The TRS-80, my first PC experience

TRS-80. (2023, January 28). In Wikipedia.

The TRS-80 computer was a pioneering device that played a significant role in the history of computing. As one of the first personal computers, it opened up new possibilities for individuals and businesses alike. For me, the TRS-80 was the first computer I ever used, and it left a lasting impression on me.

The TRS-80, also known as the Radio Shack TRS-80, was made by the American electronics company Tandy Corporation (formerly Radio Shack). It was first introduced in 1977 and was sold through Radio Shack stores and other retail channels. The TRS-80 was a popular computer during its time and helped to popularize personal computing in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was also notable for its affordability and wide availability, which made it accessible to many people who were interested in computing at the time.

I was in middle school when I first encountered the TRS-80. A relative of mine had one, and I was immediately drawn to it. At the time, the computer was considered advanced, and it seemed like a marvel of engineering. I mean, it really was for its time. It had a sleek design and was packed with features that were impressive in its day.

One of the things that struck me about the TRS-80 was its keyboard. It had a solid feel and was highly responsive. I loved the way it clicked under my fingers as I typed out my first lines of code (Who am I kidding? I wasn’t coding until a few years later when the first IBM PCs with MS-DOS came out). I will say that older keyboards felt more sturdy and had better feel than many modern keyboards. But what was really cool to me was how my relative could remotely “use TRS-80 magic” to turn off the TV when his sister was watching in the other room! He said, “Watch this!” as he pressed Enter on the keyboard. Then came a shriek from the other room, “Rob! Turn the TV back on!”

By today’s standards, the TRS-80 screen was nothing to write home about as it really wasn’t much more than a dumb terminal screen. Ah, I remember, it also had a cassette tape player to load programs (yes, very slowly!). But I guess you could consider those things pretty high-tech at the time.

Of course, as a middle-schooler, I was not an expert programmer yet and never was, actually. I mostly used the TRS-80 to play games, explore the different applications, and learn how to use a computer. However, even then, I could sense that the TRS-80 was something special. It opened up new avenues of creativity and learning, and I knew that it was just the beginning of what was to come. Eventually, I’d see my first VGA graphics monitor and then I was really hooked on computing! Well, that was down the road from the TRS-80, but that’s where it started for me.

Looking back, I realize that the TRS-80 was a significant milestone in the history of computing. It helped to democratize access to computers and paved the way for the personal computing revolution that would follow. It was also a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the early computer pioneers who made it all possible.

While I have used many computers since my first encounter with the TRS-80, it will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the start of a journey that has led me to where I am today, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have experienced it. If you ever have the chance to explore the TRS-80, I highly recommend it. It is a fascinating piece of history that is worth exploring. Now, I don’t think I can say much for the Commodore VIC-20, which came later for me as “my” first PC. But we’ll talk about that later. The VIC-20 used a tape cassette player for loading apps as well. Ughh!

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