Well thanks for the kind words Karen, I've always prided myself on being a practical guy, but I still wonder how far it would take me. Strangely enough just last week a friend of mine gave me a box of old computer and electronic bits which (as usual, much to my wife's disgust) I accepted with open arms. His wife (who delivered the box) said that my friend said I'd be a good guy to have around after the apocalypse. I still think I'd feel very inadequate next to Gronk the caveman.....
Incidentally this reminds me of a play, "The Admirable Crighton" about a resourceful butler who...well, read about it here:
Even if we do find good ways of digitally capturing technical knowledge, how do we capture the wisdom that's gained from experience and passed from master-to-trainee (who one day becomes master)? How do we capture schools of thought, of mindsets that people adopt in tackling certain challenges?
These are perphaps more powerful forms of knowledge than sheer technical knowledge, and leads to a more perilous future when lost. The same is true with innovation - you can be an absolute master of current techniques or memorize an encyclopedia, but is of little use in imagining future possibilities.
My contention is that without the right compass, we will both fail to appreciate the wonders of yesteryear and make significant future innovations.
In my experience, it depends on the Radio Shack store. There are several within walking distance of me. One still has a good parts selection, and someone who actually knows something about them. The rest just want to sell you a cell phone, and haven't a clue about what they stock.
I've often wondered about this kind of thing. How much use would I be in a post apocaplyptic world? If they were still lying around, I could string a few transistors and ICs together to do something useful. But if not, I couldn't even make a transistor. I might make a crystal diode. Going back even further, could I make a steam engine from the start of the industrial revolution? Or even beyond that, could I smelt Iron out of rocks to make spearheads? I doubt it. So I'd be less use than someone from the Iron Age.
Remember when you could browse through a Radio Shack store for opamps, timers, resistors and caps, transistors, speaker drivers, crossover networks, etc? Where did all this go?
You can still find some of those parts in the pull-out drawers. They don't have a huge selection like Digi-Key, but sometimes you can find something workable. They also have some kits, like Arduino-based projects.