Radio Shack started in 1921 in Boston, Massachusetts by brothers Theodore and Milton Deutschmann. They wanted to provide equipment for the cutting-edge field of amateur, or ham, radio. The store’s name was taken from a slang phrase of the time denoting any place where radio equipment was kept and used.
The company issued its first catalog in the early 1940s and then entered the high-fidelity music market. In 1954, Radio Shack began selling its own private-label products under the brand name Realist, but was subsequently sued and consequently changed the brand name to Realistic. After expanding to nine stores plus an extensive mail-order business, the company fell on hard times in the 1960s. Radio Shack was essentially bankrupt, but Charles Tandy saw the potential of Radio Shack and retail consumer electronics when hardly anyone else did and bought the company for $300,000.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Radio Shack marketed its free battery card; a wallet-sized cardboard card, free, which entitled the bearer to free batteries when presented at one of their stores. The bearer was limited to one a month, although many customers would frequent several stores with several cards every month. These cards also served as generic business cards for the salespeople in the 1980s; the “battery club” card was still used until the company-wide changes in the early 1990s.
In May of 2000, the company dropped the Tandy name altogether, instead opting for RadioShack contracted into one CamelCase word. The logo had been changed from the ’70s-style bullethole lettering to the current stylized R in 1996.