tandy radio shack


Digging through the Trash

Of the big 3 home computers to be celebrating their 40th anniversaries at VCF East XII, Tom Hornberger put together quite possibly the single most authentic recreation of a home deployment you could imagine.  I would dare call this a shrine to Tandy Radio Shack’s TRS-80 Model I, as you would have encountered one in 1977.

Seen here is a TRS-80 Model I in a specially built desk with an inset for the main unit/keyboard, a second inset for the expansion unit and monitor, and a little shelf underneath for the bank of 5¼ floppy drives.  Tom brought along an authentic tape deck, Radio Shack pocket amplifier, and even a tiny era-appropriate desk lamp!  Documentation, a printer, and software galore shows he was a hardcore TRS-80 user when this was new and commonplace in the home, and Tandy was king of microcomputer sales (if only for a few years).

I learned more about the TRS-80 talking to Tom than I have in all my years in this hobby.


Tandy/Radioshack TRS-80 Model 100. Announced in March of 1983 at $799(?) for 8K of RAM, expandable up to 32K. 80C85 Processor running at 2.4 MHz and runs off 4 AA batteries. First ‘notebook’ sized computer. Originally designed by Kyocera, and sold the rights to Tandy and NEC. Runs a version of BASIC from Microsoft; it was the last machine Bill Gates wrote a majority of the code for. RS-232, parallel and bar code reader ports, built in 300 baud modem. Could record to an external cassette or 5.25in floppy drive. Drives and phone line in needed adapters that went to an 8 pin DIN. 40 x 8 character display, fully addressable graphics (240x64 px). This one has been modified, has 256K RAM and a new ROM. Keyboard made by Alps, has linear switches, saw them used as a USB keyboard with a teensy, or other micro of your choice. Very easy to repair, built with mostly through hole parts, many are still easy to find today. Some conformal coating on the power supply area. Only surface mount parts are found on the display board. Works well as a terminal, set up a switch with it, but text wraps quite a bit.


TRanSistors Part 1

This was one of the three mega exhibits for the 40th anniversary of the big three appliance computers launched in 1977.   Peter Cetinski, Kelly Leavitt, Dean Notarnicola (captain), his son Drew Notarnicola, & Jeffrey Jonas teamed up to display Tandy Radio Shack computers, primarily focusing on the TRS-80 Model 1

First we have some examples of early Tandy products that lead paved the way for the microcomputer boom of 1977.  Radio Shack was the ubiquitous source of electronics parts for decades.  Then the TRS-80 Model I burst onto the scene, and it was a whole new ballgame!  Seen here is a decked out Model I, a Z80 juggernaut complete with acoustic coupler, bank of four floppy drives, stringy floppy (kinda like tape, but not), and even the modern TRS-80 MISE unit.

Later machines moved from Z80 architecture up to the more powerful 6809 with the TRS-80 CoCo I, II, & III (short for Color Computer).  Plus, this also lead to the very tiny MC-10 based on the CoCO line.  Look how small it is!  Oh, and yes, that is a TRS-80-stylized Portable Data Terminal with acoustic coupler built right in.

Stay tuned for more photos, including the TRS-80 Model II, III, 4, and the portables!


Hot CoCo

Anthony Stramaglia promised Tandy Color Computers, and he sure delivered. 

“In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the home computer market was filled with 6502-based offerings. But in 1980, Tandy Corporation threw their own hat in the home computer ring and offered a Motorola 6809E-based micro called the Radio Shack Color Computer — affectionately known as the CoCo. It developed a devoted following, and as a result, Tandy released two more generations, the Color Computer II in 1983 and III in 1986. A low-cost entry-level “little brother” called the MC-10 was also released in 1983. I will exhibit all three generations, an MC-10. and a variety of peripherals, games and other applications.”

When I was in middle school, the Radio Shack in the mall was a favorite hangout. My grandmother took me there once and I convinced her to buy me this book. I didn’t know exactly what it was. I knew it was about programming, and that the BASIC manual that had come with the Tandy 1000 we got for Christmas was a little hard to get started with. I hoped this would help me make sense of it. The rest is history, and also my career, and also the third love of my life, behind my Wife and kids. Thank you Gama and thank you David Lien.


I spotted Q*Bert running on a TRS-80 Coco 2 or 3 (I never did look at the badge plate).  I suck at Q*Bert, so I didn’t embarrass myself.  Meanwhile, some CoCo enthusiasts were performing repairs on one of their units.

John Mark Mobley had a Tandy TRS-80 MC-10, and a Sinclair ZX-81 just chilling out on display.  I don’t think I had ever seen an MC-10 before, and I was disappointed that it wasn’t hooked up for demonstration.


TRanSistors Part 2

This was one of the three mega exhibits for the 40th anniversary of the big three appliance computers launched in 1977.   Peter Cetinski, Kelly Leavitt, Dean Notarnicola (captain), his son Drew Notarnicola, & Jeffrey Jonas teamed up to display Tandy Radio Shack computers, primarily focusing on the TRS-80.

Seen here is the rarely talked about TRS-80 Model II, which was designed as more of a business machine than a personal machine.  This means that Tandy gave this machine a 4MHz Z-80A, 32K or 64K of RAM, the largest external storage mediums available, and a 12″ monitor – nothing to sneeze at in 1979.

It included an internal 8″ floppy drive, but it was common to see it with a hulking bank of three external 8″ drives.  It isn’t common to see a model II running, but this is VCF East, and it’s no fun to display a broken computer.  I played Star Trek on it, however it was loaded from a modern CF card storage device instead of the original 8″ drives (which are apparently incredibly frustrating to fix).  I also played Worms, which was a pretty good snake game, even with the awkward controls. 

While they weren’t architecturally similar to the desktop Trash-80 machines, the TRS-80 Model 100, 102, 200, and even 600 series portable machines were a big hit.  A precursor to the modern laptop in terms of portability, these devices had full keyboards that would put many modern machines to shame.  The down side to this design was the limited character display, lacking a backlight or any serious graphics modes.  I still want one…

Stay tuned for the final installment of TRS-80′s tomorrow.