Check out Radioshack's 1981 computer catalog


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Did he earn that vest?


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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).

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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


OS9 or GTFO!


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.