Vintage Personal Computers
WWW.8BIT-MICRO.COM ONLINE VINTAGE COMPUTER MAGAZINE
First Impressions of the Personal Computer
For many the first time you laid your hands on a computer it would be in school, but to the
older generation our first excursion into the PC world was not in the classroom. In fact,
computers did not make it into the classroom until the mid 1980's when Apple made a
bold move and give the school systems complete classrooms in order to garnish product
The first time we saw the PC was probably sitting on the floor of the local radio shack. The
TRS-80 Model I would be set on a flimsy walnut grained desk on the floor and a 12 year
old would be sitting behind banging away at the keyboard. On the screen a large square
blinking curser would flash slowly below an "OK" prompt. And, that's what you would say
to your, "OK" "Now What!"
At the same time other 8bit systems where cropping up in department stores. Commodore
released the PET and later the Super PET followed shortly after with the Commodore VIC
20. Apple chimed in with the Apple II and a host of other systems.
By the time Atari explored the PC realm almost everyone was selling computers. Small
shops cropped up peddling their wares. But through all these later comers, Tandy kept
pushing the Zilog Based desktop units. Model I, III, IV and then along came their 16 bit
units with additional 8 bit CPUs installed, the Model II, 12, 16 and 16b. The 'Biggest
Little Computer Company" had all the attention. Clones started to crop up that looked
very much like the TRS-80. No less than 7 companies were writing DOS systems for the
Zilog computers, and many more venders were writing software. Sierra Software's
beginnings took place when they wrote "Haunted House" for the TRS-80 model I and III.
The TRS-80 for the most part had all the attention of the media, stacks of magazines were
written for these units, and more publication sprang up when Tandy introduced the CoCo
(Color Computer) Yep: Tandy owned the marketplace. The IBM signed up with Microsoft
and it looked like Tandy was finished.
Just as IBM introduced the 4.7 MHz. PC with a single floppy drive, Tandy was acquiring
rights to IBM's defunct PCJr. To IBM, the Junior was a flop, they could not get software
publishers to support the 16 color graphics adaptor, so IBM opted to a Hercules Unit, with a
4 color CGA upgrade to the IBM-PC. It looked like Tandy was about to loose the race.
But as the Rabbit slept as the TRS-80 crawled past, and Tandy introduced the Tandy
1000 Personal Computer probably the best and most reliable PC ever produced. Based
on the IBM PCJr technology, the 8086/V20 based PC ran at a whopping 7.16 MHz,
sported superior sound, and graphics. Tandy's sales went through the roof. Tandy was on
top again for an additional 4 years in the late 1980's, but by 1991 the market dropped and
Tandy lost their grip.
What Happened? From our chair, we lost the best computers ever produced for the mass
market. The Biggest Little Computer Company was not more. AST bought out the
factory, and then went broke.
In these pages you will find information on our favorite systems, along with other worthy of
mention. Many of these computers I own in my collection and some are available to
purchase from me. Enjoy the site, and I hope you visit often.
(c) 2004, 2005 Brian K. Hahn
All Rights Reserved.