Saturday, July 15, 2017

CoCo Roots

Where It All Began

At the age of 11, in grade 7, I was got my first computer; a Tandy Color Computer 3 with a Tandy FD-502 floppy drive.  Why was the CoCo 3 my first computer? It was all because of a Saturday morning flyer we received in the mail. The best part is we didn’t even know what a CoCo was!  My dad and I happened to notice a sale RadioShack was offering on a CoCo 3 for $99.99 and for that price, we just had to go check it out.

 I had wanted a computer for the longest time and my dad knew this. So we headed down to our local RadioShack and luckily they had a few left in stock at that sale price. In the store, I also convinced my dad into buying a floppy disk system which wasn’t easy considering the floppy drive was $299.99. I figured I wouldn’t push it for a color RGB monitor.

 When we got back home,  I immediately unboxed and hooked up the CoCo 3 and floppy drive to a small color television we had. I was so thrilled to see that green screen with the OK prompt! Looking back, I hadn’t a clue  of how to use or know what to do on this machine but nonetheless I was excited. I dove right into the excellent manuals that came with the computer and before I knew it I was learning commands, formatting floppy disks, typing in simple basic programs and saving them to disk.

Interacting With People

After about a month of going through the manuals and hacking around on the CoCo I was on the quest for something more; I wanted to buy and run some commercial made software. Travelling on my bike back to RadioShack, I went with some saved up paper route money and purchased some games, two ROM cartridges and a floppy disk based game. As my luck would have it, when I went to the counter to pay for these games I noticed a flyer mentioning a local color computer club in my city. It was a CoCo users group that met monthly. I wrote down the information, paid for my games and headed home. The fiirst thing I did when I arrived back home was beg my dad to take me to this CoCo users group and sooner than I thought I was attending my first user group meeting.

I was so nervous and excited at the same time as I walked into a high school cafeteria where it was held each month. At the age of 11, I was by far the youngest person in there. My dad was very patient and would just sit there each month during the meetings and presentations. I learned a great deal of information on the CoCo and also computers in general. I discovered The Rainbow magazine and I borrowed software from the clubs library and was able to experience a lot of third party software that was not sold through RadioShack. I enjoyed meeting and talking to people about the CoCo and computers. Every month I would count down the days until the next meeting, where I would soak up every bit of knowledge that I could from the meetings, presentations and talking to people. I also had learned from a member there was another users group in a city next to us that wasn’t too far away and ended up attending that one as well. So now, I had two user groups to look forward to each month.

Because, CoCo!

Like most people, by the time 1991 came along we started to notice the writing on the wall with Tandy not supporting the CoCo anymore and we moved onto other platforms. I eventually switched over to a 386 MS-DOS PC based computer.  The great news was that MS-DOS wasn’t difficult for me to learn at that point because RS-DOS was similar in a lot of ways. I ended up sticking with the PC platform and fast forward 27+ years,  and today I run my own computer business doing sales, service, networking, and onsite work.  I owe where I am today because of the CoCo. It enabled me to learn operating systems, simple BASIC programming and most of all,  it lead me into joining user groups and interacting with people at such a young age.

A Feel For Nostalgia...

Sometime back in 2005,  I got the bug to get back into the CoCo. After some Google and eBay searching it wasn’t long before I had a complete CoCo 3 setup shipped to my house. From there on in I was hooked! Reading all the web pages created by dedicated retro CoCo users, I was blown away to see new hardware and software being created for this near 30 year old computer. And then the big moment came when I discovered a particular event called “CoCoFEST!”.  I found out it was still active after all these years, held in the Chicago area. I was a little hesitant and it was my wife who talked me into going (she probably regrets this now).  Since attending my first fest in 2010 I haven’t missed a year yet. CoCoFEST! reminds me of the old days when I attended the user groups, just on a bigger scale. I’ve met so many great people there and always have a wonderful time. It is where I met John Linville & Mike Rowen, two out of the five founders for creating our new event – Tandy Assembly!

The Formation

A few years ago, John and I were dreaming of having our own small retro computer event. He invited me to spend a few days at his house before CoCoFEST! and we would drive together to the fest. While in his area, he showed me a possible location that he had checked out for a possible event. But then time went by and it wasn’t until last year at VCF Midwest where myself, John and Mike met up. We then kicked around the idea about having a Tandy themed event.  John was mentioning about this half way point for him driving from his house to Chicago called “Chillicothe” in Ohio State. John also mentioned that it was roughly the exact same time for me travelling to Chillicothe from my house as him. The even better news was when Mike told us Chillicothe was very close to him. Shortly after our meet up at VCF Midwest Mike didn’t waste any time and went with his wife to scope out Chillicothe and the particular venue John was suggesting we hold the event in. Mike was also impressed with the location and venue. Before long Mike was pushing me and John to get this idea off the ground. We came up with the name “Tandy Assembly” to welcome all Tandy computers and because it’s an all Tandy event, we contacted the folks from the TRS-80 Trash Talk podcast to see if they wanted to help put on this event with us. Peter and Randy really liked the idea and teamed up with us. With the five of us now onboard BOOM! Tandy Assembly is born.

Calling All Tandy’s

No matter what flavor of Tandy computer you have, had, or like. Whether you plan on being a speaker, vendor, exhibitor or attendee traipsing around mingling with other Tandy enthusiasts, I hope to see you there at our inaugural (and hopefully annually) assembly of all Tandy computers. –Tandy Assembly!