A TRS-80 retrospective

This month is the 35th anniversary of the TRS-80, which was the best-selling computer in the world until 1982 when the VIC-20 overtook it. Did you miss it? I almost did.

Veteran technology journalist and editor Harry McCracken has a nice retrospective of this mass-market computer from Radio Shack.

The TRS-80 was actually the second computer I used. The first was probably a VIC-20 in 1981 or early 1982. My elementary school in Jefferson City, Mo. got a few TRS-80s in 1982, and a few of their most promising students got to spend a couple of days per week learning to use them. I was one of the students selected. So we spent a semester messing around with these new machines, figuring out how to write simple programs. With no peripherals, we couldn’t do a lot–we couldn’t print and we couldn’t store data–but this was a time when very few people in the general population had ever interacted directly with a computer at all, so it was new and exciting even though everything we did would be wiped out with the next flip of the power switch.

Then we moved, and my new school had Commodore 64s, so that’s the machine that I get nostalgic about. Like McCracken says of the TRS-80, it was possible to know machines of that era inside and out in ways that isn’t possible with today’s machines. They were all quirky, and quirky in different ways. Kind of like that bumper sticker that touts that Jeep Thing, except in 1982, all computers had their own thing.

So, while I never owned a TRS-80 myself, I understand. I understand completely.

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