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Maplin a victim of a changing world

Many electronics engineers in the UK will be shedding a virtual tear at the news that Maplin Electronics has gone into administration. It’s likely that a significant proportion of them will, at some time in the past, have walked into a Maplin store to buy the various bits and pieces they needed.

Maplin is, to an extent, a victim of our changing buying habits. Where once we would go to the local High Street, where we could get our hands on pretty much everything we needed; today, we do an awful lot of that online.

Through its history, Maplin has been almost inextricably linked with the hobbyist, although an attempt to break into the professional market some years ago didn’t come to much. Hobbyists used to build things from scratch – and Maplin had many of the bits needed.

Talk to an electronic engineer of a certain vintage and they will fondly remember the days when things could be taken apart to see how they worked. They fuelled their interest in electronics design through soldering irons, breadboards, ‘real’ resistors and so on. Maplin was front and centre.

Today, hobbyists are more likely than not to be using a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino board, with their ideas differentiated by software.

There is a saying, generally attributed to Charles Darwin, about survivors being best able to adapt to their changing environment. It appears that Maplin hasn’t.

Graham Pitcher

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