Friday, August 03, 2007

My museum of content related artefacts (20)

1983: Tandy TRS Model 100

I consider the Tandy TRS-80 Model 100 (serial number 305100123) as one of centre pieces of my museum. It was one of the first portable PCs, which had everything. The Model 100 came with:
- Microsoft BASIC programming language;
- word processing software;
- telecommunications software;
- built-in 300 baud modem.
(Nice detail is that Bill Gates wrote a significant amount of the code; in fact it was the last piece of code he wrote as said in the Bill Gates Interview from the Smithsonian Institute).

This portable computer was introduced in 1982. It was made by Kyocera, and originally sold in Japan as the Kyotronic 85, although it was at first a slow seller. The rights to the machine were purchased by Tandy Corporation, and the computer was sold through the Radio Shack distribution chain in the US. It was also sold as the Olivetti M-10 and the NEC PC-8201.

There was no boot up routine. The Model 100 was in operation as soon as you flipped the on switch and selected an application (enlarge the photograph of the machine to see the menu). The ROM contained a terminal program, TELCOM; an address/phone book organizer, ADDRSS; a to-do list organizer, SCHEDL; and a simple text editor, TEXT. The TELCOM program allows automation of a login sequence to a time sharing system under control of the BASIC interpreter. Although this A4 size machine was much larger, the Model 100 actually bears a close resemblance to modern PDA's.

It was a nice portable PC of 1,5 kilo. At the time that the Moidel 100 came onto the market, there were only lugables of 10 kilo or more such as the Osborne and Kaypro. Of course these lugables were fully equiped with floppy disc drives and a lot more internal memory. But a decent portable was not on the market.

And can you believe that it worked for 20 hours with only 4 AA batteries; there was of course an external power adaptor. You could also link the machine to a printer. It had also a cover for transport, so you could take it along. I still remember people looking up in the London underground, not because of the novelty, but because of the noise the keys made. It was a fine machine. Whenever I still have it in my hands and turn it on, I still consider it fabulous, despite the screen with eight line and the 32K internal memory. More than 6,000,000 units were sold worldwide.

The feature that attracted me most was the telecom. The modem was built in and the software was pre-loaded. So whenever you could connect to a telephone line, there was a chance that you could reach a host like Dialog or mail server like BT Telecom Gold. I used the Model 100 a lot on my business trips to the UK and in 1986 I even wrote a book (see photograph of cover) on it. Whenever I reached the limit of memory, I loaded the text off to the mail server and picked it up later on the company’s Superbrain.

I saw the Tandy TRS Model 100 for the first time in London in 1982 when I and a colleague had dinner with a US guy. He had worked for Westinghouse, a telecom company which was much into e-mail services. Once the software was operational Don saw great opportunities and started to work as a freelancer. And he hit the million dollar bucket in less than two years. He produced complete accounting report systems for companies. And one of his group of clients was the rock music bands. He treated this very confidentially. But one of his clients was David Bowie. For his tours he had developed a report system from the preparation team, the roadies to the stage team. When the concert was over, the manager could see how much money they had made that night.

I wrote this blog on the Tandy TRS Model 100 and sent it to Blogger.

Blog Posting Number: 829


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