View Full Version : Tandy 1000RL-HD observations

June 3rd, 2008, 09:31 PM
Thanks to eBay, I got a Tandy 1000RL-HD with the matching Tandy Enhanced Keyboard and CM-11 color monitor. It also came with a much newer "RadioShack" PS/2 mouse.

My camera is currently on loan to someone else, so you'll have to settle for the seller's photos (I opted not to take the printer):

The Tandy keyboard feels like it has the same buckling spring mechanism as an IBM Model M, but is much quieter; very nice. And the CM-11 is truly one of the best CGA monitors you'll find anywhere.

It's amazing how much cleaner a fanless computer stays, without years of dust being sucked through its innards. Inside, it looks almost brand new!

The original Seagate ST-325X 20 MB IDE-XT hard drive has a very strange power-up sequence. When you first turn it on, the sound it makes when spinning up is so LOUD that it really startles you -- it almost sounds like a miniature firehouse siren! It spins up so quickly that it over-revvs and then "skitters" back down to the correct 3600 RPM speed, and which point it becomes MUCH quieter (back down to what you'd expect from a 1-inch-high 3" drive). It's almost as if Seagate took the spindle motor from a huge full-height 5" and put it in this little thing!

It's nice that even with the hard drive present, the ROM disk containing the MS-DOS 3.3 and DeskMate 3.04 startup files doesn't disappear; it moves up to the D: drive. The power-on test is so short and the loading of DOS and DeskMate from ROM is so quick that most of the start-up time is spent simply waiting for the hard drive to spin up and initialize. If you disable the hard drive and switch off automatic DeskMate loading, it boots to a DOS prompt in 2 seconds! :eek:

DeskMate is a bit clumsy to work with, but considering that it runs nicely on a 9.54 MHz 8086 in 640K RAM, it is a brilliantly designed GUI. My RL actually has 768K RAM installed, but the top 128K is used for video RAM. The onboard "SmartWatch" amazingly still maintains the date and time -- it's hard to tell if the coin cell battery was replaced recently, but it tests at full voltage.

For DOS applications, the RL is one of the quickest XT-class machines you'll ever find. The onboard video and hard drive controller take advantage of the 8086's 16-bit data bus, which really makes an improvement over the 8-bit data bus of an 8088 or NEC V20. Throw in the Tandy-enhanced graphics and sound, and this is a really fantastic classic PC -- definitely a keeper for me! :)

More photos and info on the Tandy 1000RL/RLX/RSX family is on TVDog's web site:

June 4th, 2008, 06:42 AM

I'd already bid on the other 1000RL-HD auction, with the CM-5, else you might have had some competition. :)

Sadly, the CM-5 definitely lives up to its reputation.

I'd purchased the RL hoping for a quieter, and smaller, alternative to the 1000SX. With an ADP-50L(T), along with a CF-to-IDE adapter, the RL is absolutely silent. I couldn't be happier, and it looks perfect beside a similarly-styled, and equally silent, 1000RSX.

Nevertheless, I find myself thinking of ways to get the ADP50L back into the 1000SX. Since the RL allows one to boot to MS-DOS from ROM, and load the autoexec/config/drivers from another drive (ie, floppy), I imagine it might work well with non-bootable IDE and SCSI cards. (In theory, anyway. My own experience, with a Pro AudioSpectrum, wasn't so fruitful.)

Another thing I'm contemplating is whether composite output functionality exists in the Tandy Video II chip. A pinout for the chip, found in the TL technical reference, shows several "No Connect" pins. I'm not sure if this refers to internal (to the chip), or external connections. I'm going to poke around...

June 4th, 2008, 03:05 PM
Sadly, the CM-5 definitely lives up to its reputation.
The CM-5 is still not the worst Tandy monitor. That would be infamous VGM-225... 640x480 VGA color with 0.52 mm dot pitch! :eek: They basically took a CGA-spec picture tube and jury-rigged it to display VGA. Even the "improved" VGM-200 had a coarse 0.41 mm dot pitch.

June 6th, 2008, 09:13 PM
Thanks to TVdog's disk images, I installed a fresh copy of Tandy MS-DOS 3.30.22 and DeskMate 3.04 on the hard drive. It was a breeze; just reformat the hard drive, reboot into ROM DeskMate, pop in the MS-DOS system disk, and click "Install". I'm amazed that Tandy created a fully graphical, DeskMate-based setup program which copies the DOS files into C:\DOS and creates an AUTOEXEC.BAT for you. I don't think Microsoft's own DOS had any real kind of setup program (even text-based) until 5.0.

Same thing with installing DeskMate on the hard drive (the ROM drive only contains the bare minimum files necessary to start DOS and DeskMate, not the complete directories for each). The setup program even uses the floppy drive's change-line to automatically detect when you pop in the next disk, without you needing to click "OK" -- just like a Macintosh!

I noticed a high-pitched squeal coming from the computer... I thought it was the hard drive, but I noticed it persisted even after the drive goes into power saving mode and spins down (another innovation -- a desktop PC that "sleeps", four years before APM was invented!). The squealing stopped as soon as I removed the 2400-baud modem that was occupying the RL's one ISA slot. I dunno if the squealing was coming from the modem's speaker or from the RL's power supply; either way, I've heard stories about how its 25W output is barely enough to power the stock configuration, and adding a power-hungry ISA card is likely to push the power supply beyond its capacity, causing odd behavior.