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I’m surprised RS didn’t have more of an influence bitd.

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Since I purchased the first TRS-80 from my local Radio Shack in 1977,  and used that computer until 1983,  I remember that time period rather well.  The main reason that the TRS-80 dominated the early micro computer market in the US in the late 70s is their massive distribution network.  There was almost no where in America that didn't have a Radio Shack near by.  Even if I had wanted to buy an Apple II (much more expensive than the TRS-80 entry level) or Pet 2001, there were very few dealers around in the early days.  At Radio Shack, for $599, I got the TRS-80 Level I, 4K, (It wasn't called the Model I in those days since it was the only one you could buy) a black and white monitor, and a cassette deck for saving and loading programs. There were very few program cassettes in Radio Shack in those days (I think the first one I bought was Black Jack),  but they did have a book on programming and the book "101 BASIC Computer Games".  With these two books, I soon had a whole library of computer games in BASIC saved to tape.  At the same time I taught myself to program as those 101 BASIC Computer Games were written in a different dialect of BASIC, so they all had to modified to work correctly on the TRS-80.


Radio Shack and the TRS-80 soon had a commanding market share.  They could have stayed the market leader, but they tried to assert too much control over their technology.  In the early days they only offered official Radio Shack software in their stores.  They didn't even tell people about the abundant third part software (and hardware) that was available.  Much of it was only available to most people by mail order.  If you read the adds in Byte and Creative Computing (and later 80 Micro) and you didn't mind mail order, you could find it.  Several years later, after it was too late, they did offer third party software for sale in their stores, but by then other computers could be found in major retailers along with a good selection of software.  The TRS-80 was only sold in Radio Shack.


The TRS-80 Color Computer,  as nice as it is in many ways, was a major mistake in my opinion.  The graphics paled in comparison to the Atari 400/800, and the TI-99,  even the Apple II+, the Compucolor, the Ohio Scientific Challenger 4P.  Of course they were trying to sell the computer at an entry level cost, so there had to be compromises.  However Commodore introduced the VIC-20 at almost the same time with a real full-stroke keyboard and much better graphics.  I think they would have been better off releasing a Z-80 based Color Computer that was compatible with the Model I and III.  They could have leveraged their massive software base, while releasing new software to take advantage of the new color graphics and sound.

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The question isn't why didn't they have more of an influence BITD, because they did.

Of the original big 3, the TRS-80 line was king.  Beat Apple and Commodore handily.

And originally those Model 1s,2s, etc were huge.  

Even the Model 100 was huge for its market.


The question is, why did they lose their influence?


Tandy ruled the 70s.  They lost in the 80s.


It is an interesting question.  Apple and Commodore came on strong to take the home.

IBM blew everyone else away (including Tandy) in business.


Tandy tried to get into the home with the CoCo, but they couldn't catch the market.

I think Commodore just took the low end and Apple the high end (schools/etc) and everyone else just floundered.


Tandy wasn't quite Osborne, but.. ;-)

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On 2/13/2020 at 7:23 PM, ClausB said:

As for Radio Shack's influence, it was huge. It was the makers' place before they were called makers. It covered hobbies from ham radio through computers to RC toys. It died when it stopped serving the hobbyists and tried to go mainstream.

True,   But I also suspect that while in the 70s the "hobbyist" market was huge.   With the advent of videogames, computers, and similar devices,   many hobbyists have taking these things up as hobbies rather than electronics,  RC Cars, model train layouts, etc.    So those kinds of things have become more niche, and I doubt they could have sustained RS's business model either.

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