Check out Radioshack's 1981 computer catalog


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/10/06/check-out-radioshacks-1981-c.html


#2

Did he earn that vest?


#3

Yes. But they don’t speak of that night. Even today he avoids the restroom on the 5th floor.


#4

Thousands of programmers fought and died to wear it. Also, they had powder-blue three piece suits back then. Yay!


#5

I dunno; he looks like a hobbyist-programmer who gets together with his college-buddies on the weekend to hang out playing ADVENTURE, but tell everybody they hammered out some code and war-dialed into the Pentagon.


#6

And look, it’s Barb, from Stranger Things…
Can we listen to the dot matrix printer?


#7

Oh man,Trash 80s! I’m a little too young for this to have been my first computer, but I seem to remember my elementary school had a few of the later iterations that were largely phased out by Apples.


#8

I don’t think the Tandy corporation was ever British, was it?


#9

I suppose that this is before the emerging market segmentation where IBMs were in the office, Apple ][ 's were in schools, and TRS-xx s were for the hobbiest market.


#10

My section of Radio Shack was the components section. Solder, wire, fuses, LEDs…now that’s nostalgia worth holding on to!


#11

I hadn’t heard that, either. I do know that Tandy (incl. Radio Shack) was headquartered in Ft. Worth years before we moved to the area ('79).

ETA:
My first computer was a Model I (1978 vintage, I think), with 4K RAM and Level I Basic that we bought from my cousin in late 1982. We paid him $300 for it – I provided $100 that I’d saved up over the summer and Dad ponied up the rest. I think he saw himself actually using the thing to work at home – he bought SCRIPSIT, which was a word processing program, and another program simply called Statistical Analysis. I should note that these programs were stored on cassette tapes, which fit in a binder notebook – we had a cassette player (a tape drive, if you will) that plugged into the computer.

A couple of months after we bought the thing, we paid a guy $100 to upgrade it to Level II Basic, 16K RAM and lowercase letters (presumably he was a Tandy employee, but he did this sort of work out of his house). I guess he botched it, because we had to hit the shift key to use lowercase, but we never did anything about it. (Apropos of nothing, two things I remember from visiting him were that he kept a flask in his work area, and I first heard Toni Basil’s “Mickey” on the way over.)

I think Dad quickly gave up on doing anything productive with it – the only way to add disk drives or a printer (neither of which were cheap) would be to purchase an Expansion Interface (it’s in the linked catalog). He’d already sunk money into the software but I guess he decided he’d spent as much as he was willing to spend. A few months later he was able to bring a computer home from work, anyway (a Digital desktop; presumably some type of DECMate).

I sort of learned to program on the Model I. I wrote a program that would display a glossary of musical terms (andante, crescendo, fermata etc.) one page at a time. (I had started playing saxophone around then.) That was the only thing I wrote from scratch; everything else I manually typed in from the owner’s manuals.


#12

I’m glad I waited a few years for my first computer…the Tandy 1000EX:laughing:


#13

This was before the IBM PC even existed.

Curiously, Radio Shack wrote their own DOS instead of using CP/M, which was the industry standard of the time. I did some work on a Radio Shack Model II, the one with the two upright 8" floppies. It was a little ecosystem of its own, running some proprietary BASIC. Needless to say, this product line died an early and well-deserved death.


#14

The front of the line in the photo is my first computer – Hot CoCo – good old Tandy Color Computer (16k with extended color basic - which meant only 8k of memory to work with).
Everything on that cover (except the color computer) is what we had at school (we had a few apple II’s – with z80 cards for our Pascal classes).
I spent a lot of my chore/farm-work/etc money just replacing cpus on the CoCo because I was always trying electronics projects that used the expansion port (or piggy-back soldering memory chips) and one small error could lead to magic smoke release.


#15

Yes. And before the IBM PC, most corporate computing was done on mainframes or mini (not micro) computers accessed with dumb terminals or media, such as punched cards.


#16

I had a TRS-80 Model 1 that my father bought us in 1977. I remember many arguments over the years as I wanted to get it upgraded and he didn’t understand why it needed more stuff! We got the expansion interface and then the disk drives. I wrote a time travel video game and spent many hours copying computer programs from magazines and wishing that I could get the speech synthesizer (that worked by reading section of the screen memory and producing sounds based on that). I had the memory location written on a chalk board to type in when it started up to protect the memory so that I could also load the machine code programs I needed for my video game. You could put a AM radio next to the computer that would pick up the signals and then worked as the sound effects for the video game.

I did my homework reports in SCRIPSIT and printed them on the dot matrix printer which the teachers hated. The g’s and p’s or any other letter with a descender didn’t go below the line because that was outside of the dot matrix box of pins.

I might have actually been a pretty good programmer, all of that was wasted when I became a chemical engineer. My mother gave the computer away many years later because it was “in the way” in a basement she never went down to. Still stings to this day (which is why I mention it).


#17

The greatest surprise to me was seeing that for the mid-range and consumer lines, a printer cost almost as much as the computer itself.


#18

Daisy wheel printers were very well built back then. The gold standard was the Xerox Diablo 630 at $3000, but there were copies. The copies didn’t do much cost reduction, though.

The rise of non-impact printing dramatically reduced the cost, since the mechanisms don’t have to handle any Gs, so they can be made of Chinese mystery metal or even plastic.


#19

OS9 or GTFO!


#20

When I got into computers around '82, my H.S. had about 10 Model 1s (one of them had a printer, expansion interface & floppy drive) for teaching BASIC, and was leasing an old IBM 1130 mainframe with a whopping 16K of core memory for teaching Fortran and Cobol.

The next year, they sent the mainframe away and bought a room full of Model 4s with the money they saved.

Many people called them Trash-80s out of disrespect. I called them that as a term of endearment. Also, it’s easier than saying “Tee Ar Ess” all the time.