Today, just before 6pm, I paid a visit to our local Maplins, the electronics retailer, in King Street Hammersmith. It could be my last visit to one of their stores. The branch on Kensington High Street closed last month, the Hammersmith shop has big signs announcing its Closing Down Sale and the chain as a whole is in financial trouble. Soon there might not be any of them left.
I have been a fan of the stores since the 1990s, when I first started using them. They were still stocking blank Mini Discs long after other local retailers had stopped doing so. Looking back there weren’t too many large purchases, nothing bigger than a few external hard drives for around £100 each, but there were regular visits for blank media (CDs and DVDs as well as Mini Discs), leads and converters, rechargeable batteries, computer accessories. The King Street store provided me with the USB turntable that we use for playing vinyl. I prefer to buy from a High Street shop rather than online but there clearly aren’t enough people like me spending enough money in places like Maplins to keep them going.
Today’s purchase, which could be the last from the company, was for a USB keyboard to plug into this Windows 10 laptop. I’ve been meaning to buy one for a while. As I noted over 18 months ago, here, the spacebar [on the built-in keyboard] is smaller and has a softer (more sponge-like) feel than on the Mac. Sometimes words run together and I have to go back and insert spaces.” Also the touchpad is poorly positioned. I frequently touch it with my thumb, inadvertently, while typing and the cursor moves to somewhere completely different from where the words should be. Previous experiments with a wireless USB keyboard were unsuccessful but a wired USB keyboard could sort me out. Just before typing these words I plugged my latest purchase into a USB slot. The lights for Num Lock and Caps Lock flashed briefly and then nothing. The keyboard isn’t recognized. It’s sitting on the table beside me, as redundant as many of Maplins current employees are likely to be sometime soon.