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Historical articles and videos

An assortment of historical material on electronics and amateur radio in Australia.
Watch the videos and follow the links, you'll be here for hours!

Old Dick Smith Electronics catalogues

Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) was an Australian electronics retailer that catered for the electronics enthusiast from the late 1960s into the 2000s. Founded by Dick Smith VK2ZIP (later VK2DIK) it dominated the hobby electronics market through its popular annual catalogue, supermarket style shopping, adventurous marketing and Australia-wide store network. Most amateurs also remember DSE as the agent for Yaesu amateur radio equipment in Australia.

The business prospered through a canny combination of selling high margin components to enthusiasts and riding successive booms in fields such as CB radio, radio scanning and computing. Dick Smith sold the business in 1982 to the Australian retailer Woolworths to successfully pursue interests in adventuring, aviation, publishing and foods.

Although its product range became more consumer-oriented, DSE stores continued to service electronics enthusiasts for more than two decades. In the late 1990s DSE opened several large 'Power House' stores to compete with emerging 'big box' consumer electronics chains. The Australian arm of Radio Shack (trading as Tandy Electronics) was purchased in the early 2000s. Its stores were either closed or became Dick Smith outlets.

Management at Dick Smith had a choice between two business approaches. The first was to remain a specialist outlet. While potential sales volume was limited (there is only so many multimeters Australians purchase), both profit percentages and customer loyalty were high. There were also (then) no large competitor that seriously challenged its national market dominance.

The second approach, which was the one they took, was to abandon the enthusiasts, hobbyists and amateurs that made them successful. Instead they would chase high volume consumer market. The reasoning was that 10% profit on a million dollars worth of phones was better than 100% mark-up on $50k worth of wire. And, after they siezed liquor and fuel retailing, big supermarkets such as Coles and Woolworths were eyeing areas like hardware, office supplies and consumer electronics for their future growth areas.

A consumerised DSE was Woolworths' vehicle to compete with established electronic retailers such as Strathfield Car Radio, JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman. Except it didn't work. Unlike with enthusiast electronics, where DSE was the market leader, in consumer electronics it was up against large and established competition. China's industrialisation lowered prices, while domestic competition lowered margins. Profits as measured in hard dollars (the best measure as you can't eat a percentage) plunged.

With its dreams not realised Woolworths sold DSE. The company passed through several hands, including being listed on the Australian Stock Exchange as a public company. Further competition (this time from online sales) along with internal mismanagement led to the company going into receivership and its assets sold. Today the story of Dick Smith Electronics is frequently told to business students as a cautionary tale of how a good and profitable business can go bad.

These catalogues are from DSE's glory years from the 1970s to the 2000s. These videos are a flick through them, presented both by year and product type.

Dick Smith catalogue 1974/75

  Twenty Years of Dick Smith catalogues

  Twenty years of kits in Dick Smith catalogues

  Twenty years of ham radio in Dick Smith catalogues

  Twenty years of computers in Dick Smith catalogues

  Dick Smith's Australian Amateur Radio Handbook


Many old 1970s-90s annual catalogues, brochures and manuals have been scanned and placed online.
It's a fascinating window into Dick Smith history. Read them here but beware, you may be there for hours!


Dick Smith's Fun Way into Electronics

Most Australians of a certain age who are now into electronics got their start through Dick Smith Fun Way books and kits. There were three books: Funway 1, Funway 2 and Funway 3. Funway 1 described 20 projects that could be built, without soldering, on a wood and later plastic 'breadboard'. Funway 2 described a further 20 projects that required soldering parts. Funway 3, which came out later, were ten more projects. You could buy parts either individually from Dick Smith or as short-form kits. These came in bags for ten projects for Funway 1 (projects 1-10 and 11-20) and as individual projects for Funway 2 and 3.

Unlike the Tandy Lab kits (which had all components on a board with springs) the Dick Smith approach was smart retailing as it meant that you were always going back to the shop (or ordering by mail) for more parts. Funway kits were available for over 30 years with only minor changes. They were one of the last 'technical' products sold by DSE that swung to being exclusively a consumer electronics outlet in the last several years of its life. When DSE collapsed the Funway brand and intellectual property was bought by an individual who has set up a dedicated Funway Electronics website.

My own videos where I describe and build several Funway projects are below:

Dick Smith Fun Way into Electronics: Past and future (yes there may be one!)


A look at Funway Volume 1 (and Project 1)


Funway 1 builds: Project 2 - Transistor checker


Funway 1 builds: Project 3 - Water indicator


Funway 1 builds: Project 4 - Light Dark indicator


Funway 1 builds: Project 5 - The flasher


Funway 1 builds: Project 6 - Electronic siren


Funway 1 builds: Project 7 - Dog & cat communicator (or burglar alarm)


Funway 1 builds: Project 8 - Decision Maker


Funway 1 builds: Project 9 - Morse code communicator


Funway 1 builds: Project 10 - Music Maker


Funway 1 builds: Project 11 - Sound effects generator


Funway 1 builds: Project 12 - Crystal radio


Above crystal set with it driving an LED just off a radio signal


Truscotts Electronics World shortly before closure in 2019

Truscotts was a long established electronic shop in Melbourne's outer east. It was the local parts shop for Drew Diamond VK3XU who described a lot of projects in the WIA's 'Amateur Radio' magazine and wrote four popular books. It started in Lacey St, Croydon then moved to Croydon South to a small group of shops. As you can see from the video it had an eclectic mix of new and salvaged items.


Telesonics in Ascot Vale

A still there but rarely opened shop in suburban Ascot Vale, north-west of Melbourne. At one time most suburbs had similar shops selling and repairing radios, TVs and appliances. Then big chains and online suppliers took over and servicing no longer paid, making these businesses a rarity today.


Old electronic shops in Melbourne (1930s - 1990s)

These videos are the result of going through numerous old electronics and radio magazines to get the addresses of former electronic and radio retailers that operated in the Melbourne CBD. I then visited these addresses to see what if any remnants were there. In about half the cases the old building was still standing. Food and massage services are their most common current use.


Some historical radio and electronic addresses in Sydney


Retro Review: Handbook for Radiotelephone Ship Station Operators


Back issues of the WIA's Amateur Radio magazine

Spend hours browsing back issues of the WIA's Amateur Radio magazine from the 1930s to the 2000s. Scanned and uploaded by Will VK6UU.


Old articles I've written. Largely out of date - presented for historical interest only.

Computers in amateur radio

An introduction to packet radio

Introduction to Internet Repeater Linking

Operating from tall buildings


Books by VK3YE

Ham Radio Get Started (USA)

Australian Ham Radio Handbook (Aust)

Hand-carried QRP Antennas

More Hand-carried QRP Antennas

99 things you can do with Amateur Radio

Getting back into Amateur Radio

Minimum QRP

Illustrated International Ham Radio Dictionary

Make your Passion Pay (ebook writing)


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