industrial building in Silicon Valley.

After getting the stink-eye from the person eating lunch in the lobby, I’d leave with some ISA sound card or motherboard. It felt more like I was buying illegal fireworks than building a PC.

Fry’s in its glory days

Fry’s Electronics was truly glorious by comparison. With its big-box approach, bright lights, and endless aisles of components, printers, monitors, and software, along with soldering irons, heat shrink tubing and power supplies, Fry’s made PC building a legit lifestyle worthy of being out in public.

My friends and I would mountain-bike in the morning, and then gather around a desktop and decide more RAM might make this ancient 386 run Windows 95 better. That meant a trip to Fry’s, so we’d pile into a car and make the 30-mile drive. For nerds, it was a pilgrimage, a bonding experience, and a place for the tribe to gather.

Fry’s Electronics would usually run weekly, eight-page ad circulars in the newspaper (they had those, remember), much like your local grocery store still does—except instead of offering deals on Budweiser or bacon, Fry’s would promote a DVD player with component-out, or maybe a clearance on 28.8-baud modems.

frys electronics newspaper ads circulars Fry’s Electronics

Fry’s weekly eight-page circulars in the newspaper inspired close study to ferret out the best deals.

Each store would have all eight pages of the circular pinned up to a wall so everyone would have to eyeball it for good deals. You’d patiently wait for the nerd in front to finish scanning it before your turn came.

Then it was off to wander the thousands of square feet, looking for things we didn’t need. Fry’s wasn’t all PC-related, as you could buy everything from toaster ovens to massagers and shavers, as well as AC units, plus “big screen” rear projection TVs. The PC was front-and-center, though, and much of every Fry’s was dedicated to pre-built PCs, laptops, and all of the accessories that went with it.

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