Sunday, June 4, 2017

Four Months to Go

A few years ago by chance I came across a TRS-80 Model I computer for sale on eBay.  I saw this picture of a computer that I had not seen in many years in a wholly different light than I had 10 or 20 years ago.  Back in the 1990s, this same machine would probably have meant little more to me than laughably antiquated technology that I would never use again.  But, in 2015, it gave a different impression.  It was no longer conceivable for this machine to be compared with the computing machines of the present.  The difference in scale of performance between the phone in my pocket and that TRS-80 made the comparison unthinkable.  The machine immediately resonated with me in the context of a 20 year career in software engineering.  The contrast of that relatively simple computer with today's complex technology and software development processes was striking. I wanted to re-experience the pureness of programming an 8bit computer in machine language again.

Here was one of the first microcomputers sold to the general public, rather than just the computer aficionado.  For a few years in the late 1970s, the TRS-80 was the best selling computer in the world. It introduced the layman to the world of what was possible with a computer in the home or the business.  And more so than a computer will today, it immediately introduced countless boys and girls to the concepts of computer programming by presenting the READY prompt and silently waited for computer instructions to be entered to bring it to life.  It was a creative device foremost rather than the consumer oriented devices of today.  Those boys and girls took those skills they learned on that black and white 4K TRS-80 with a cassette recorder and are using them today to operate the complex computer dominated systems of our world in countless ways and in all industries, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.

I purchased that TRS-80 on eBay a few years ago.  And what followed was an incredible journey into the now growing hobby of vintage computing.  Many Tandy computers (and a few Ataris, Apples, Commodores, TIs, etc.) later and I am enjoying it more and more.   Along the way I have met some of the most warm and genuine people that I know.  I consider many of them good friends even though I have not personally met them!  This was actually one of the main impetuses behind founding Tandy Assembly for me.  I want to keep trying to build the community of enthusiasts and bring them together to meet in person to simply enjoy our hobby with like-minded individuals.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the TRS-80 Microcomputer.  It is fitting that this is the year we will also be hosting the first large gathering of Tandy Radio Shack computers in at least 30 years.  Join us this October 7th and 8th in Chillicothe, Ohio as we celebrate the history of this legendary computer and its descendants.