I remember the days as a child playing with my electronics project kit from RadioShack. It seemed that it could do everything - burglar alarms, sirens, even simple radios. Even let you accidentally wire things up in a short and cause some batteries to burst...
It's been interesting to watch RadioShack. They morphed from the good place to get connectors, resistors, and fun things into a run of the mill phone and TV shop. Or did they?
Wired ran an interesting article called The Lost Tribes of RadioShack talking about a potential revival of the maker hobbies. I blogged about it too (Once, We Were Makers). There is one local franchise RadioShack that has a huge amateur section in the back, complete with cable by the foot, antennas, hams on staff, amazing service, etc.
What I'm trying to say is: You're exactly right. I used to love to tinker. I thought I didn't anymore, outside of programming. I learned last year, when I got my ham radio license, that I was wrong. Amateur radio is just Open Source in hardware.
There is no accomplishment in being in Kansas and talking to someone in Japan via the Internet or telephone. I'm sure I do this without even realizing it frequently. How about doing the same using only a $7 antenna and no third-party infrastructure at all? No satellites, no buried cables, no telephone or cable companies -- just my rig and the one in Japan?
I realize it's not at all unique to be able to do this among the amateur radio crowd, but it still gives me a thrill. I love it.