In Memory of Gary Johnston

Remembering an Electronics Icon

DIYODE Magazine

Issue 45, April 2021

For those of you who may not be aware, Jaycar’s Founder and Managing Director, Gary Johnston, died on the 10th of March 2021, aged 71.

Gary with his son Tim at the old Silverwater Head office.

"Gary’s relentless passion for electronics means you can walk into any Jaycar store & buy a few capacitors, a ferrite core, and whatever other sundry parts you need."

We would like to pay tribute to Gary, who was immersed in hobby electronics for virtually his entire life, even “before it was cool”. We want to recognise the immense and lasting mark he has made on the Australian electronics scene.

While looking from the outside in 2021, it’s easy to see a hugely successful multi-million dollar retail business, and not think about the man that started it all. But it wasn’t always like that. Jaycar started from some very humble beginnings.

While Gary worked with Dick Smith (at Dick Smith Electronics) for many years, a short time after DSE was bought by Woolworths, Gary decided to venture out on his own. He purchased a tiny company in 1981 called John Carr & Co. This tiny little store in Sydney quickly multiplied, marking the beginning of a 40-year business journey.

The original business model was focused heavily on kits, which were hugely popular in the ‘80s. Gary and the Jaycar team helped develop many projects in conjunction with the magazines publishing at the time. Indeed they say history repeats itself, and sure enough, 40-years on we’re welcoming the resurgence of DIY electronics we know as the Maker Movement, though it certainly looks a lot different.

However, it’s Gary’s relentless passion for electronics that means you can still walk into any Jaycar store and buy a few capacitors, a ferrite core, and whatever other sundry parts you need. Sure, these items aren’t as fancy as drones or Raspberry Pi’s (and yes, you can still get those too), these fundamental electronic parts are still core to Jaycar. Naturally, Jaycar’s offering continues to evolve, just as what we’re looking for as makers changes too, but those core ranges still remain.

While Jaycar’s success has created wealth for Gary, what many don’t know about is his substantial philanthropic endeavours. Donations to charities, partnerships with universities, and whatever support he could provide for the growth of electronics in the community.

While Jaycar will continue to forge ahead without its fearless leader at the helm, take a moment to reflect on the impact Gary has made for the benefit of us all.

May he rest in peace.

The old stores in the early '80s.
Gary shopfitting early stores with his own hands.
A young Gary with Dick Smith (we're not sure of the date, but it doesn't look like 2021).
Gary embracing some very "modern" technology.
Component trays still found in Jaycar stores.
Gary at the outback rally in 1984.
A jovial image from Gary's 60th birthday party.
Gary presenting a $66,000 donation for Tsunami relief in 2005.

A special thank you to those who helped us source some of these images including Bruce Routley, Melanie Lane, and others.