I must come visit you sometime Max. Not to see you, you understand, btu to go and have a look at Mock Electronics...
When I was about 12 or 13 I also used to get Practical Electronics. One of my biggest regrets is losing my old ones in a move. I used to get through a lot of 2N3055's (remember them?) and the cheapest ones were from Standard Telephones and Cables, whose office was in an industrial area 10km outside town. So we used to hitchike out there to get them because it saved us a few dollars of our hard earned pocket money. The fact that it took the whole afternoon to get them was beside the point...
I love visiting "junk" shops like that. It's amazing the jems one can find, especially when you're in there searching for something else. I really miss them here in Ottawa, the last one having closed down years ago. There are several shops in Toronto that fall into that category; the main ones I visit whenever I make the trip are A-1 Electronics, Active Surplus, and Electronic Surplus Industries. A-1 is closest in size and material mix (new/old) to Mock.
I know what you mean about on-line purchasing; It's great if you're on a deadline but it's a very sterile and uninspiring way to buy hobby materials. There is just something about walking along racks of junked equipment; it speaks of the history of technology over the last 50 years, and occasionally provides a glimps of how certain technical challenges were solved with big, "visible-with-naked-eye" electronics. I'm still in awe when I see an old tube TV chassis, understanding all the functions it had to perform with little more than a dozen tubes.
David's story reminded me of an experience in my early teens when I started building guitar amps. I endured a 5-hour round trip bus ride across Toronto on the hottest day that summer. My quest was for a matched pair of specific power transistors, carried only by a distributor on the other side of the city. This is one of the very few times I would have preferred to purchase by mail order, but I didn't want to wait 4 weeks.
We are fortunate to have Tanner Electronics here in the DFW Metroplex. It reminds me of your "Mock Electronics" store very much. If you're every in town, check it out.
Possibly as a result of those days I began assembling a store (read: glorified junk box, though it is pretty well organised) of electronic bits, so I don't have to order or visit a store to get components. It works 90% of the time, but boy do I have a lot of stuff. When I left Zimbabwe I got rid of a fair bit, but here in Aussie they throw away anything and everything, so I grab it and strip it and have all sorts of stuff that I can see a use for. Drives my wife nuts, but most of the time I can get down and build things whenever I feel like it. Does anyone else do this? I think I should start selling on E-bay....
In reply to David, I too have a mountain of junk to strip for parts, here in England. Trouble is the space it takes up and the time to strip the good stuff out of the rubbish.
All I can say is lucky "Mock's" is on another continent as I'd be sure to end up with even more of a space problem.
On the subject of low component count's, I'm still impressed by "Lionel" train's "super sound of steam" gadget from the early 70's. Produces a lovely "chuff chuff" sound with only 20 or so components. Very clever.
The UK used to be covered in shops like this which fascinated boys like me and their fathers! Sadly, most are gone. Cambridge only has one left (apologies for the stupidly long link):
great article but "Take 20" was a constructional feature of Practical Wireless, usually authored by Julian Anderson and, in later issues, David Andrews.
I'm sending you a couple of issues from the 1970s so you can indulge in our favourite passtime - electronics nostalgia :o)