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This TRS-80 (lorentz.me)
189 points by smacktoward 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

A fun side note: the core software that was included on the Model 100's ROM was written by Microsoft, and not just by Microsoft, but by Bill Gates himself. It was the last Microsoft project where he would write most of the code personally.

In a wide-ranging early '90s interview at the National Museum of American History, he reminisced about the Model 100, calling it "in a sense my favorite machine": https://americanhistory.si.edu/comphist/gates.htm#tc35

I played with a Model 100 for a while and wrote a version of Munching Squares in BASIC for it. What annoyed me about the built in BASIC was that it made NO concessions for the small, eight line screen. If you listed the program, it printed it, then printed a line with "OK" and then a blank line (possibly with a prompt, memory fails me), where the next command could be typed. Thus, 25% of the screen was wasted. It could have listed the program, with the last line at the very bottom of the screen and then waited for input before printing the "OK" and the prompt line. A nitpick, but it made it harder to program than was necessary.

Yes. OS was an acquisition of Microsoft, but Basic, P-CODE, visual basic and visual basic for applications were very central in Microsoft. It enabled to develop office very quickly.

All of the early PC's had a variant of GW Basic and Microsoft wrote those - they all even had the same memory leak.

You can tell an old school basic professional programmer from the Pet and Apple ][ Days by how they break out of Loops.

I had a TRS-80 Model 200 for a while, so this brings back some weird memories. I regret getting rid of it, really; it'd have been fun to have it around to bring to coffee shops for writing sessions now.

(Possibly) interesting trivia: the linked article mentions the AP used a typesetting system called ATEX. This was a big dedicated terminal/server system that basically used plain text with markup, similar to troff or LaTeX, although the markup was entirely different. The team that created ATEX split up and created two different pieces of software, both inspired by ATEX. One team created a DOS word processor called XyWrite, which was used by some major publications well into the 1990s and possibly into this century. (IIRC, it was also used to issue US Supreme Court rulings for many, many years!) The other team created PageMaker, one of the very first GUI desktop publishing programs. To the best of my knowledge, every version of PageMaker -- as well as the first couple of versions of its successor InDesign, and contemporary versions of its major competitor, Quark XPress -- could natively import XyWrite files. (While XyWrite is no more, it has its own successor program, an academic-focused Windows word processor called Nota Bene.)

That brings back memories, I used PageMaker to make our high school yearbook in the 90s :)

Me too! I really loved PageMaker, and used it for most of my papers into college as well. I moved away from it when they made InDesign...

I remember being in trouble as a kid for installing a load of games on a Mac, and adding a few system extensions to help them out. It messed up the sacred order of system extension loading and my dad wasn’t able to use pagemaker until it was fixed.

I had to write all of our product manuals at my first engineering job using XyWrite, which did not have auto-save. After losing a few pages due to a power failure and not having saved often enough, the owner of the small company put a timer on my desk set to 10 minutes. When it went off, I had to save to disk (3.5" floppy, IIRC!) and reset the timer.

I hated that thing!

I used Nota Bene 4 for DOS for a few years, which would have been really recognizable as almost-XyWrite to a DOS XyWrite user. But I'm pretty sure it had autosave by then. :)

In the '90s I worked in a warehouse where some of the guys had bought old model 100s for cheap and had programmed an inventory system. The 100 was the perfect size to sit on the console of the forklift and you would record where you were placing or retrieving pallets of inventory. At the end of the day you could sync the updates from one machine to the next over serial ports. For being so computationally limited they are surprisingly capable machines.

The extra long battery life made this application possible.

In spite of being warehouse workers they were a very smart bunch. There were several other things they had automated as well. I was young at the time and was only interested in video game, so never picked up programming until later.

In the 80s I worked with Industrial Apple IIs - which I’ve only ever heard about at that job!

They were networked though, as they were not attached to forklifts

By the end of the 80s, the floppy disks with the code were running a bit thin!

That company made non-prescription drugs

Apparently, there are a lot of alive TRS-80 calculators around, but many of them have a defective LCD (due to moisture getting inside). Someone took the challenge and recently (February-May 2019) produced a batch of custom LCDs to fix all TRS-80 calculators in the world.

Part 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8-HfGTCcCk

Part 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8Vagc0FJK8

Part 3 (final): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TbvC79ff3M

I have 3x working TRS-80 PC-2’s and one TRS-80 PC-3. If anyone is interested I will post my email.

This is my favorite line, at least so far:

There were microphones at each typewriter, and at the computer. When the on-air talent tossed to the newsroom for a live report, the journalism factory noises in the background were real.

This is a great story. It helps that it is told by a professional writer, but it's also a special time in the history of tech. I remember lusting after this gadget when I was a kid. I remember that there was a time when a local Radio Shack in Akron listed the price incorrectly very low and there was a run on the model 100 when people found out. When I showed up they were sold out.

I heard about that story as well. Must be reported on byte.

Not that particular TRS-80, but I fondly remember cutting my first lines of BASIC code on a TRS-80 back in 1980. It is THE computer that was responsible for me becoming a coder.

Oh, the fun of watching those two asterisk's blinking in the top corner of the screen while it loaded your latest creation from the cassette drive...

I’ve mentioned this before here, but I worked with an electrical engineer who until at least the late 90’s, possibly later, kept a Model 100 on his lab bench for testing serial port API’s on electronic systems he was building.

My first use of the TRS-80 was a model 100 that was at our McDonald's. It ran a custom program called McBin that was supposed to help manage the quantity of the different sandwiches that you put into the "bin" which was a heated compartment with eight or ten slides to hold food which was prepared in advance during busy periods.

The McBin was basically useless, but I always set it up heading into a lunch or dinner rush because it meant I got to play with the TRS-80.

I bought a Model 100 literally last week. Going to build a little raspberry pi into a piece of wood for it to talk to.

Other than that, it would be nice to be able to take a note on it and transfer it to a modern computer. Not sure the easiest way to hook that up as I have no disk or cassette drive for it. Maybe a cable to go from cassette interface to audio and some software to decode the audio signal that would record to cassette?

Also not sure the easiest way to load Zork.

Funny, I sold several at the Sunnyvale swap meet last week. They’re awesome. I saved my teenage summer earnings to buy one and used it to do physics simulations in high school.

Gahh damnit. I haven't ever been to that swap meet, but I've been looking for a Model 100... I shoulda gone.

It has an RS-232 port, you should be able to hook that up to a USB-RS232 adaptor with a null modem.

It would be delightful to hide a Raspberry Pi inside the case of the TRS-80, wired to the serial interface, so you'd have an apparently unmodified model 100 until you fired up the terminal program and connected to a full-blown linux commandline.

I've done exactly this with a Zero and an Olivetti M10, which is a clone of the Tandy Model 100 for the European market. It is indeed awesome.


If you're in Vienna, you can come see the Olivetti, as well as a suite of other machines, at my TIMETRON2019 exhibit, where we have done new and interesting things with a ton of old systems:


More details here:


That's an extremely cool hack!

I won't be on the right continent to enjoy TIMETRON2019, but I'd love to know more about how you integrated the Pi with your M10. Was there anything difficult about the software/hardware? Can you share some photos?

It was pretty easy - all it required was wiring up a NULL modem cable. :) The hardest part was getting rPi linux to add a serial login at boot - which is to say, was quite easy. ;)

I'll try to take some pics at the next BOOTSESSION, as I'm away from the exhibit for a few days - I'll ping you when I get them up somewhere.

How delightful :) I don't have much substantive to say beyond, that was a pleasure to read and made me very happy in a strange way.

It was definitely a pleasure to read, and brought back memories of when I had a Model 100, though I was a child in the 80s and never used it for anything serious. I did learn a bit of BASIC programming on it, which I expanded upon with the TRS-80 CoCo 2 that replaced my 100 later in that decade, though to be honest I mostly played games on the latter machine.

> The only place I couldn’t use the 100 was in City Hall. The keyboard was too clackety-clack to take notes in that kind of environment. I did it during one meeting and the mayor put a private word in my ear letting me know that the TRS-80 was not welcome.

Start by taking notes on the Selectric and folks will appreciate the relative quiet of the 100.

The VT100 if you turned on the keyclick sound was awesome if you where a touch typist - I got yelled at once for using that :-)

>Mouse counts the number of bytes available and divides by seven, assuming that the average word a reporter might use is seven letters long.

Isn't that six letters followed by a space?

I own one of these as well because I started my career in journalism for a couple years before becoming a developer. Additionally, my first computer ever was a TRS-80 CoCo, so it seemed like a perfect nostalgia item to own.

Fun fact: The Model 100 has a year 2000 bug - the dates in the main menu are hard coded to 19XX.

We used the TRS-80 Model 100 at work to write software for Allen-Bradley Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). PLCs were fairly new at the time, and when coupled with the TRS-80 in the field, many minds were blown.

Back in the early 90's, I worked for a company that made parking meters. The big yellow kind with displays and buttons. We sent TRS80 Model 102's to customers for editing rates and messages and uploading them into the meters.

It was my job to reverse engineer the protocols and rewrite the software for DOS so that it could be used on portables like the HP 200LX. A few years later we rewrote it again for Windows.

I'd love to believe that there's still customers out there using the TRS or HP to manage their parking meters.

In case anyone was curious, the keycaps on that TRS-80 are made of doubleshot-ABS in the DSA profile.

Is that special/better than common keyboards of today?

In addition to the letters not flaking off or wearing out, the DSA key profile is different than almost all keyboards made today. Most keyboards today have a concave profile for the tops of the keys that are basically uniform from the top of the key to the bottom. (I don't know if I'm explaining it well, but I think you understand just by taking a look at your keyboard).

Anyway, the DSA profile has more of a spherical concave recess, which cups your fingers more than current keyboards.

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 3, which also had the DSA key profile and I love it. I'm actually saving up to get a keycap set with that profile to replace my current keyset on my daskeyboard mechanical keyboard.

The characters will never fade or flake off because the characters are part of the moldings.

My roommate in 1990 was a journalist and he had one of these.

There's an emulator here: https://sourceforge.net/projects/virtualt/

> While computers ended up using the generic double-quote symbol " for both opening and closing quotation marks, in printing quotation marks are expected to be two different characters. To get around this, reporters were instructed to use two grave marks to open quotes, and two apostrophes to close quotes:

> For example: ``When we talk to God it’s called prayer. When God talks to us it’s called crazy.''

> As bad as that looks on a modern digital screen, it was absolutely jarring to see coming out of a teletype.

Is this why some people mix up grave symbols and apostrophes today?

Thishas made me want to dig out my https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Z88

A modern version of the TRS-80 Model 100 would be a pretty amazing thing. Along with the Psion and eMate were amazingly production little machines.

There is the FreeWrite [0], which seems to be targeted at just writers, which is in some respects the spiritual successor to the TRS-80 Model 100. I could swear I saw at least one other Kickstarter with something similar, but this was the only one I could find.

[0] https://getfreewrite.com/

Edit: Here’s another similar product called the AlphaSmart [1], but this one was ultimately discontinued.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AlphaSmart

We used to use those AlphaSmarts to learn how to type in elementary school in the early 2000's, before our school got a laptop cart that could be wheeled between classrooms.

Good times.

FreeWrite is intentionally limited where the TRS-80 Model 100 had a lot of programmibility and people doing cool things.

The DIY version would be a PCB with an ATmega32u4, an SD card slot, a similarly-sized LCD screen, and a lithium-ion battery. You'd attach a portable USB keyboard of your liking.

A bit off-topic but, I have a TRS-80 Model 4P that does not turn on. On the inside everything seems fine (but I'm no expert).

Does anyone know where could I have one of these repaired? I'd love to boot it up again as it was the first computer I ever owned.

DoD actually didn't run on the Model 100/200 series, which was purely a writing machine. You're probably thinking of the TRS-80 Color Computer 2, aka the CoCo 2 or Trash-80. Dungeons of Daggorath was (in my opinion) the best game for the CoCo 2 and one of the earliest dungeon crawler games.

It's a real shame Dungeons of Daggorath was replaced in the movie version of Ready Player One. Adventure, with its Easter egg, wasn't a bad replacement but the CoCo got so little mainstream love in its day that it would have been nice to see it on the big screen.

I'm wondering what happened at the other of the wire service uploads. Were they vetted? Checked? Edited? Or did they just get sent out to subscribers automatically?

Never sent out automatically. Always went through at least one editor. And if it wasn't breaking news, through at least one level of fact checkers.

A laptop with an actual decent keyboard!

Sadly I'm stuck with Apple's "butterfly" keyboard from one of the lower levels of hell.

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