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I'm surprised RS and TRS-80 aren't more recognized..?


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#1 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:02 AM

In looking through this catalog at what RS had to offer in the early years, I'm surprised that Apple got so much credit for getting the industry going. By the looks of this early catalog, it looks like RS had a lot of polished turnkey systems ready to roll.

 

Attached File  RSC-03_Computer_Catalog_1980_Radio_Shack_PDF_OCR.pdf   6.6MB   18 downloads



#2 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 23, 2017 3:34 AM

Weren't Tandy a bit like Amstrad many years later: packaging mostly existing technology into useable, affordable systems? That is nothing to look down upon, but compared to e.g. Apple it appears a little less innovative. Also history is written by winners and though Tandy lasted a long while into the 80's and perhaps even 90's, Apple (as little as part of me wants to admit it) had a longer term .. shall we call it successful market exposure .. which also affects what people remember about the early years.



#3 save2600 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:10 AM

I have a large stack of old RS Tandy catalogs which I'll be selling soon... so fun to peruse. And you'd swear by their marketing that they were the best game in town for business, especially for businesses on a budget. So full of promise with such professional offerings. 

 

We had a lab full of Model III's growing up and it's what I learned BASIC and typing on. Teacher had an Apple ][+ on a rolling cart normally reserved for those projection units. Don't remember him doing much of anything with it though. Just remember it was there. 

 

I have a pic of our TRS-80 lab in a yearbook that I'll dig out and share soon.   :) 



#4 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:23 AM

Commodore, Apple, and Tandy/Radio Shack were known as the big three in early computing. Thanks to its retail channel the TRS-80 outsold Apple II buy a wide margin in the 1970s. In the 1980s Tandy graphics and audio on early PCs became industry standards.

#5 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:37 AM

If it had not been for CP/M compatibility, I wonder how well the TRS-80 line had fared.

 

Probably I've mentioned this at least a couple of times before, but the first company to import the TRS-80 line to Sweden did barely nothing about it. They expected it would sell itself, despite lack of localized business software and no Radio Shack stores over here that would help as well. After a few years they shifted the deal to another company, who got inspired by what Datatronic had made with the Commodore PET line, producing dozens and dozens of useful business software that put the PET among the very top 2 business computers. However the second TRS-80 importer never considered that software development isn't for free, at least not if you want quality software so they also gave up. The third importer in a short period of years instead aimed at CP/M programs, possibly localizing those so they could sell the same business programs in versions both for the TRS-80 line and whichever other CP/M systems were available on the market. In the end, the entire line of computers was some kind of parenthesis compared to which market impact the Commodore PET and I suppose Apple got, as well as domestic brands like the Luxor ABC-80 and ABC-800 lines, before the IBM PC and compatibles finally overtook them all.

 

While it might seem like a TL;DR anecdotal story, it is yet one more example that no matter how good hardware you've got or how well it sells elsewhere, if the software doesn't exist or doesn't match the market you're trying to access, you'll not sell many computers. I've come to understand that Commodore in the USA and Canada was something of the opposite, not offering a great deal of business software themselves so the PET/CBM rather become a hobbyist/school computer than dominant in the business world.



#6 krslam OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 23, 2017 8:53 AM

Apple heavily discounted it's equipment sales to schools, ensuring that a generation of kids (and by extension their parents) considered them to be "the" computer company.  Didn't hurt that they also had colorful games while Radio Shack & Commodore were targeting business buyers and offered only black-and-white graphics.  RS was further hurt by the poor reliability record of the Model I.  Later machines were fine products but if you're talking about the start of the personal computer era, the Model I was a clunker.



#7 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 23, 2017 11:07 AM

Tandy had the highest revenues of any personal computer manufacturer in the 80s.
They made more money through better margins and more product lines.
I think it was infoworld that named them as the largest personal computer manufacturer in terms of revenue but it was several years ago that I read it so I'm not sure.
 



#8 spacecadet OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:26 PM

Tandy/RS were definitely one of the big early movers in the computer industry. And they didn't just repackage stuff; the TRS-80 line was their own thing. Only later did they start repackaging off the shelf stuff, though sometimes it had improvements over what was available elsewhere, like Tandy Graphics, which was basically the extra graphics modes from the IBM PCjr. but included in XT-class machines. That meant both businesses and home users could get EGA-like graphics for a fraction of the cost, without otherwise sacrificing computing power.

 

There are a few reasons why I think they don't have the same mindshare as other companies from the era:

 

1) They were more focused on businesses than home users or schools, so not as many people really grew up with them.

 

2) They didn't stay relevant very long. At one point they were the largest computer maker in the USA, with their own designs and software, but within only a few years they were an also-ran. By the mid to late-80's, they were basically just another IBM clone maker.

 

3) They're no longer in the business at all, so they're not making many new fans. Young people aren't buying new Tandys and then becoming interested in their history in the way they do with Apple or even IBM. Of course Atari, Commodore and others aren't in the business anymore either, but those brands had more home users as fans to begin with.

 

It's interesting for me to compare Tandy and Apple. Apple was very similar to Tandy in its early days, but they took divergent paths. If you flipped the script and said Tandy wouldn't make a PC clone but would just keep doing their own thing while Apple would instead commoditize their computers, it's very possible that we could now be saying "why doesn't anyone talk about Apple the way they talk about Tandy?" Tandy even had the built-in advantage of having its own network of stores, which they squandered over time.



#9 ClausB OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 10, 2017 8:07 AM

They were recognized in the day: http://atariage.com/...s/#entry3697647

#10 AMenard OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 10, 2017 9:04 AM

TRS-80 were well known where I live since just about every town had its RS store while computer stores were a rare thing. The coco would also have been more popular if Dragon in the UK didn't outright copied it thus limiting export. But like the Dragon the coco suffered from using a lest common CPU, the 6809, instead of the more popular z80 or 6502 and thus crippling the porting of applications and games to it.

#11 carlsson OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 10, 2017 9:55 AM

I don't think Dragon copied the CoCo, but rather used an open reference implementation including compatible firmware IIRC. It seems the Dragon was sold in small scale in the US by Tano, as well as Radio Shack marketed their CoCo in Europe next to the Dragon, though the CoCo seemed higher priced for the same hardware specs.



#12 AMenard OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 10, 2017 10:15 AM

I don't think Dragon copied the CoCo, but rather used an open reference implementation including compatible firmware IIRC. It seems the Dragon was sold in small scale in the US by Tano, as well as Radio Shack marketed their CoCo in Europe next to the Dragon, though the CoCo seemed higher priced for the same hardware specs.


They even left the easter egg in the roms from the original coco...
The Dragon didn't make it to Canada, at least not in my province, except for some in surplus/liquidator stores when it was already discontinued.

#13 Casey OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 10, 2017 10:17 AM

Commodore, Apple, and Tandy/Radio Shack were known as the big three in early computing. Thanks to its retail channel the TRS-80 outsold Apple II buy a wide margin in the 1970s. In the 1980s Tandy graphics and audio on early PCs became industry standards.

If you are referring to what's known as the "Tandy 16-color adapter' or "Tandy 3-voice sound" - those were not innovations by Tandy, nor were they used by anyone else in the industry that I'm aware of.  Tandy planned to compete with the IBM PCjr which had these features first with it's 1000 line, assuming that anything from IBM would be an instant success.  So these additional features introduced by the PCjr were included in the Tandy 1000 line.  That the PCjr failed and the Tandy 1000 had moderate success in the home market is fortunate for Tandy.  But no other manufacturer to my knowledge included these features in their computers just because Tandy did.  EGA was much more a standard than Tandy's.



#14 spacecadet OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:11 PM

That the PCjr failed and the Tandy 1000 had moderate success in the home market is fortunate for Tandy.  But no other manufacturer to my knowledge included these features in their computers just because Tandy did.  EGA was much more a standard than Tandy's.

 

I think what he means is that they became features that most games and apps supported. In the early days of PC gaming, most games would support monochrome, CGA, EGA, or Tandy Graphics. (Similar situation with sound, though the list of audio standards most games supported was longer.) In those days, which didn't last very long, Tandy was probably the biggest manufacturer of PC's for *home* users. The PCjr. was supposed to be for that purpose but it didn't catch on; the Tandy 1000 line did, though. So it made sense for games and home-centric apps to support Tandy graphics into the mid-90's or so.


Edited by spacecadet, Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:11 PM.


#15 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:15 PM

The Dragon was based on the same Motorola reference design as the CoCo.
They used a licensed version of Microsoft BASIC which isn't identical to the CoCo... it uses different tokens for keywords, but it has all the same commands.
It wasn't designed to have separate Color BASIC and Extended Color BASIC ROMs which should make it a little more efficient.
They added support for the parallel printer port and hardware serial port, and used a different keyboard matrix.
It was a better CoCo 1 really.

There are several other CoCo copies out there.  The two in Brazil (same machines with different keyboards) and one in Mexico for sure.
I think there was one other one but forget where it was from.

 



#16 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:17 PM

 

I think what he means is that they became features that most games and apps supported. In the early days of PC gaming, most games would support monochrome, CGA, EGA, or Tandy Graphics. (Similar situation with sound, though the list of audio standards most games supported was longer.) In those days, which didn't last very long, Tandy was probably the biggest manufacturer of PC's for *home* users. The PCjr. was supposed to be for that purpose but it didn't catch on; the Tandy 1000 line did, though. So it made sense for games and home-centric apps to support Tandy graphics into the mid-90's or so.

I think the IBM was a flop due to the price and that wireless infrared keyboard that got horrible ratings.
The 1000 came with a decent keyboard, was cheaper, and there were dealers everywhere.
I vaguely remember Tandy having some early BIOS issues, but I think that was worked out within a couple years.



#17 BassGuitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Dec 12, 2017 4:33 PM

Radio Shack/Tandy might be my favorite computer brand of the late '70s/early '80s, actually. They had several systems that were as capable as they were pioneering, and which offered something for just about everyone.

I regard my Model I system as one of the crown jewels of my entire console-computer collection. :)



#18 Keatah ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:04 AM

One of my first exposures to computing (home & hobby) was reading through the RadioShack catalogs. And they were well prepared for learning basic specifications and what peripherals did what. I loved those discrete external peripherals. They projected an aura of sophistication. And seemingly endless capability. I loved comparing the B/W "graphics" and text to the Atari VCS. I discovered both good points and bad points. And I was always in the local RadioShack because of the project kits and cool parts like integrated circuits and solar cells and capacitors.

 

I think I wanted the Model I before I wanted the Apple. But strange and weird circumstances prevailed and I ended up with an Apple II. And that was that. I would not have been disappointed with the Model I. The potential downfall would have been the phasing out of the Model I/III series. I'm sure it happened much sooner than the Apple II. The //c & Platinum carried the II series into the early-mid 90's.

 

Even in my pre-teen years I was fascinated with simulations and databases. The DB programs were like magic! It took me many minutes to find something in a card catalog or my own infantile attempts at cataloging game cartridges and stuff, where as computer DB did it like instantly.

 

Surprisingly (or not) more kids in my area had Apple II. And despite RS stores and 2 ComputerCenters, I knew no one with TRS-80. Not till way way later.

 

I also had a fetish for the Model III, it looked like a NASA Mission Control console. Dress it up with some knobs and lighted buttons and meters, a telephone, and  custom keypad and *I* *WAS* *THERE* !!


Edited by Keatah, Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:08 AM.


#19 Gamemoose OFFLINE  

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Posted Yesterday, 1:13 PM

Didn' the early Tandy PC clones use proprietary hardware? I never had one BITD but I did acquire one from a church many years later. When I popped it open, those expansion slots did not look standard.

As for the Coco- I knew one kid in grade school whose family had one. In middle school there was only one guy that had a computer at all and it was a C-64. If others had a computer, they were tight lipped as having one at home slid you towards nerd status. Heck NES games were lent out practically in dim alleyways between kids.

#20 AMenard OFFLINE  

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Posted Yesterday, 1:40 PM

My first computer that I could afford was the TRS-80 MC-10. I bought the 16k and tape recorder a month later. They were all in the bargain bin at my local RS store. I learned programming by typing in basic listings from books and magazines that I could find cheap.

I later own a CoCo 2 that I upgraded to 64k. I mostly used it as a terminal for my early bbs days before also getting an Atari 130XE and a C64. I traded the CoCo for a C64 modem finaly. I would have enjoyed the CoCo more if I could've afforded a disk drive for it.

#21 spacecadet OFFLINE  

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Posted Today, 1:00 PM

Didn' the early Tandy PC clones use proprietary hardware? I never had one BITD but I did acquire one from a church many years later. When I popped it open, those expansion slots did not look standard.

 

You're probably talking about the Tandy 2000, which was their first "PC clone", but the problem is it really wasn't that. They weren't really trying to be PC compatible, they were just trying to be MS-DOS compatible. They just used the same OS. This was in 1983; it wasn't really established yet that IBM was going to set the standard, so Tandy probably didn't think they needed to fully copy the PC. Tandy probably thought it was just as likely that future IBM computers would need to be Tandy compatible as the reverse. That was supported by the fact that the 2000 was a lot more powerful than either the PC or even the XT. So they probably thought they'd lock up the high end.

 

The Tandy 1000 was the first real PC compatible for them, and it did well. (It came after the 2000, despite the lower model number.) The 3000 was what most people think the 2000 was, or should have been. It was the first high performance PC compatible from Tandy.



#22 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Today, 1:31 PM

The "all in one" Tandy PCs had proprietary slots and cards.  The cards mounted horizontally and passed through the connector from one card to the next.
Too bad they didn't go with a standard ISA riser card, I think that hurt the popularity of the machines.






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