Friday, January 20, 2006

Best Money I Ever Spent -- Weekend assignment 95

I don't remember exactly how much it was, nor if it is the very best I ever spent, but I sure remember 1979 and buying a TRS-80 at Radio Shack. 

I hung around Radio-Shack like a teen age haunts the mall. I could always find something electronic to captivate me, from build it yourself kits, to parts, or just plain wire and solder.  And there sat TRS-80, a computer. A what?  A computer.

I tried to use it like a calculator without results.  I asked the clerk why it couldn't add.  He said, "You didn't tell it to print."

"That's dumb," I  said, "What did it think I wanted to do?"

"Adding is too easy," said the clerk. "Look at this."  He typed for a second and it printed out multiplication tables from one to twenty-five instantly.  My mouth dropped open. I was impressed and hooked.  After a few more demonstations I took it home.  I don't remember what it cost, but it was around $495 I think.

I got it home and set it up about four in the afternoon.  I didn't get up to eat or even go to the bathroom until ten pm. 

Within a couple of days I wrote a program that presented a little multiple choice quiz, checked your answers and gave you a score. I used the entire four K of memory.  I saved the program to tape, and proudly took my program to show the clerk at Radio Shack.  He gladly gave me a replacement tape for it, and kept it to demonstrate the computer.  He later told me my demo tape had sold a computer.

Before long I upgraded to a 16 K memory. And that was how it started.  I joined a TRS-80 club.  We swapped programs, and tips, and even built a modem for the 80. Imagine building your own modem that worked an amazing 128 bps.  Not 128K... just 128.

That was the start of hobby that is now the center of my life.  I involved that TRS-80 in my teaching.  Then another and another, and then ATARI and TI-99 and APPLE. I have had dozens of computers since, but none more fun than the first TRS-80, which I programmed myself in BASIC.



jckfrstross said...

way to cool:) you built your own puter!


chasferris said...

I didn't build the computer...see comment below.... just programmed it in BASIC.

mavarin said...

Wow.  I'm impressed!  Our first computer was a Commodore 64.  I never did anything nearly that techie with it!


gallsclndrgirl said...

I can relate to t he not getting up to eat or bathroom break. When I first got mine I was on all day and lost 10 pounds the first week I had it. But never would I have been able to do what you did. (computer-illiterate)

Great story...hope you got a piece of the


nyboots said...

but wait, didnt you say you couldnt figure out your laptop?lol Wow, you really got a 'puter history!

astaryth said...

I'll go you one better... I bought a Co-Co (Color ComputerII) from Radio Shack for a Christmas present for my son around that same time. It didn't even have a monitor, It plugged into the TV to use as a monitor. I remember typing in programs in basic and then saving them on a cassette tape! My son was pretty interested, but I ate the whole thing up... I've been hooked every since <g>

elleme2 said...

TRS 80 was also the first desktop computer I used, although I didn't buy it.  It was a little more powerful than the one you describe--64K RAM, TRSDOS operating system, three floppy drive bay using 8-inch disks, an external hard drive of a whole 10 megabytes!  I could do some simple programming in BASIC but used  packaged software, which was scarce at the time and often had to be adapted to specific needs, to set up all of the accounting, personnel and time managment records for the small corporation where I worked.  That was before the intricacies of Windows and the Internet, both of  which continue to confound me sometimes.  

monponsett said...

We used to have an Atari when I was a kid... I used to kick ass on Frogger.

onemoretina said...

    Sounds like you and the TRS-80 were destined to be together !  I wish I could claim something similar, but the truth is that I was drug into the computer age kicking and screaming.  Once I settled down and decided to learn to use one, I was hooked.  That was only about six years ago.  I can't imagine being computer illiterate now.  I had to go out and buy my own pc because I didn't want to battle for computer time with my husband and son.  Matter of fact, I had to add a laptop because once I started using it, I couldn't stand to be without access while I was away.  Funny how things change.  I can understand why you feel that this was money VERY well spent.  Tina