Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Radio Shack's TRS-80 Turns 35

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the rat-shack dept.

Hardware 231

harrymcc writes "On August 3, 1977, Radio Shack announced its TRS-80 microcomputer at an event in New York City. For the next several years, it was the world's most popular PC — but it never got the respect it deserved. (I still wince when I hear 'Trash-80.') Over at TIME.com, I'm celebrating the anniversary with some reflections on the machine and why it was so underappreciated."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

vintage computers (-1, Offtopic)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874319)

While they are cool from a history point of view, and many did very clever hardware hacks and tricks to increase performance with less silicon, really they aren't much more than museum pieces.

What can you really do with a TRS-80 these days?

Re:vintage computers (4, Interesting)

xevioso (598654) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874377)

The TRS-80 model II was my very first computer, and I learned basic coding on it. I can't remember the language, but there was a way to create your own games, like Snake and Pong, by using a cartridge, that only loaded the language and a basic compiler.

I suspect that you could teach folks how to do some basic coding by using one of these old machines as an example. I have fond memories.

Re:vintage computers (5, Funny)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874419)

The TRS-80 model II was my very first computer, and I learned basic coding on it. I can't remember the language

Yes you can.

Re:vintage computers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874471)

The TRS-80 model II was my very first computer, and I learned basic coding on it. I can't remember the language

Yes you can.

Oh God! Someone please PLEASE Mod Parent up!

It's obvious he's referring to the "LEARNED" programming language!

Re:vintage computers (3, Insightful)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874695)

The TRS-80 model II was my very first computer, and I learned basic coding on it. I can't remember the language

Yes you can.

Absolutely friggin priceless sir!

Re:vintage computers (3, Informative)

Nkwe (604125) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874571)

The TRS-80 model II was my very first computer, and I learned basic coding on it. I can't remember the language, but there was a way to create your own games, like Snake and Pong, by using a cartridge, that only loaded the language and a basic compiler.

If it took a cartridge, you probably had a TRS-80 Color Computer [wikipedia.org] and not a TRS-80 Model II [wikipedia.org] , which was the version targeted at businesses. I had great fun learning programming on the Model III and 4 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:vintage computers (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874883)

I remember my Model III fondly as well, I was so jazzed to get a Model 4. My family used them for our tax and bookkeeping business with great success. The Tandy 1000 was my first "compatible." It had a 32MB HD inserted in one of the expansion slots, GAWD that was awesome.

Re:vintage computers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874575)

My first computer was the TRS-80 Model II bought in December 1979. I lugged that heavy son of a bitch home from the office at night so that I could learn how to program. It had one "8 floppy drive that stored 300K. And I felt very lucky. I used it until 1984 when Compaq came out with their luggable.

Re:vintage computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874627)

The TRS-80 model II was my very first computer, and I learned basic coding on it. I can't remember the language, but there was a way to create your own games, like Snake and Pong, by using a cartridge, that only loaded the language and a basic compiler.

I suspect that you could teach folks how to do some basic coding by using one of these old machines as an example. I have fond memories.

OK dude, either you are really screwing with us or you need to be screened for Alzheimer's disease or your enjoying your third or so Scotch - which I can really respect.

Re:vintage computers (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874629)

10 PRINT "I just learned that mine (I was using it in the late eighties) was just one of the many models of 'TRS-80 Color Computer II'"
20 PRINT "It was this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TRS-80_Color_Computer_2-64K.jpg [wikipedia.org] "

Re:vintage computers (3, Funny)

electron sponge (1758814) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875027)

10 PRINT "I just learned that mine (I was using it in the late eighties) was just one of the many models of 'TRS-80 Color Computer II'" 20 PRINT "It was this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:TRS-80_Color_Computer_2-64K.jpg [wikipedia.org] "

It's not complete without

30 PRINT "PENIS"

40 GOTO 30

because that's what all of us preteens did when we first learned BASIC. I learned BASIC on a CoCo, and although I have never coded in BASIC since the 1980's, I still feel it was a very formative learning experience. Thanks, Radio Shack.

Re:vintage computers (1)

vistic (556838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875057)

Many models of Color Computer II?

I think there was just one, with maybe a few different options for how much RAM you got.

There were two different looking versions of the original Color Computer though, as I recall, one silver and one beige, with maybe different keyboards. But the Color Computer 2 (roman numerals were for the Apple) looked pretty much like the Color Computer 3.

Re:vintage computers (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874393)

Well, if you've got a bunch of 'em [weburbanist.com] ...

Re:vintage computers (5, Insightful)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874405)

What can you really do with a TRS-80 these days?

As much as you could ever do with one, I'd say.

Re:vintage computers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40875091)

I think the biggest application that I saw for them were the MTABBS BBS program that was written for the model 4. They worked pretty well for what they were. I think they even had hard drives hooked for them. I think it was only on a handful of BBSs around the St. Louis area.

They played mugwump pretty well too.

Re:vintage computers (5, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874425)

Have fun with them?

Entertainment is one of those ageless things if you find something you like. People like old movies, music, books, etc, why is it difficult to think about people enjoying old computers? Some like the games, some like poking at software some like hacking hardware, heck some like me like it all.

Re:vintage computers (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874455)

>>>What can you really do with a TRS-80 these days?

Not much. While loyal Commodore=64 owners have continued upgrading their machines to do internet web browsing, and of course gaming as if it was a classic NES console, the TRS-80 has been neglected. It's really just a tool to practice some BASIC programming (like I did in my high school class). Same with the Apple II and Atari 400/800 machines from the early 1977-82 era.

Re:vintage computers (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874521)

you can browse the web on an apple II tyvm

Re:vintage computers (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874725)

Good to see that Commode users are upholding their fine 30 year tradition of trolling every unrelated computer discussion.

Re:vintage computers (0)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874973)

Guess what? This story is not about you, or your attention-seeking behaviour.

Please go die in a fire. (Or at least grow the fuck up.)

Thank you.

Re:vintage computers (3, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874593)

What can you really do with a TRS-80 these days?

Learn to appreciate the value of abstraction.

Re:vintage computers (0)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874683)

Oh, I fully appreciate hardware abstraction at the OS level, protected memory access, and the whole slew of modern improvements.

I even appreciate how programmers did so much with so little.

That wasn't really the question though.

(Also, "offtopic"? Really? Remember kids, "-1 offtopic", and "-1 troll" are not substitutes for the missing "-1 don't like" moderation. :D)

The question is if the celebration of this hardware's 30th aniversary of hitting store shelves really deserves more than just a small bit of nostalgia, and some idle curiosity, such as one gets from a museum.

I was asking if you could really do useful work on a TRS-80 model 1 these days.

As far as I know, you really can't.

Re:vintage computers (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874811)

actually you can. It's called accounting, word processing, printing, hell you can even run a spreadsheet. Of course keep in mind that the documentation that came with the TRS-80 m4 included all of the internal circuit designs. This wasn't the PCB design but the electronic circuit themselve including the chip functions. We used one for busienss purposes for over a decade (got in 1982) before we finally moved to a Tandy 1000 (IBM AT compatible).

Re:vintage computers (1)

zenasprime (207132) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874863)

Why does it need to do anything related to "work" for it to be "useful"?

Re:vintage computers (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874903)

Agreed.

I suppose that since it has all the circuits defined in the manual, and has serial ports, a TRS-80 could be used to programmatically control lights, the air conditioner, house fans and a few other neat things like that.

But then again, you could do all that with a raspberry pi using a usb serial cable at a fraction the size, heat, and power...

I do consider entertainment to be a "useful" application, so I suppose that designing a system of homebrew upgrades and other fun things for nerds would make the TRS-80 a useful platform for entertainment... (I did a thought experiment on how to implement an LIM-EMS addon for a PC-Jr using the cartridge slot once, and it was fun. Hardware limitations make things more interesting.)

So, I guess there are some useful things you could still do on one, but I still don't see the need for fanfare.

*shrug*

Re:vintage computers (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874779)

You should always have a pre-1985 computer laying around somewhere to show your kids. Computers have turned into magic, indecipherable boxes. The first home-computers were great, precisely because they were so god-damned slow. They were so slow, you could actually watch them run and understand what was happening.

Re:vintage computers (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874983)

I'm younger, but still in the "old" generation.

My first computer was dad's IBM PcJr. Lack of ISA, bizzare IRQ scheme, freakish sidecar bus, chicklet keyboard and all.

But hey, it had EGA graphics, dad's had the rare Racore second disk drive, memory and DMA controller upgrade, and it had a primitive synthesizer for multichannel audio instead of just a tweeting internal speaker.

I spent many hours playing with ROM basic on it. I have very fond memories of that old fishtank. I fully understand where computers have come from, and recognize the pioneering from the altair days, as well as the nostalgia people have for old computers.

But would I whip out JrPaint on cartridge to make pixel art? Certainly not!

Re:vintage computers (-1, Offtopic)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874793)

While they are cool from a history point of view, and many did very clever hardware hacks and tricks to increase performance with less silicon, really they aren't much more than museum pieces.

What can you really do with a TRS-80 these days?

This is not off-topic. I really am sick of how badly people use their mod-points these days.

Re:vintage computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40875103)

1) Get yourself some mod points and use them as you see fit.
2) Metamoderate more often.
3) STFU

Re:vintage computers (-1, Offtopic)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875187)

So... I don't have the right to express my opinion, but you can tell me to shut up? Hypocrite much?

Re:vintage computers (1)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874855)

Budgets and financial statements in Visicalc, address labels, frogger, W2's, payroll, sniff them......they smell so goood!

Re:vintage computers (2)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874947)

I learned Pascal on one.

No reason why someone couldn't do the same today.

Re:vintage computers (1)

vistic (556838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875039)

I can still fire up the ol' Tandy Color Computer 2 and put those 64Ks through their paces with a rousing game of Pooyan, Demon Attack, or Dragonfire.

TRS-80 - available in stores near you (4, Interesting)

cstec (521534) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874335)

Got that straight. The TRS-80 Model I was for sale in stores in August of '77 [I was when it arrived], available as a retail purchase when Apples were just kits.

Re:TRS-80 - available in stores near you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874379)

I believe the Apple ][ was in stores about two months before that, June 4 1977

Re:TRS-80 - available in stores near you (4, Informative)

cstec (521534) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874485)

Most people do. The Apple II didn't even have production tooling for the case until December 1977/early 78. Some early units were kits that were assembled and hand-sanded. Meanwhile the TRS-80 sold 10,000 units in the first month and a half.

Don't get me wrong, the Apple rocked. But it wasn't really a production machine like the TRS-80 was. If you're going to call Apple the first consumer PC, then it's not. If you want to include Apple's kit days, then include all the kits like the Apple I (go Woz!) and the Ohio Scientific Challenger, the Exidy and of course the legendary Altair, which might truly be first.

First consumer PC? PET was before it (3, Informative)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874673)

I never thought the Apple ][ was first. But the TRS-80 wasn't either. The PET was available before either of them.

Why would you mention Exidy (the Sorcerer)? It came after all these computers. Where I was you could get an Apple ][+ before you could get a Sorcerer.

Re:First consumer PC? PET was before it (2)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874931)

The TRS-80 was the first serious, widely adopted business computer, period.

Re:TRS-80 - available in stores near you (1)

FloydTheDroid (1296743) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874909)

Your dates are right, but your descriptions are wrong. The Apple ][ was sold as a fully assembled unit in June of '77. The cases has defects, the hand-sanding you mention, so they were retooled as of December of '77.

Note the description in this story... the TRS-80 was introduced in August 1977. The machines weren't delivered until the end of December 1977. This would be half-a-year after the Apple ][ which was not a kit and therefor, the first consumer PC.

Re:TRS-80 - available in stores near you (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874465)

My first computer. Figured out how to up the RAM from 16k to 48k (the max) myself. Figured out how to get lower case letters myself. Burned a ton of time on Scott Adams adventures.

But the big thing was I taught myself to program. First BASIC, then when it proved too slow Z-80 assembler. For work I was a tech working on 8080-bases systems, so I used that assembler knowledge to write tests to exercise various circuitry. A co-worker and I wrote a Space Invaders clone, which turned out to be a hit at trade shows (prolly because marketing grabbed it before we gave the invaders missiles of their own. Engineering found out what I was doing and suddenly I was writing new software.

Fast forward 35 years, I still write embedded software. And have my Trash-80 in the garage.

Re:TRS-80 - available in stores near you (1)

Artifex (18308) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875151)

Figured out how to up the RAM from 16k to 48k (the max) myself.

Yup, my dad saved over $300 buying the modules for our Model I Level 2 himself over letting Rat Shack put them in -- my first lesson in vendor markup, as a kid.

With both parents having done their dissertations on that machine, it's no wonder I'm used to being up all night -- that Daisy Wheel Printer II was loud enough to be heard across the house, and would go at all hours.

Still rocking one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874353)

Still have my TRS-80 CoCo. Haven't plugged it in about six years, but hey.

Re:Still rocking one! (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874529)

Still have my TRS-80 CoCo. Haven't plugged it in about six years, but hey.

Apparently the TRS-80 CoCo [wikipedia.org] is a totally different (and incompatible) machine to the original TRS-80 [wikipedia.org] being discussed here. They're not even based on the same processor...

While I appreciate that they probably wanted to keep the brand recognition, it's slightly confusing that they reused the exact same model number on incompatible machines with entirely different architecture. You'd have thought (e.g.) "TRS-100" would be similar enough without the obvious- and incorrect- implication that both lines were part of the same family.

For what it's worth, the Dragon 32 [reghardware.com] - a very close relative of the CoCo- celebrated its 30th anniversary this week.

My first computer (2)

atheos (192468) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874381)

nothing but good memories for the TRS-80.

Those were the days. . . (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874383)

They had a room full of Trash 80s in the local Boys and Girls Club when I was growing up. While other kids were playing fooseball I was getting into the BASIC code for the bowling game and hard coding myself as the all time scorer on the high score board. They caught on when I started having scores higher than 300. 1,000,000 just sounded better.

Good times.

The Thing - Cheating Bitch! (2)

RapidEye (322253) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874413)

Wasn't it a TRS-80 that Kurt Russell was playing chess against at the beginning of "The Thing"?
That totally cracked me up: "Cheating Bitch!" then poured his scotch into the case - I wanted to do that so many times when playing chess against that damn computer! Granted, at that time I was drinking Koolaid, but the sentiment was the same.

the respect it "deserved" (3, Interesting)

hawk (1151) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874417)

I owned a model 1.

calling it "Trash-80" is exactly what that hack deserved; it was significantly behind what most hobbiests at the time would have cobbled together on the same parts budget.

It's tough to choose a favorite design flaw, whether saving four bits by only using 7 video chips instead of 8, even though the character generator had lower case . . . Running the processor bizarrely slow, the same rate as characters appeared on screen, but yanking control away and creating a glitch on the screen with each read or write . . .

My choice, though, is using the same connector for the power supply and video output, toasting the board for those who unwittingly just reached behind to plug them in . . .

hawk

Re:the respect it "deserved" (2)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874467)

I had a lot of fun with the BASIC with only two string variables: A$ and B$. Of course I had no clue what I was doing at the time.

"Trash-80" always seemed more like a term of endearment.

Re:the respect it "deserved" (2)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874487)

calling it "Trash-80" is exactly what that hack deserved; it was significantly behind what most hobbiests at the time would have cobbled together on the same parts budget

I agree that the Model I was nobody's idea of an awesome hardware design, but for $595, could anyone else have done better, at either a hobbyist or professional/corporate level? That was what really got my attention. Even as an 8-year-old, I knew $595 wasn't that much money for a real computer.

The Apple II was about $1500. Sure, it was a better machine, but in those days the difference between $600 and $1500 was a much bigger deal than it is now. A lot of people got their start in computing on the Trash-80... many of whom would have spent the next few years on the sidelines if the Apple II had been the only alternative.

Re:the respect it "deserved" (2)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874649)

I agree that the Model I was nobody's idea of an awesome hardware design, but for $595, could anyone else have done better, at either a hobbyist or professional/corporate level?

Commodore could, and did... At first with the PET, then with the Commodore 64, which debuted in Jan 1982 with 64K memory for $595.

Re:the respect it "deserved" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874887)

Same price 4 years later? Hardly puts them in the same ballpark.

Re:the respect it "deserved" (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874985)

You missed the important step of the VIC-20 in 1980. I always felt the PET was not really a consumer computer (more for business), but the VIC-20 certainly was. The only computer in 1980-81 which had more sales was the Atari 800. (Due to brand recognition from the #1 selling Atari console.)

Re:the respect it "deserved" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874653)

LOBBY -> LOBBYIST

HOBBY -> HOBBYIST

You don't write lobbiest, do you? DO YOU?

Re:the respect it "deserved" (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874777)

If this gets any hobbier, it might reach the point, where it becomes the hobbiest thing of them all.

Great documentation!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874435)

I never had a TRS-80, but I had the technical manual. I learned how a computer was made from that manual.

I don't believe this story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874443)

I believe that computers only exist because of space exploration. This article makes it sound like history is far more complex than that, I don't believe it. As we all know, nothing existed before 1969 and all people were stupid. As soon as test pilots landed on the Moon, we got computers, Tang, Teflon and the wheel.

respect (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874449)

I remember them being terribly slow (895 kHz), glitchy, having poor video quality and the storage being very unreliable. The Apple ][ was vastly superior. But that's just my memory...

Re:respect (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874523)

And it had only two string variables: $A and $B I think.

Re:respect (4, Interesting)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874557)

Cassette tapes unreliable storage? That's one of the kinder ways to describe it. :) But seriously, I taught myself programming with the Z-80 assembler/debugger and would make multiple backups to tape to counter the occasional read glitch that rendered the tape contents lost for all practical purposes. (Although in a pinch attempting to read it in over and over with fingers crossed hoping that one time it would work was occasionally successful, at which point you wrote it out to a new backup tape.)

Wrote Double Deck Pinochle as my first program, later rewrote for DOS (is freeware out there somewhere), rewrote it in Java a few years ago (seriously proper OO architecture, but an interesting experience to rewrite 8086 to Java), and just so happens am now rewriting from Java to RPG for my IBM i (iseries AS/400) web server. Again an interesting experience. :)

For those who might wander about RPG looks like these days, I have open sourced a couple of projects:

http://code.google.com/p/rdwrites/downloads/list [google.com]

(the ascii source downloads can be viewed in a text editor.)

And I have the TRS-80 to thank for it all. So happy 35th, TRS-80.

Model 100 (4, Informative)

pdawson (89236) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874457)

The model 100 was a great machine. Got me through HS and college in the 90's. Lightweight, runs forever on 4 AA batteries, stores 32k text worth of class notes. And the key for me, no distractions like sol.exe, no network access. Transfer the notes to PC vis serial port at home and you've got room for the next day's notes.

And its even still available and supported at www.club100.org

Re:Model 100 (2)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874677)

Fun story: When Empire Strikes Back came out, a friend of mine went and bought a Model 100 just so that he could work on a term paper while sitting in line. Worked great.

Re:Model 100 (1)

lobotomy (26260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874709)

I was visiting San Luis Obispo, CA last week and saw a guy sitting in a coffee shop typing on a Model 100. I still have one in my garage. I need to see if it works (my dad left batteries in and they leaked). I new reporters who loved them: instant on, compact, quiet typing.

Re:Model 100 (4, Interesting)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874735)

Exactly. I get a kick reading the poseurs knocking the TRS-80.

The thing was mass-produced and worked. You could hack it. My Model 100 still works after almost 30 years of use. Four AA batteries runs the thing for weeks. I could and did access CompuServe with its built in 300baud modem. Just a few years ago I found a mod that allowed me to solder a Blusmirf Bluetooth chip to the ancient UART allowing me to pair to my desktop and even telnet to a RS6000 we were using.

The thing is slow, clunky (but with an absolutely great keyboard) and I still use it for note taking... because, as a tool, it works.

Re:Model 100 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40875181)

Used it, loved it, and the Model 100 [wikipedia.org] is /not/ what this thread is about.

RS just called it "TRS-80 Model 100" for marketing reasons. It's unrelated, and it was released in 1983.

And yeah sure, probably you know that, but an unhealthy number of people reading this thread weren't around and don't know. Let's not confuse them further.

Visicalc changed everything (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874475)

The fascinating thing about this period of time is how close Apple came to disappearing altogether.
While early sales of all personal computers were slow - sales were measured in thousands - it looked like the battle was always Commodore vs Radio Shack. Some magazines ignored Apple because they sold so few machines.
What changed everything was the development of Visicalc. According to Brian Bagnall's "The rise and fall of Commodore", Dan Bricklin wanted to develop Visicalc on a Commodore PET but they were too popular for him to get any time on them. He used an Apple II because no-one else wanted to write software for it and so it was always available.
Visicalc went on to be the application that changed personal computing forever - business' bought Apples by the bucketload to run visicalc- and elevated Apple from being insignificant to being the dominant selling machine.
While Visicalc saved Apple, Dan Bricklin has always denied that Visicalc had any effect on Commodore or the TRS 80, and that they were responsible for their own demise.
Having read the Commodore story (Bagnall) and Apple's story (too many books to mention) I look forward to reading the book mentioned in the article - 'Priming the pump' and getting another perspective on that period of time.

Re:Visicalc changed everything (4, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874959)

>>>visicalc- and elevated Apple from being insignificant to being the dominant selling machine.

Interesting revisionist history. Here are the top selling ("dominant") consumer machines according to ars technica:
1977 TRS-80
1978 TRS-80
1979 TRS-80
1980 Atari 800
1981 Atari 800
1982 Atari 800
1983 Commodore 64
...
1987 Commodore 64
1988 IBM PC + clones
and so on.

Now do you see any place where Apple II was dominant? No. It was always 3rd place behind the other brands. (Mainly because the pricetag on the Apples and Macs was too high for average people.)

Re:Visicalc changed everything (3, Insightful)

HonkyLips (654494) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875041)

The Apple II was dominant in terms of income, if not sales units. If you're referring to Jeremy Reimer's article you'll read that in 1980 Apple's turnover was $200 million, Radio Shacks was $175 million and Commodore's was $40 million. It might not have sold as many individual units but they made Apple a lot more money.

Sales figures for the PET weren't kept, but it is interesting that in 1982 Commodore sold more Vic 20s in 6 months than Apple sold Apple IIs in 5 years.

Figures are here: http://jeremyreimer.com/postman/node/329 [jeremyreimer.com]

Re:Visicalc changed everything (2)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875153)

To be honest, until Reimer published those figures, I'd always believed Apple's claim of being the "best-selling personal computer", and it still seems to be a widely-held misconception. From where I was sitting (school), it sure looked like it too.

Never had one (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874479)

I had a different (6502 based) system but my dad bought me the TRS80 BASIC programming book. It was the only BASIC reference I had so I effectively learnt programming from it. Six months later I had exhausted the possibilities of BASIC and got into machine code.

TRS-80 Mod 1 L1 was my first (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874499)

And I quickly outgrew it. Had to upgrade it to 16K L2 - then the EI, modem, speech input, disk drives. I had the whole 9 yards.

And yes, the lowercase mod was simply a chip piggyback - did it myself.

With Level 2 BASIC I learned to poke short routines into memory so they'd run faster.

Re:TRS-80 Mod 1 L1 was my first (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875217)

I'd forgotten about the speech synthesizer. Someone had dumped a fully-loaded Model I system on my school, so the 'computer club' quickly dug into to see if there were any good games. We were playing a "Star Trek" style game when all of a sudden a giant ASCII alien appeared and started yelling - everyone jumped out of their seats.

There was also a neat drawing/animation program where you could create blocky movies. However, by the the system seemed so out of date, we spent most of our time trading Apple disks.

Most popular? Debatable.... (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874501)

It was more popular than the Commodore PET, which was also available in the late 70's, but I don't think it ever matched the popularity that the Apple ][+ (and later, 2e) achieved in the early 1980's.

Math Class (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874553)

We had 8 of them in my Jr. High math class. Not content playing Oregon Trail, I started learning BASIC and transferred over to my dad's IBM PC. That was my beginning of a wonderful career in IT.

The Last TRS-80 fanboys (2)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874555)

Written by the last of the TRS-80 fanboys. And why did it not get the "respect it deserved"? From the authori's own article:

A bevy of games were available, too, despite the fact that the computer did only black-and-white graphics at 128-by-48, which was bare-bones even back then.

Now I must admit when it appeared in the fall 1977 Radio Shack catalog, I was excited at the prospect of being able to purchase a pre-built computer. But then as an owner of an Atari 2600, and while waiting to save the money for a TRS-80, brochures for the Atari 800 came out, and I of course waited for that. 8x the resolution, color, hardware scrolling, hardware sprites, four-channel sound, and (gasp) pixel addressing (as opposed to 2x3 "pixel" blocks of character graphics on the TRS-80).

WHAT ABOUT ATARI!!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874561)

Sorry for the caps, but seriousy why no love for the Atari 600 and 800?

I started out on those and all these years later that knowledge let me post on \.!

and make a honest decent living......

TRS-80 Model III (3, Interesting)

Tempest_2084 (605915) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874643)

I actually have a TRS-80 Model III (the one with the built in monitor) setup in my game room. The graphics aren't much (they're actually quite blocky), but they really did put a lot of love into those games. The TRS-80 version of Zaxxon is particularly impressive, and plays better than some of the versions on more capable systems (do a youtube search for it, it's worth checking out).

I found my TRS-80 on the side of the road in a garbage pile in the middle of nowhere Ohio while on a camping trip. I picked it up and took it home (over the wife's objections) and found that it still worked perfectly (initially it looked like it didn't work, but it turns out that the brightness dial had just been turned down all the way and was frozen in place). I guess my TRS-80 really IS a Trash-80.

Re:TRS-80 Model III (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874685)

I bought a used Model III (48K w/2 floppy drives) in the late 80s and have a lot of fond memories of it. I owned a couple of CoCo 2 machines as well.

Re:TRS-80 Model III (1)

ralphdaugherty (225648) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874749)

Tempest, that is an awesome story.

Re:TRS-80 Model III (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875025)

You've got ZAXXON?!

I'm coming over to your house right now.

why it was so underappreciated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874645)

Because Woz is a tech genius while Jobs was a kind of Prometheus who could mesmerize people so they perceived how so much better the Apple ][+ was.

But then, why people created software for the TRS-80?

Because Woz is a tech genius while Jobs was a kind of Prometheus who could mesmerize people so they perceived how so much better the Apple ][+ was.

No, you're not drunk or suddenly gained doubled vision: people back then wanted a computer to do serious work -- which implied the Apple one was unfit, because it was so incredible it would look like a toy amid the dumb terminals we had back then. That was another era, people, early adopters were a rare kind then.

Also, Woz is even more of a genius because he used a joke of a processor, the el-cheapo 6502... a frustratingly elementary calculator. Real developers were crazy about the Intel 8080/8085 and the much superior Zilog Z-80: it was the Darth Vader of the processors. Mind you, I love simple, but that was not the case of the 6502. It was darn braindamaged. Of course, for guys like Woz this wasn't much of a problem...

Living that age was great.

Re:why it was so underappreciated... (1)

quarkscat (697644) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875097)

And speaking of the Z-80 processor: I lusted after the Commodore Portable for the ability to drop in a Z-80 board to run CPM, but never had enough cash to make it happen. But to me the Big Iron holy grail was the Altair, with a Z-80 processor & S-100 buss.

Instead, I had a Timex Sinclair with a 2k memory expansion module & tape drive storage. I used it's built-in BASIC to solve sparse matrix calculations for rudimentary circuit analysis. By the time I got out of community college, the Zenith Z-150 (IBM-PC clone) was available -- loved the built-in debugger.

The computer that kept giving (1)

pivot_enabled (188987) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874661)

It must have been the best investment in history. I learned to write code on that machine (including assembly). It led to a still continuing history of nearly seamless gainful employment.

Thank you Tandy!

I still have it, In the garage, in a box.

Ah the good ol days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874691)

ScarfMan and Super Nova were pretty sweet.

Tool shed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874759)

Leininger created a prototype of the computer, wire-wrapping it himself on six Radio Shack breadboards (he described this construction stage as a “one-man show”). The prototype used a modified television for the display and a standalone keyboard for input.

One of the benefits of working for a company that sold electronic parts.

Nostalgia... (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874773)

I don't like nostalgia unless it's mine. Lou Reed

That said, I was born in 75. My first two computers where the TRS-80 Model 1 Level 2 (it was about 8-9 years old when I got it), and a Mattel Aquarius my grandmother won at bingo or some such. [wikipedia.org]
My Tandy had just the monitor and cassette drive, and I did not have the game expansion for the Aquarius. Using both I taught myself basic programming, and I even had some programs on tape for the Tandy that had C-64, Pet, and Apple versions on the same cassette, I became adept at telling the difference by ear to find the my version.
I still remember the two asterisks in the corner, one solid, the other blinking when you were loading a program, and having to adjust the volume and tone (and once or twice the tape head..early hardware hacking), to get it to read correctly.

Sigh...now I click a button on my web browser, and since my phone is also logged into our Google overlords, the app pushes through the ether and magically appears on my phone, which is at least an order of magnitude more powerful. And the phone is made of such small components, I cannot replace a fried cap or resolder a lose port. Where did the fun go?

My First Computer (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874791)

My very first computer was a TRS-80 Model II. It weighed in at a whopping 70 pounds with those huge diskettes. I even had the early SCSI HD which required you to load drivers via the TRS-DOS before you could access it. I also had the floppy disk expander - that huge unit with four or five floppy disk drives in it. Ah the memories .... I learned to write really simple programs in BASIC on it. My dad gave away the Model II, HD, and Floppy expansion units to the Smithsonian after being in storage for many years. The amazing thing is that after 24 years in storage, it booted into TRS-DOS and the hard drive was accessible. They don't make technology like they used to.

Radio Shack Pocket Computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874841)

My first ever computer was a Radio Shack Pocket Computer, back in 1980. It taught me a lot about programming, and it actually had a decent (for the time) implementation of BASIC, in some ways superior to that on larger PC's (indirect addressing for instance).

That thing taught me a lot about writing spare programs too. It had 2K of total memory, 1.9K of which was available after the system took it's chunk. But I actually used the thing quite successfully in my job as a Taco Bell manager, it was awesome for running the calculations we had to do during these big store inventories. It cut at least 2 hours out of my long nights.

I look back fondly on all those old systems I had: an old strange Wang thing that programmed only in assembly, a couple of Timex-Sinclairs that I learned to do some Z80 assembly on also (you had to embed the assembly inside of long text strings). I had 3 different TI-99 4A's (which I did some pretty advanced graphics on, I will have you know), and every iteration of intel: PC, PC-XT, PC-AT, Went straight to the what, 480SX or something like that, ran all the DOS variants from 3.1 to 4.0, then Win 95, 98, etc. I never had a PET or a Commodore, always wished I had.

They sure got better fast, didn't they?

A Long Lost TRS-80 Tale Unearthed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874873)

As evidenced here, this mythical box survives in the heart & souls of those drawn to it's call. For yours truly I picture as yesterday, this artifact sitting alone, unused for months, in a small northern California valley the feds stole from the Yukis about the time of the first .com boom circa 1851. My super krusty 8 fingered (for reals) typingteacher was it's protector. Or was it seven?

In any case, it was imperative I find a crack in the security to learn it's secrets. Thusly I hid under a desk as the bottle glassed grump instinctively scanned the
perimeter. The lights went off, I slipped in my floppy, & the green glow lit up my eyes late into each night as I harvested it's promises. Do, you, want, to, play, a, game?

Isolated from the greater Arpanet on this abject island of a single node net, I ended up writing an early trash80 three.bs port. These many many lines of basic were designed, amongst other things I've since forgotten, to take down an ascii airliner with an ascii lightening bolt for the zorkesque flight sim. I left this easter egg for whomever might finally access this box should the faculty ever find the means to deploy it. The beast was officially powned.

With this covert training worthy of the Mossad's finest, the d&d dm.lib on my friend's Atari400 was an inevitable fate to be fulfilled. It is rumored that Crunch
picked up the machine for 20 bucks at a Foothill college Ham meet & Easywriter was subsequently ported to Radio Shack's bastard child. This much is most certainly a lie. The valley is now cratered with single wide generic Adderal plantations supplying regiments of grad students in the city states to the south. The fate of the this mystery machine, however, will forever remain unknown.

Ah, memories (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874895)

My first job was working at a music store - basically I was their (very low paid) in-house programmer, except during the start-of-school crunch time when I helped sell instruments like every other person in the store. I wrote stuff like payroll and inventory software that ran on their TRS-80, and had to serve as the data entry clerk as well. That beast had dual floppy drives... good times, good times.

Re:Ah, memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40875005)

All I can say is:

Blood, guts, twisted metal. Yuck what a mess!

It really is beautiful (1)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874905)

I wouldn't hesitate to make it a center-piece in my home. Reminds me of a time I -- as a lifeform -- entered the final moments of, where things were built by people who knew damned well how to build things. That's all I have to say, other than it's the first time I've seen one.

Opinion of an 12 year old (2)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874919)

Back in 8th grade (1985) I was introduced to the TRS-80 CoCo II. Our school had a lab full of them (two students per computer), and we were taught keyboarding and some basic programming. Now, up to that point, my computer experience was already pretty extensive. I owned a TI-99/4A, and the highlight of each month was receiving the next edition of Compute! so I could type in the BASIC / Extended BASIC programs. I had already written thousands of lines of BASIC code from scratch (from the time I was 10). I had a lot of experience on the Apple II and the C-64 as well.

Now, 30 years later, I can't remember enough specifics to state the technical reasons, but as a 12 year old, I absolutely hated the CoCo II. I was not a TI-99 fanatic (I had great appreciation for the C-64, for example), so I didn't dislike the TRS-80 because of some external factor- I didn't like it simply because of what it was.

Odds and ends I remember is that the performance was laggy and sluggish (even in the day, compared to the machines I mentioned already). BASIC syntax had some convoluted stuff going on (probably related to graphics and sound) and code editing was a chore. The hardware felt cheap.

To compare to the other machines I was familiar with, the TI-99/4A felt very professional and refined throughout. Both the hardware, and the software. It felt more engineered and like something a scientist would use or something. lol As a 10 year old, I felt I was using a machine intended for real adults to use. It was serious and real. It had a certain rigidity that was authoritative. The CoCo felt like a toy or a gimmick in some way.

The Apple II was similar. The hardware felt very high quality, and the OS was refined and consistent.

The C-64 gave the impression there was always something deeper and lower-level, just waiting to be exploited. It was complicated (just loading a program off of the disc required these weird, non-intuitive parameters that neither I nor my 10 year old friends understood, like "why do you have to put ,8 after the filename?"). Compute! listings had all these pokes and peeks, directly manipulating memory. You could change the color of text using these weird keyboard combos - no other computer of the day had nearly the flexibility or flashy pizazz of the C-64.

So as a 12 year old, there simply weren't any redeeming factors to the TRS-80. I knew that other computers of the era did various things better and were more fun to program and use than the TRS-80, and I complained often to my classmates, lamenting that we couldn't have TIs or C64s because they were better computers.

TRS-80 with NewDOS-80 was awsome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40874937)

TRS-DOS was written by Microsoft so was buggy and lame. NewDOS-80 gave us much more power and control. I had a EPROM burner for my Model I that I used even after the IBM PC came along. The Model I was the first in the series. The Model 4 (and 4P) could be loaded up with 128K of RAM and bank switched in 32K chunks, allowing you to put any chunk in any position. Great for disassembling copy protected games. Also the ROM could be switched out giving you 128K of pure RAM, thus allowing it to run CP/M and all the software that was developed for that, and at 4MHz too. The Model 3, 4 and 4p could display 80 x 24 text simultaneously with graphics and the graphics board RAM could be increased as well. Anyone calling the TRS-80 a Trash-80 never discovered how much power these computers really had. Even the Model I would run Pascal with almost all the features of the IBM 360 version. All the languages of the day were available; Forth, Prolog, Lisp, Pascal, C, Fortran and, of course BASIC. The Model I with the expansion interface had a RS-232 port with a serial interface. Mine ran a BBS. Crude sound was possible by cycling the cassette port. Although a RTC wasn't built in, there were plenty of after-market choices. The diskette drive interface was industry standard so it was easy to connect up 4 double-sided, double-density diskette drives. All that and a Z-80 processor with an alternate register set made it a good piece of gear for the time.

My first computer! (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 2 years ago | (#40874991)

In high school this was my first computer. The Apple 1 wasn't available for me at the time and so I grew up on the TRS-80 models as they evolved, eventually, into the Model III with built in screen all looking very slick for the time. By the time my school had built a computing lab and filled it with Apple II's I had my own machines at home. When the Model IV arrived I'd moved on to other machines and was looking to my first PC (with help).

I remember when I had to write lines (the teachers chosen method for entry level discipline - before detention and the cane) I learned the Agile approach to software by asking them things like "would you like the lines numbered?". I then created a short three or four lines of BASIC code and let it print for the selected amount of lines. So to me the TRS-80 was an incredible time saver.

It also made me money, whilst all the other kids were tooling around trying to figure out if they'd be mechanics carpenters or hairdressers my choice of computing career (my geek fate was sealed!!) let me do other things, like charge the other kids money to do their computing homework.

So thank you TRS-80 and happy birthday!

Critical Business App on TRS-80 (2)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875017)

> You are inside a pyramid, there are openings to the N, S, E and W
> _

You mean Rat Shack? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40875163)

They tried to sell me a 8 GB USB stick for $80 USD.

I still remember..... (2)

zoid.com (311775) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875189)

I can still remember how the Model I smelled.

My first store-bought computer (3, Insightful)

NewtonsLaw (409638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40875191)

The TRS80 model 1 was my first store-bought computer -- I'd built my own "microcomputers" up until that stage.

Compared to the Apple it had some real strengths: A BASIC with double-precision math, a Z80 processor (the 6502 is wicked-good but once Page 0 is used up you lose so many of those cool addressing modes so the Z80 works better in a "store-bought" machine with ROM firmware), plenty of support in magazines, and later, a brilliant disk OS in the form of NewDOS80

I had most of the Tandy micros: The Model 1, the Model 2 (with 8" drives and later, CP/M), the Tandy 100, the Model III and later, the seldom mentioned Tandy 2000 with its Intel 80186 processor at 8MHz. That thing just blitzed all the 4.77MHz 8088-based PC clones that were around at the time.

But those were different days.

Before the advent of the IBM PC, every machine was wildly different and exciting. Once the "PC-compatible" virus hit, hardware became rather undistinctive and "samey".

Good days!

35 years ago?!?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40875225)

OMG, I'm so f'ing old!!!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?