At maybe 6 years old, I started playing with batteries and small light bulbs. Nothing that could hurt me. My mother recounts the times when I would build little cities of rocks and sticks, with little smooth dirt roads. Then I’d wire several bulbs to a battery and… electric lighting!
As I got older my parents would go to the grocery store, and I would go a few steps further down to Radio Shack. I always wandered to the corner of the store with the project kits. Occasionally, I spent my meager savings buying one of these kits designed for the young and curious. They were simple radios, and transmitters, and alarms, and other manner of simple, yet instructional circuits. They were packaged with the parts and instructions, all in a small plastic box, made up of two halves, one red and perforated, the other clear. They were called P-Boxes. Project Boxes? Perforated Boxes?
You could twist the connections together, but soldering was the expected assembly method. I quickly learned the hot end of the soldering iron at an early age! These kits were fun to build and play with. Occasionally a kit would would fail, usually due to operator error, or I’d get bored with the original circuit, and the parts would be re-purposed for another project.
My parents were very supportive of my new hobby and one year, they gave me a Radio Shack 150-in-1 Electronic Project Kit. These were built using a wood case, with parts mounted in groups, and with spring terminal connections on each component. Pre-cut wires were included along with a large book detailing step-by-step, wire-by-wire connections, and circuit descriptions for all of the 150 circuits. I’m sure I built them all, multiple times. Given that you had to tear them down to build the next, I started building some outside of the kit, so I could keep them operating.
At this point I started buying the little packs of transistors or resistors at Radio Shack to continue building stuff. I also started buying electronics books from Radio Shack, and magazines like Popular Electronics or Radio Electronics.