Electronics Memories: First Purchases

We asked customers what the first item they ordered from Jameco was and got an overwhelming response. Many even remember when Jameco's business name was James Electronics. Here are some of our favorite first purchase stories:
"In the 70s, I had only been married a couple of years and the obvious problem every Christmas was ‘What do we get for the respective parental units?’ For my wife's father, we put together the Jameco LED digital clock – the very first model (JE700). Looked nice, but failed repeatedly. The transformer was undersized for the power requirements of those early inefficient LEDs. I rebuilt that thing half a dozen times, but the father-in-law was always proud of it. Although he passed some years ago, we still have it up on the shelf at home... it was one of his prized possessions. It still works, not bad for a clock that is almost 38 years old!"

LED Digital Clock
LED Digital Clock

James Knox in Austin, Texas
"I bought my first TTL chips from James Electronics back in 1974, and designed and built several projects at the TV station where I worked for 36 years. I went to a month-long school in April 1976 at Ampex, then a large company in Redwood City, California. While I was out there, I went to the James Electronics location to see where it all came from."

Dave Powell in Lexington, Kentucky

"From 1974 until 1978, I was a counterman at Zack Electronics' branch store in Monterey, California. I remember when we got a big display rack and an assortment of blister-packed components from Jameco. One of the components on that display was a Zilog Z-80 microprocessor, priced at $19.99. At the time, I thought ‘Sheesh! Nobody's gonna buy these things!’"

Paul M. in Concord, California

"I first remember you guys as Jim-Pak at my local electronic parts store. Electronics stores would have a whole wall full of these components. There were also kits and some small data-books for the components they sold. Many of these are still available on eBay from collectors. I first remember seeing these around 1980. Great parts and kits!"

Jim-Pak Front
Jim-Pak Back

Chris Ross

"Back in 1976 or so, I constructed the Pong video game project. I purchased most of the supplies to build the project from James Electronics, including the things needed to etch my own board. I used my mother's metal baking pan to do the etching and the result was not pretty! I convinced each of my family members to invest in my project to get the money I needed. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the game to work. A few years later, when I was in my sophomore year of electrical engineering, I went back to the old project and found two transistors mounted wrong. One was the output video driver, which prevented even an inkling of success."

Craig Myers in Severna Park, Maryland

"The first item I ordered from Jameco was a red mini-clip test lead that actually my folks ordered for me when I was in the seventh grade. My parents had gotten me an Apple II Plus computer a few years before, and they gave me a Viewmaster 80 card from Applied Engineering that doubled the Apple II Plus's 40-column text screen to a whopping 80 columns. Even more amazing, it allowed displaying lowercase letters in addition to uppercase! But the thing was that the Apple II Plus keyboard supported only uppercase. It became a common hack to clip one end of a mini-clip test lead to a pin corresponding to the Shift key switches on the molex connector between the keyboard and the keyboard PCB underneath, and clipping the other end of the test lead to a pin on an IC on the motherboard that corresponded to an extra, unused input available for use by a pushbutton for a third game controller. The 80-column video card providing lowercase text cost about $139, but with that first order from Jameco, I got the capability to use the shift keys to type in both uppercase and lowercase for just a couple of bucks!"

Apple II

Austin in Richmond, Virginia

"I bought several items at Jameco for work prior to the one that will always stay in my memory bank. It was an inexpensive, small 12 volt DC digital clock. Its numbers were only about 1/2" high and 1 1/2" wide. What caught my eye before I bought it was its automatic dimming at various light levels and an unbelievable low price. I believe it was in early 1986 during a rainstorm that I stopped in to pick up my called-in order after work. I was at the stage when I was starting to install wiring throughout the 34' sailboat in my backyard that we had bought as an empty hull a couple years before. We sailed out the ‘Gate’ on August 8, 1988 (8-8-88) and didn't come back for two years. Thank you Jameco for having an item I needed that brings back wonderful memories."

Henry Klopfer's Sailboat the Shellback

Henry Klopfer
"About 32 years ago I was working at the NASA satellite tracking station north of Fairbanks, Alaska when I saw my first Jameco ad in an electronics magazine. I read the JE300 Thermometer Kit specs and whooped ‘I gotta have that!’ I assembled the kit, dipped the sensor transistor and leads in two part epoxy and slipped a piece of heat shrink tubing over them to seal it up. I calibrated the JE300 by filling a thermos bottle with ice cubes and water and adjusting the bias and span pots alternately placing the sensor in the thermos bottle and then under my tongue, back and forth until the display read 32°F and 98°F. I have never had to recalibrate it – it is always within one degree of the reading from the National Weather Service station two miles from me. The display reading started bouncing around a few years ago but a new power supply filter cap fixed that. The seven segment modules had been dimming, so I ordered some extra-bright orange-red replacements from Jameco that work beautifully. Oh... the JE300 spec sheet was too conservative. I can assure you that the JE300 is spot on at 52 degrees below zero. Thank you for this fabulous, accurate and reliable instrument."

Thermometer Kit

Glenn Estabrook
"I have had the Jameco JE725 Clock Kit running and hanging on my wall for about 15 years. It was my sister-in-law's favorite feature of my house. She would comment every time she stayed how much she loved that clock. Unfortunately, Jameco discontinued the clock before I could make her one. It is exciting Jameco has elected to bring it back for their 40 year anniversary."


Neal Zipper

"Talk about a blast from the past! Has it really been 20 years?! The JE725 Clock Kit was one of the first kits I built, guess I was around 16 or 17 at the time. It's been running ever since. I was too broke to spring for the enclosure at the time, so it's been a naked clock its whole life, but I like it! It's currently in my cubicle at work as a reminder of where I started."

Clock Kit

Robert Williams in Natick, Massachusetts

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