In the early 1970s, most personal computers came as hobbyist kits requiring a high level of technical expertise to assemble. Don French, a buyer for the consumer electronics chain Tandy Radio Shack (TRS), believed that Radio Shack should offer an assembled personal computer and hired engineer Steve Leininger to design it. In the summer of 1977, Radio Shack introduced the TRS-80 for $599. This offering included a BASIC language interpreter, four kilobytes of RAM, a Zilog Z80 processor at 1.77 megahertz, a twelve-inch video monitor, a cassette recorder, a power supply, and a cassette tape containing the games Blackjack and Backgammon. While some Tandy executives were skeptical about the success of the PC market, the availability of the TRS-80 on five thousand Radio Shack store shelves helped the Model 1 sell over one hundred thousand units during its first year, half of total PCs sales in 1978.
The TRS-80 had its microprocessor inside its keyboard. While you could purchase just the TRS-80 for $400, most opted for the package that included the twelve-inch monitor and cassette recorder for $600. This example of the object includes the TRS-80 Expansion Interface for $299 (the monitor sits on it) that gave the machine an extra thirty-two kilobytes of memory. Also part of the system are two Mini-Disk drives that sold for $499 and a suitcase for carrying all this around.
One also could purchase such accessories as a TRS-80 Telephone Interface II for $199 that allowed for network communication and printer for $399. Examples of these are in the Smithsonian collections, although they were not received with this specific microcomputer.
This TRS-80 was used by donor Kenneth S. Wiedlitz of Los Angeles, along with the remaining materials in the accession.
Radio Shack, A Tandy Company, 1978 Catalog No. 289, page 166, accessed September 1, 2014, http://www.radioshackcatalogs.com/catalogs/1978
Radio Shack, A Tandy Company, 1979 Catalog No. 302, pages 79–82, accessed September 1, 2014, http://www.radioshackcatalogs.com/catalogs/1979
“BYTE News,” BYTE, May 1979, 117.
Peggy A. Kidwell and Paul E. Ceruzzi, Landmarks in Digital Computing (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), 96–99.
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