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Thread: People's Computers review of the TRS-80 ("might be better off with a $7.95 abacus")

  1. #1

    Default People's Computers review of the TRS-80 ("might be better off with a $7.95 abacus")

    Today I discovered that the "Stanford Digital Repository" has the People's Computer Company's newsletters from 1972-1982 available for online perusal or PDF download. The newsletter took the name "people's computers" in 1977, and then "Recreational COMPUTING" in 1979. Here's the URL:

    In the 1975 issues you can find the origins of Tiny BASIC (before Dr. Dobb's Journal existed). Tiny BASIC led to Palo Alto Tiny BASIC, which led to TRS-80 Level I BASIC.

    In January 1978, Assistant Editor Tom Williams wrote that "We've received our TRS-80, and written a review of the system. Unfortunately, our evaluation is quite negative. Our policy is to give manufacturers a chance to respond to negative comments before we publish them."

    The review and Radio Shack's response were then printed in the March 1978 issue. Williams's conclusion:

    A word should be said about Radio Shackís advertising of the TRS-80. On page 13 of the Christmas Sale Catalog number 293 the reader is advised to borrow $600 to give Pop a TRS-80 because 'Pop will make it all back using TRS-80 as a business tool, believe me.' From what we've seen, 'Pop' might be better off with a $7.95 abacus. Ad brochures talk of a 'high resolution screen' which is no such thing; salesmen talk of 'full graphics capability' to customers who are impressed by what they see but who donít know what else is possible and have no standards by which to judge computer quality. 'String capability' gives no hint of the limited string capability in the 4K machine. 'Cursor control' in the 4K machine means you can move the cursor forward and backward and that is not what cursor control means in the world of computers.

    Yes, the era of personal computing has finally reached the stage of consumer electronics. In my view, however, the TRS-80 represents 'cheap electronics.' The entire feel of the system with its display and keyboard encased in light plastic is more like that of a toy than that of a seriously designed computer and certainly not like that of a business machine. The TRS-80 represents, in my view, an attempt to capture a vast consumer market that is ignorant of the details with a quick and cheap machine and is a disservice to the personal computing industry as a whole. Radio Shack would be best advised to tone down their advertising hype, improve their product or mercifully remove it from the market.
    Ouch. Glad the Shack didn't mercy-kill it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Lincolnshire U.K.


    Ooops. Another 'expert', talking out of the wrong end of their body and getting it wrong.
    I remember, in 1978, when I purchased my 4K M1 L1, taking it into the computer control room where I worked, all of my colleagues were spell-bound by it. (An ICL 1904 installation. George III, RJE etc. etc.).
    In those days, all terminals for programers were Teletypes and you even had to queue to use one of those. No one at that time had a screen of their own!


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