The TRS-80 Personal Computer
August 3, 2012 7:16 PM   Subscribe

35 years ago today, Tandy Corporation announced the most expensive product yet offered in its chain of Radio Shack stores: the TRS-80 personal computer.

For the adults, there were instructional videos:
"Flap up, disk in, flap down. Now what?"

"Wait a minute. There's something wrong here. What did I do wrong?"

"If I was to stick my fingers into the disk drive when the red light is on, would my fingers get loaded into the computer's memory too?"
For the children, there were the Tandy Computer Whiz Kids comic books. (previously)
posted by Egg Shen (114 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
My TRS-80 story.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:25 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yay Trash 80! That's the first computer I learned on!
posted by happyroach at 7:26 PM on August 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


When the guy was entering the information for the mortgage amortization calculator, I tried to guess what interest rate he would enter. I guessed 12%. I won't spoil it, but let's just say that I was off.
posted by mhum at 7:29 PM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


TRS-80s were the first computers I ever used, in elementary school. They were already hopelessly out of date (we called them TRaSh-80s), but there was some glitch that were figured out how to reliably replicate that would cause screenfuls of gibberish (what I know realize was hexadecimal) to cascade down the monitor. We were convinced that we had hacked into the Government's computers, and that the FBI would be busting down the doors any day now. I guess we got away with it, because there was never a raid, to my knowledge. We were 1337!
posted by Rock Steady at 7:29 PM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who is the actress in the last video? She looks very familiar.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 7:30 PM on August 3, 2012


"Flap up, disk in, flap down. Now what?"

I'm hearing that as an aerobics chant. Perfect.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:30 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I started a BASIC class in 11th grade in TRS-80s, then we moved about 1/2 way through the semester and I had to star over on an Apple II. Earlier that year a friend got a TRS-80 - it was firt computer I ever used.
posted by COD at 7:31 PM on August 3, 2012


Learned to write BASIC on these bad boys.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:35 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I TOO HAD A TRS80 OR A COLOR COMPUTER, CO-CO AS WE CALLED THEM, BACK IN THOSE DAYS THERE WERE NO LOWERCASE LETTERS AND WE LOADED GAMES OFF CASSETTE TAPES AS WAS THE STYLE AT THE TIME
posted by The otter lady at 7:36 PM on August 3, 2012 [40 favorites]


I used to furtively tinker with them at a local Radio Shack until they would chase me off. I've never heard anything good about them, always "oh yeah, those existed". I eventually got a Coleco Adam but still went to the Radio Shack to mess with the trash-80s because the Adam barely worked.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:37 PM on August 3, 2012


oh man i am old and will soon be dead i guess
posted by elizardbits at 7:38 PM on August 3, 2012 [22 favorites]


At the tender age of 6, the handy programs in the instruction manual were my first introduction to the game of Russian Roulette.

Also, to this day I still call Missile Command "Polaris."
posted by darksasami at 7:43 PM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


My first software for hire work was reading TRS-80 cassettes onto a North Star floppy disk using a ordinary cassette player and some A/D circuitry. I was a college student, and this guy was setting up TRS-80s all around the state as cheap data collection devices, and once a week or so, he'd collect all the cassettes and collate the data on to his North Star.

The tricky part was getting the timing right, because the tolerances for cassette recording was pretty variable, and there was no clock signal, so a long tone might be two (or more) binary digits or just the result of a slow tape.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:46 PM on August 3, 2012


I had an Apple 2+, and a friend of mine had a TRS-80. I loved playing Star Trek on his, hopping from square ASCII sector to square ASCII sector, but once Raster Blaster pinball & Gorgon came out, I knew I had the better machine :)
posted by Lukenlogs at 7:52 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to furtively tinker with them at a local Radio Shack

I remember when they came out, I'd do the same. That or hanging out at Waldenbooks while my parents did parent stuff at parent stores.

The Radio Shacks were a bit of a suburban geek mecca, and I met a few area computer enthusiasts that as a kid in a mostly closed environment otherwise wouldn't have. It was an early exposure to hacker culture outside of the ones in charge of my school district's data processing.
posted by zippy at 7:59 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


oh man i am old and will soon be dead i guess

You're younger than I am, I think. Then again, I might be dead.

My only TRS-80 story is this: My friend Anthony--whose parents had a TRS-80 while my parents didn't believe in no dag-num computer--is now a software multimillionaire, while I'm the opposite of that.
posted by maxwelton at 8:00 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, in reading the Wikipedia page, calling them "Trash-80s" was not far wrong. Their screen flickered when the CPU was writing video, and the expansion bus was all kinds of terrible. You needed to de-corrode the terminals on a regular basis with a pencil eraser.
posted by Malor at 8:10 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always got those comic books to read at Radio Shack, long after they were available to buy. I always felt like I was missing out, I couldn't make my Apple IIE or Performa or whatever other computer I could find do anything that cool. I also felt this way about those Internet episodes of Ghost Writer. Computers were improving but it didn't seem like an improvement to me.

And all the books about making movies in the library were about the cool effects you could do with Super8 film like cutting it up and drawing on it and stuff. By the time I ead those books those days were long gone.
posted by bleep at 8:13 PM on August 3, 2012


Waldenbooks

Fuck yeah Waldenbooks. I bought Ultima IV at Waldenbooks, it was $60 and came with a cloth map.

My Radio Shack was at Albee Square Mall on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. They didn't like kids. Maybe if they had been nicer I would have got a TRS-80 instread of the POS Coleco Adam. I'm not sure it would have been much better though.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:14 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never used one of these, having started with the lowly Atari 400 a few years later, but I can still remember what the Tandy Leather store in Houston smelled like.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:14 PM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


My only TRS-80 story is this: My friend Anthony--whose parents had a TRS-80 while my parents didn't believe in no dag-num computer--is now a software multimillionaire, while I'm the opposite of that.

Hardware hobo? At least it's alliterative.
posted by axiom at 8:15 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh man, using a pencil eraser to clean contacts. Fucking undergrads these days look at me like I've just performed some kind of black magic when I fix their wonky cellphone batteries with that trick. I swear, it's like kids these days think that technology is just some kind of magic that mortals cannot hope to understand.

That's right, I said "kids these days". You wanna make something of it? Mario Brothers at dawn, I'll be halfway through by the time you figure out that you have to blow on the cartridge to make it start.
posted by Scientist at 8:16 PM on August 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


At our local IEEE "Everything you can carry out the door for a dollar" sale back in '90 I nearly broke my back carrying a mint Commodore PET 8032 and one of these bad boys over the threshold. The Xenix install was corrupted, but our professor had original install diskettes (8"!) so I eventually managed to repair the OS.

The 8032 ended up as a door stop for our lab (with a rueful lament to that fact cycling on it's green screen) but the Model 6000 was much more useful. The PC-based Unix network in our third year computer class kept crashing, so most of my classmates ended up plugging their VT100's into my machine and completing their assignments on "MyNet".

I dragged them around for a while after school finished but eventually left them on the sidewalk in downtown Toronto. They disappeared within minutes, and I hope they're still running today. Wish I could have kept them.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:20 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem, you take back what you said about the Adam! With the addition of some seriously messed-up aftermarket expansion cards, you can use an Adam with an IDE hard drive, a fast (hah!) 19.2k baud modem, and an 80-column display. Not to mention that it ran AppleBasic and could run CP/M right out of the massively huge box.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:20 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to subscribe to the "Rainbow" magazine and "Rainbow on Tape" which was a tape! of all the programs in the magazine! which saved you having to type them in yourself. Marvelous. I still remember some game where you had to drive a car down an endless highway, selecting numbered exits which had some various items you could trade back and forth to try and get the ones you needed for a quest... and sometimes, a gas station. And if you ran out of gas.... YOU DIED.

To this day I get panicky if the tank gets more than 3/4 empty.
posted by The otter lady at 8:21 PM on August 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yep. As with a lot of other people, this was the first computer we ever had in our house, because you could borrow them from my school. I used to play Frogger on it.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:30 PM on August 3, 2012


I was very fond of ours. Actually, I still have it and always think about cranking it up again and playing Zork.
posted by stefnet at 8:35 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Holy cow, at some point I had one of those computer whiz kid comics. The art remains familiar, but I had completely forgotten that they existed since I was... 5? 7? No idea. I wonder why I had one? Where did it come from? Strange decontextualized memories.
posted by junco at 8:45 PM on August 3, 2012


I owe my career in software to the science teacher at my elementary school who took it upon himself offer a 3rd grade elective on BASIC on these, and I am eternally grateful for that.
posted by Dr. Boom at 8:47 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


the otter lady, as a fellow CoCo owner way back when (hell, I used mine until 1993, and was getting on BBS boards with it) I salute you. Rainbow Magazine FTW!
posted by azpenguin at 8:47 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember getting an assignment to make "snow" fall down on the screen. A tricky prospect when the default was for things to scroll up.

My solution of flipping the thing on its head was not as well received as I had expected.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:49 PM on August 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


This was my /second/ computer. I started with a TRS-80 Color Computer (the original grey one) and then upgraded to a fully loaded (rare serial port card with an auto-originate modem, yo) second-hand Model I got used from dad's office.

God, I loved that thing.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:52 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember when my friend saved up enough money from his paper route to upgrade his Model I from 4k to 16k. Suddenly, it was capable of so much more!

Who would have guessed that paper routes would quickly follow the TRS-80 into obsolescence, followed two decades later by newspapers themselves...
posted by Slothrup at 8:56 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that Apple sells more iPhones in a three-day weekend (~1.2M) than all the TRS-80's ever sold in it's eight year history.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:56 PM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Some of my friends from high school convinced me they were hacking into the bank with theirs. They're all in I.T. now making six figure salaries. Bastids.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:58 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


, you take back what you said about the Adam! With the addition of some seriously messed-up aftermarket expansion cards, you can use an Adam with an IDE hard drive,

ok, I noticed there was an AdamCon every year so I guess it had it's fans even though only 100k were sold. When I has mine , it had one tape drive and you could only use each tape once because turning the Adam on threw off some kind of EMP blast, erasing any tapes nearby. The major feature, "wordprocessing mode" was pretty underwhelming for a 9-10 year old. I do have fond memories of playing the few games I managed to buy on tape once before they were erased.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:01 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


All you kids get off the lawn...

My first computer (OK, it was my brother's) was a Processor Technology Sol-20. Man... Hours of TREK-80.
posted by jgaiser at 9:08 PM on August 3, 2012


DUNGEONS OF DAGGORATH.




that is all
posted by exlotuseater at 9:10 PM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


My parents getting the Model III changed my entire world. Still wish I'd learned assembly instead of just a bit of basic.
posted by nutate at 9:12 PM on August 3, 2012


Sometimes when I'm drifting off to sleep, I still here the quiet ticking of the cassette player counting off as my program loads into the 16 kilobyte of RAM in the Model II we had.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:15 PM on August 3, 2012


Aw, man, the Trash-80. I played Doodle Bug on that thing, and my dad taught me how to write some basic code on it when I was like 10. It felt like MAGIC.
posted by mothershock at 9:16 PM on August 3, 2012


Ah, yes the TRS-80. Good times.

So sad that few of today's computer gamers will ever know the vintage glories of Space Warp!

How terribly they suffer.
posted by washburn at 9:20 PM on August 3, 2012


Space Warp.
posted by washburn at 9:21 PM on August 3, 2012


Wow, in reading the Wikipedia page, calling them "Trash-80s" was not far wrong. Their screen flickered when the CPU was writing video.

The original IBM PC Color Graphics Adapter had the same problem. The CPU and the graphics controller shared access to video memory so when you wrote to video memory, the graphics controller would be unable to read pixel data at the same time.

You got around this by disabling interrupts, polling the graphics controller status register to determine when a horizontal retrace was in progress, writing one byte to the video buffer, then re-enabling interrupts. The timing was very tight and had to be done in assembly code -- about a dozen instructions. You would repeat this code for each byte written to the screen. No more flicker.
posted by JackFlash at 9:24 PM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, damn! I also had Space Warp! We had a little speaker powered by a 9v battery just for that game. My dad and I also took turns keying in the BASIC out of a big book of code listings for a simpler knock-off version.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:27 PM on August 3, 2012


Oh man, my dad had a TRS-80 Model III. I loved that thing. That's where I first learned to program in BASIC. I remember making a birthday "card" that displayed on the screen for my sister. He also had a disk for Tiny Pascal, but I never used that.
I remember many hours of playing Crush, Crumble and Chomp! and Temple of Apshai. Even after we got out Commadore 64 I would boot up the TRS-80 for Temple of Apshai.
posted by MrBobaFett at 9:28 PM on August 3, 2012


The original Model I was indeed trash. But the TRS-80 Model 100 -- there was something worth having. Released in 1983, it was a proto-laptop that weighed 3 pounds, had a real keyboard, a battery life of 20 hours (and took standard AA batteries), and was instant-on. I knew some writer/journalist types that continued using theirs well into the mid-1990s.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:31 PM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Back in the day, when went looking around for one-a-them microcomputer thingies, my investigations led me to Radio Shack and the TRS-80.

I had, at this point, never seen a micro before. (My previous "programming" experience was with a WANG calculator. Oh, you laugh! But "Lunar Lander" on a calculator was pretty cool.)

I looked at the TRS-80 and recoiled in horror. I fled to the safety and comfort of my trusty Apple ][.

Only now, today, I realize why: there's a Darth Vader's helmet aspect to the TRS-80. Black. Ponderous. Intimidating. That was the style in those days (a kind of IBM brutalism, back in the days of monster tape drives, dumb terminals and Big Iron).

The Apple ][, by comparison, seemed small and friendly, like a toaster or an EZ-Bake oven. "Here," it seemed to say, "play with me." I won't debate the merits of the 6502 vs the 8080, but the Apple ][ seemed to encourage experimentation. It was the hobbyist machine, at a time when Big Iron was the dominate paradigm.
posted by SPrintF at 9:34 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now type in the date and time.

OK, why?

Because there is no BIOS, but apart from that, it helps programs keep track of when they were used.

OK

3rd August 1977

>ERR

8/3/1977

>ERR

03/08/1977

>ERR

08/03/1977

>ERR

1977 03 08

>ERR

Fuck, I don't know

239432400

>OK

PLEASE ENTER CURRENT TIME:
posted by mattoxic at 9:39 PM on August 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I used to go into Radio Shack and tinker with the computers too. They were right at the front of the store in the mall and I was a girl, so no one really knew what I was up to. (Girls didn't use computers, right?) And I'd input some inane program, usually where it would ask you a series of questions and "pretend" like someone else was answering you back. (I had read about Eliza and modems, so this was a 10yo girls' attempt.) And then I would put in some code that prevented you from stopping the program and also from listing the code. All they could do was reboot. And this drove the sexist 16yo male computer geek clerks crazy. They'd been outdone by a little girl who could type really fast.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:42 PM on August 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


oh, this egg shen fucker is the fucker that posted the trash 80 on mefi

He's also a sorceror!

Ancient computing... his soul swims in it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:46 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our family started out with a C64. A friend of mine had the TRS80. I remember CALL was a frequently used command on it.

As a little kid I made the joke to my Dad that one of the commands to the modem was "CALL COLLECT". He thought that was hilarious.

Those early days of home computing were so different than what we have now. The amount of time it took to get things going, the limitations, etc. But it was wondrous as a kid. I couldn't get enough of it. And they were very expensive back then compared to today's prices.

After the C64 we moved to the Amiga and that was a huge step and that computer had a lot of what we have today, such as more colours, great sound, animation (3D and 2D), graphics and sound accelerated by dedicated chips (that were unfortunately fixed to the motherboard rather than swappable), RAM disks, Rexx in the form of ARexx, and of course, had pre-emptive multitasking years before operating systems from Microsoft or Apple (but a decided lack of memory protection which caused some timely crashes). And that was about the last wondrous thing in computing for me. But of course common place things now are rarely wondrous when you're no longer kid. Computers are impressive, software particularly so, but people and art remain wondrous, the tools we use, less so.
posted by juiceCake at 9:59 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've still got my CoCo (1, but we upgraded to the amount of memory of CoCo2 and the curved keys of 2 as well)... I don't think it works anymore, I don't have any cables to test it out :(

I think I still have a lot of our tapes (we subscribed to like 2 different "zines"... Cocosette(?) and... Color Cassette(?)... one had a "cover" of like little animated stories and shit, and I think there was an "ET" story rip off... It may have had a UFO game on it as well.

My favorite game was the barrel jumping game. Oh man. And I could never get the emulators to work as well as I want, so I guess I'm stuck with fond memories.
posted by symbioid at 10:01 PM on August 3, 2012


Oh, and I know it's the CoCo and not the original TRS-80, but I just saw this the other day on hackaday Giving the CoCo a 44 color display

Pretty awesome hackery :)
posted by symbioid at 10:03 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh and here's another sweet hack I saw awhile ago:

Video running on a CoCo 3
posted by symbioid at 10:07 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who is the actress in the last video? She looks very familiar.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse

Orange- That is Luba Goy. The video clips are not commercials (as the site suggests) nor are they exactly instructional videos for the TRS-80 - they are excerpts from a show on TVOntario called Bits and Bytes, which was a general intro to computers, that featured the Atari 800, Commodore PET, the TRS-80, and Apple II.
posted by ManInSuit at 10:10 PM on August 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Video running on a CoCo 3


CoCo Nuts? CoCo skype conference? CoCoFEST in 2010? This is an entirely new level of nerdery. Please tell me these things exist for the Amiga.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:15 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I might as well have a tattoo saying I AM 8 BIT. Computers of that era made me much of what I am.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:28 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


My first programming was on a TRS-80. My first own machine a 4K Coco. The days when upgrades meant soldering.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:37 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any collectors want a very low-serial number CoCo I? Other CoCo crap? MeMail me.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:49 PM on August 3, 2012


POKE 65497,0
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:58 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Computers of that era made me much of what I am.

CYBORG!!
posted by mattoxic at 11:56 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


This thread is giving me flashbacks.
I am wondering if I should install an emulator now and waste the afternoon away playing games.
posted by Mezentian at 12:31 AM on August 4, 2012


LastOfHisKind: "Computers of that era made me much of what I am."

This is what distinguishes you from Ah-nold.

(Fun fact: half of the overlaid text you see when looking from Arnie's PoV in the first Terminator movie is 6502 assembly - part of a dump from the Apple DOS 3.3 ROM in the Apple ][…)
posted by Pinback at 12:45 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


they are excerpts from a show on TVOntario called Bits and Bytes

Oh damn, I remember Bits and Bytes! Shown on Australian TV at about 1 in the afternoon, when I was home sick from school in about 1987...
posted by Jimbob at 1:59 AM on August 4, 2012


1987?
Is time dilating, or would it have looked hella dated by 1987?
posted by Mezentian at 2:08 AM on August 4, 2012


Bits and Bytes has the most amazing theme song and intro.
posted by i_have_a_computer at 2:29 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It did look a bit dated, what with their acoustic couplers. But still, SHOW ABOUT COMPUTERS!!
posted by Jimbob at 3:06 AM on August 4, 2012


The TRS-80 Model I, my best and only friend when I was a teenager.

I still have all sorts of PEEKs and POKEs memorized -- well, more than memorized, understood, really. That is to say: it was possible to learn everything about that machine, to know your way around the ROM and RAM, well enough to work out for yourself how to do all that magic.

Just looking at those pictures has the same effect as Proust's madeleine; feelings all come rushing in, and a box of plastic and glass seems like a promise of infinite adventure. It's hard to sort out how I thought, because I got obsessed with the machine before my brain had even finished developing from childhood to adolescence.

If I need to write a program to compute or display something nowadays, I still do it by running a TRS-80 emulator on Windows and writing in LEVEL II BASIC, which I know far more fluently than anything I've learned since. The last really significant program I wrote for the Model I itself was a VT-100 terminal emulator in college, because I needed to dial up to the computer science department Unix computer to do homework assignment programs. And to get to the campus BBS forums to flirt with geek girls. (Man, what obvious symbolism: going from my old life to my new one!)

The TRS-80 was a great machine, better than the Commodore PET and sporting a cleaner design than the Apple 2, but not as well built -- Don French & Steve Leininger were good engineers, but Radio Shack skimped on some of the parts. In one famous instance, the lack of an extra $5.00 memory chip kept it from being the first microcomputer to display lower-case letters. (I soldered one in, wired it up, and wrote a little driver to get them myself.)

There was a strong third-party market for hardware and software, but Radio Shack refused to acknowledge it or sell anything but their own stuff in the stores. If you were properly in the know, you subscribed to 80 Microcomputing and took part in its "alternative" community. If you weren't, you bought the crappy Expansion Interface and data-destroying DOS from Tandy.

The TRS-80 Model III finally came out and rectified a lot of the little construction flaws of the Model I, but I could never convince myself to upgrade -- I would have had to throw out my whole brain's worth of memorized bytes!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:40 AM on August 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah, I also refuse to play that self-pitying old-fart pose that so many microcomputer programmers put on ... blah blah kids these days blah blah get off my lawn blah blah my smartphone is 5 thousand TRS-80s ... knowing deep hacker magic of any kind of system is not lame, it's admirable. After all, if you're familiar with some awesome edgy bands that noobs don't know about yet, that makes you cool. (And if you tell them about it while sporting ironic facial hair, that makes you a hipster.) The same goes for your killer skills at Commodore 64 assembly language programming or whatever -- stop apologizing, and be proud of what you know, because it makes you as much of a studly wizard in 2012 as in 1985!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 4:00 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


No. Not this FPP. I sat down at a Trash 80 on September 3rd 1982 and life has never been the same again since.

*aargh*

/deletes nostalgic middleaged meandering musings on personal computers in the decades since.
posted by infini at 4:02 AM on August 4, 2012


Galaxian.
posted by infini at 4:05 AM on August 4, 2012


/deletes nostalgic middleaged meandering musings on personal computers in the decades since.

Wait—what's wrong with nostalgic middle-aged meandering musings on X in the decades since?

Not that I'm defensive at all.
posted by sonascope at 4:35 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Only one of my friends had a TRS-80, and he ran a, ahem, "software library" with his brother that you could rent software for a couple of weeks by mail for a few quid and promise not to copy it, really. I ended up getting given one of his friends' full TRS-80 setups years later, and merrily played Outhouse and Olympic Decathlon. I still know how to cheat in Decathlon by taking advantage of the TRS-80's simple key handling, but this knowledge is of limited use.
posted by scruss at 5:30 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back in the day I was at a party and the host had a TRS-80 Model I that he was quite proud of (I ran with a geeky crowd). Unfortunately, there was something intermittent about the expansion interface and it wouldn't boot. But it sure looked impressive.
posted by tommasz at 5:37 AM on August 4, 2012


Also, I had sort of an inkling here to smugly recall the embarrassment that I felt for my friends who were unlucky enough to be cursed with TRS-80s and the related CoCo clunkmachines, except I thought about it for a second and remembered that, literally to a person, those people are all retired (in their thirties) Microsoft millionaires with happy home lives and charitable endeavors, who seem to travel nonstop and just have a really great time. Hell, the last Model III holdout among my friends is all those things and has a Lake Amphibian bobbing gently at the dock behind his elegant Pacific Northwest home. The guy can taxi off to adventures in his pajamas, for chrissakes.

Meanwhile, I'm a disaffected permasingle glorified janitor struggling to keep an old clocktower and down-on-its-luck former school running despite iron oxide's best efforts, and an oddball performance artist, musician, and writer of unpublished volumes who's somehow still paying off a $19K student loan after graduating in 1994 and has never owned a new car in 44 years. It's probably best not to reflect too much on these things.

But yeah, at least I didn't have a TRS-80—those things are for schmucks.

Well...at least I didn't have an Atari 800. Those guys...sheesh.
posted by sonascope at 5:56 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a non programmer, obsolete geek girl (if life had taken a different path in 1983, that's what I would have been) I have thanked Mrs McElroy ever since for grounding me in BASIC programming. That introduction - this computer is a dumb stupid box and will make every mistake you ask it to make - plus the fundamental logics of FIFO, GIGO and syntax errors has influenced my thinking style, view of the world, and made every development in operating systems seeking to abstract that away for the end user with layers of helpful junk less intimidating for the non expert.
posted by infini at 5:57 AM on August 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


This was the first computer I used (not owned: C=128 holds that distinction). I taught myself BASIC from the TRS-80 manual, without regular access to an actual TRS-80, over the summer between 6th & 7th grade. Over the next few years I used an Apple ][ in the Gifted students lab, Commodore PETs at the high school I'd take the after school bus to from Jr. high and the aforementioned 128 with a 300 baud Volksmodem followed by Amigas 500 & 3000. From the very beginning I was finding ways to get access to other people's computers & teaching myself the commonalities & differences between systems, skills that keep a roof over my head to this day.
posted by scalefree at 6:06 AM on August 4, 2012


Devils Rancher: " ...I can still remember what the Tandy Leather store in Houston smelled like."

Computers?
posted by Splunge at 6:18 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 1988, I got a job working in a translation agency in Tokyo. The place was run by a UK citizen who had spent much of his adult life in Japan; the staff was a 2-3 other foreigners and 5-6 Japanese citizens.

The boss had a big DOS machine on his desk. One of the Japanese guys had a Japanese word-processor. Us foreigners were all stationed at TRS-80 model 4s, which had 5.25" floppies; there was also a model 2 (which took 8" floppies, and seemed to be made of cast iron) over in one corner, which was never used. I asked about it one day, and was told it was expressly for use by Nicholas, a German polyglot freelancer who was apparently the only guy in town who could translate Bulgarian. He used a model 2 at home, so when he had to transfer files to us, he'd bring in a floppy and we'd hook the model 2 up to a model 4 via a null modem. That was fun. I recall the doors over the floppy drives on that thing slamming shut with a KATANG!

We produced a technical journal of translated Japanese articles for IEEE on those model 4s. We laid out a two-column format using a weird word-processing program called Le Script, with blank placeholders to paste in figures (like, literally paste with rubber cement), and printed that out on an inkjet. At some point my boss bought a laser printer, but there was no way for the TRS-80s to communicate with it, and even with his DOS machine, he couldn't do much with it. I had a Mac Plus, which was already dated, but Star Trek technology compared to those TRS-80s. I brought it into the office and did a demo layout of one of those IEEE articles in Word 4.0, printed on the laser printer. Guess whose job that became?

We also had a Varityper, one of the first electronic typesetting devices and a fascinating hunk of technology. We also used the null model to get files from the model 4s to that.
posted by adamrice at 6:22 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


When the guy was entering the information for the mortgage amortization calculator, I tried to guess what interest rate he would enter. I guessed 12%. I won't spoil it, but let's just say that I was off.

Let's just say that the interest rate results in a monthly payment of $573. For a $40,000 mortgage!
posted by Gordion Knott at 7:18 AM on August 4, 2012


There absolutely is a direct line from my uncle's TRS-80, my CoCo, and my current job. I think part of it is having learned to see computers as hardware, as mechanical things with tape drives and issues with static and loose connections and such. That old-skool skill set comes in handy when I have to work with GPO locator codes, for sure.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:33 AM on August 4, 2012


Amount of Mortgage....sighs
Interest Rate.............faints!
posted by fatbaq at 7:53 AM on August 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


OK, my first computer was a trs-80 model 1. This was 1978. I learned to program on that thing. First in BASIC and then a few months later in assembly language. It was a great machine and second the guy who talked about knowing it inside and out. We eventually had the modem, expansion interface, and a floppy drive and the full compliment of 48K memory . I wrote a debugger and a little OS for it. I think I used it for the last time around 1984. By then I'd moved on to a Kaypro II.

It has sat in my Moms basement since then. Recently she heard about the Apple I being auctioned for a lot of money and said I should try to get the trs-80 working again so maybe she could sell it. I told her to check ebay and she found out they weren't worth much. Still, I got the parts off the shelves and put it together. It didn't work though, and it made a bit of a burning smell...

Fond memories of that thing, unlike any other computer I've had. Thanks for this post.
posted by DarkForest at 7:55 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Their screen flickered when the CPU was writing video

That was common in early microcomputers. If you cared about it, you were supposed to write to video ram during the vertical sync.
posted by DarkForest at 7:56 AM on August 4, 2012


the embarrassment that I felt for my friends who were unlucky enough to be cursed with TRS-80s and the related CoCo clunkmachines, except I thought about it for a second and remembered that, literally to a person, those people are all retired (in their thirties) Microsoft millionaires

"The most significant investment a parent can make."
posted by Egg Shen at 8:06 AM on August 4, 2012


Computers?

Victory.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:14 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did anyone ever get passed that damn gargoyle in Raaka-Tu?

I'm wondering if I'd now do better or worse than my eight-year-old self.
posted by orme at 9:04 AM on August 4, 2012


And just like that, I found an emulator and I am playing that cursed game again! There goes my Saturday.
posted by orme at 9:11 AM on August 4, 2012


just watching that fat cursor cycling through the colors brings back memories . . .
posted by exlotuseater at 10:16 AM on August 4, 2012


I read your stories and memories with bitter jealousy. By accident of birth the TRS-80 Personal Computer came out 2 years after I graduated from high school and by that time I had already dropped out of college and gone to Europe to be a free spirit. For years I only got second-hand reports of PCs from writers like Dave Barry who made them sound expensive, ludicrously complicated, and insanely temperamental-- basically only for hobby geeks with lots of time, money and intelligence. I didn't get around to using a computer until I was working at a job in the mid 80's which required some data entry-- it was boring and hellish and put me off buying my own computer until 1998.

Oh the lost years!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:01 AM on August 4, 2012


Secret Life of Gravy: For years I only got second-hand reports of PCs from writers like Dave Barry who made them sound expensive, ludicrously complicated, and insanely temperamental-- basically only for hobby geeks with lots of time, money and intelligence.

In Dave Barry's defense, that's an accurate description of early computing. Expensive, complicated, and temperamental was exactly what they were, and they were indeed best appreciated by hobby geeks with lots of time, money and intelligence.

Writers of the time did not do a good job, however, of communicating how much bloody fun they were to play with and program. Creaky and primitive as they were, home computers were an absolutely new thing in the world, and the early geeks were fascinated by the possibilities.

But now's a great time to be a hobbyist. If you want to explore something new and different and similarly fascinating to early machines, you might look into Arduinos, and once you're partly or mostly up to speed there, maybe something like the Raspberry Pi as a brain for your projects, instead. With home computers, we were (at most) making just virtual things, but with Arduinos and similar devices, you're usually making actual gadgets, physical objects that do things for real, instead of just pretending to. The combination of modern integrated circuits with old-fashioned breadboards can let you make things with extremely complex behaviors, using just a few bucks for spare parts and the like.
posted by Malor at 11:35 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


An assistant manager at a restaurant I worked at brought his TRS-80 in, ostensibly to do the books on. It was during the day shift and we had a lot of downtime. He had the "Star Trek" program on it. Of course he made the mistake of showing me what the basic code looked like. So I immediately changed the variable for energy, giving my starship nearly unlimited range. When he figured it out, he put in a line that essentially said: If E > 100 (boom).

So I go in, change the number and start the game. And my ship blows up. The sneaky bastard.
posted by Splunge at 11:48 AM on August 4, 2012


Writers of the time did not do a good job, however, of communicating how much bloody fun they were to play with and program.

Radio Shack did an excellent job with their manuals. Their user guides were great, the hardware reference manuals covered it all right down to component-level; their tutorials were friendly and fun.

Probably a significant influence on my technical writing style. Friendly, but concise.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:53 AM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that Sylvia Kuzyk?
posted by RobotHero at 11:59 AM on August 4, 2012


Did anyone ever get passed that damn gargoyle in Raaka-Tu?

Yeah, that part was easy. Walkthru here

I only ever got a 49/50 -- I couldn't be bothered to find the random "precious gem" that you had to SEARCH EVERY ROOM TO FIND GRRRRR. (not bitter)

Never did finish Deathmaze 5000, however. Funny that still bothers me.
posted by LordSludge at 1:08 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I pimped my CoCo 1 out to eventually have 64k of RAM, 3 floppy drives, CRT driver, and running OS-9, which was a Unix-like OS for the 6809 ("The last of the 8-bit micros").

Another mod I made to mine was to replace the chiclet keyboard with a CoCo 3 style keyboard, and so I find it very amusing that chiclet keyboards are back in vogue.
posted by jimfl at 1:21 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the groovy stuff in the Tandy Leather Factory (beaded leather fringe jackets for the 60s) to the not quite so groovy computer (cheap computer, expensive peripherals like the $4000 1-megabyte hard drive) to the RS franchise (parts seekers, CB and scanner heaven and free catalog), this odd-couple business sure left its mark on Merka.

Micros were so new then that anyone who could program a Trash was viewed with awed suspicion - and could make a quick hundred bucks by spinning around twice.
posted by Twang at 1:23 PM on August 4, 2012


But the TRS-80 Model 100 -- there was something worth having.

Never had the 100, but I still have a related product, my trusty old Tandy WP-2. Still works great!
posted by xedrik at 1:24 PM on August 4, 2012


jimfi: the "chiclet" keyboards of today are nothing like the ones of yesteryear. Those were mushy and only worked if you jammed right on the center of the key. The modern ones have scissor mechanisms just like normal laptop keys and are fine to type on.
posted by zsazsa at 1:27 PM on August 4, 2012


I learned a lot on the Coco (1 (64k) & 3 (512k)). OS-9 Level II on the Coco3 was the first "real" operating system I used. I learned a hell of a lot on that. It was a quasi-unix multitasking OS with dynamically loadable drivers and libraries.

I remember when I moved to the Amiga after that, all my buddies who made similar switches from 8bit micros were all wowed by the multitasking --- I was like "yeah, and?". :-)
posted by smidgen at 5:10 PM on August 4, 2012


I can still remember the day. I was 5 years old, which would have made this 1980. I went with my dad to the nearest storefront Radio Shack (this was before they invaded the malls) to see the computer he had ordered and wa being delivered to the nearby Computer Centre. I played a game of Space Assault (a Space Invaders clone). That was the CoCo, our first computer. Dad was and still is a big fan of gadgets -- before that CoCo we actually had one of the earliest game consoles, a Lloyd TV Sports.

I must have typed in every BASIC program in the book that came with it, and a couple of others too, and in a couple of years I was coding my own programs. I also marveled at the things you could do, at least in theory, as shown in this catalog (PDF link). Hard to think that you could actually get online with that ugly grey box and its nearly unusable keyboard. Eight years that thing lasted, until Dad came home with an Amiga 500.

Anyway I did not become a tech millionaire. Any skill I may have had for coding evaporated when I tried to tackle assembly language in university.
posted by evilcolonel at 5:27 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, my first computer was a Tandy. What a piece of shit. It was wonderful.
posted by chunking express at 6:59 PM on August 4, 2012


zsazsa: "jimfi: the "chiclet" keyboards of today are nothing like the ones of yesteryear. Those were mushy and only worked if you jammed right on the center of the key. The modern ones have scissor mechanisms just like normal laptop keys and are fine to type on."

But they keep cutting my damn fingers.
posted by Splunge at 8:27 PM on August 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Insouciance... that's what being introduced to all this in high school gave the generation who would eventually be known as digital immigrants, not like the digital babies of today. Even you, evilcolonel, since your introduction was at a tender age, have grown up with the *computer* as a personal device.

The later generation has grown up taking it for granted (do we oooh and aaah over a fax machine like my own grandfather and uncles did?) as a commonplace technology, whereas perhaps we remember the sense of possibilities, the mystique and the imagined futures of the 21st century, far enough away for anything to happen yet near enough to contemplate being an adult. Add a dollop of Sci Fi and you were hooked.

Threshold enough to have passed a quarter century when the internet came, allowing for the ability to have understood and known the "before" and "after" of this great shift in humankind's communication ability - McLuhan's global village in a way that I doubt he even suspected, looking as he was at the telegraph and the telephone... although he probably got the groundwork right with the musing on the impact of electronic impermanent text on our cognitive selves.

/I really need to retire from active work and sit down and ponder and write somewhere.
posted by infini at 3:03 AM on August 5, 2012


I got mine for Christmas when I was 10. My brother, a high schooler at the time, had (surprisingly!) just taken some kind of programming intro class and showed me how it worked by writing a little program in BASIC. He wasn't even done with his little experiment before the program used up the whole 16k of memory, so he suggested to my parents that they return it for the 64k model or their nerdy little 10 year old was going to get bored quickly. So they did.

So I taught myself to program with it. I wrote games, painting programs and music programs for it. To control these programs, I got the "advanced" joystick, which was the one that didn't fall apart at the first touch.

I never really did anything with programming, but I'm so glad I had that introduction because it comes in handy to be able to think that way when I want to tinker with Arduino or understand a script for Google spreadsheets. So, thank you, TRS-80. I never called you a "trash 80" and I never will.

But the game cartridges. God! They ranged from the pathetic to the sublime. Games like Demon Attack or Pegasus and the Phantom Riders were just the kind of grind-y challenge to trap a kid in his bedroom for hours. I was pretty sure I was the world's best at those games. Ghana Bwana, a sort of racist version of Zaxxon, stymied me until I pulled my TRS-80 out of storage in college and kicked that game's ass once and for all. Take that, Steve Bjork!

Anyway, here's the thing: My TV was black and white. So all the glory of the color computer was completely lost on me. It would not be for another two years that Christmas would bring a color TV to my bedroom (I never actually used it for viewing television programs). Prior to that, my brother and I played Football over and over, but once a play started, you could never tell which players were which on the B&W TV screen. Plus the game had a quirk: If both players were perfectly overlapping one another as a pass arrived, player 2 would always get the ball (and was tackled instantaneously) whether player 2 was offense or defense. As my brother always played as player 1, he was at a serious disadvantage and nearly smashed my TRS-80 on many occasions, but he usually beat me anyway.

But it Robot Odyssey that haunts me to this day. It's been mentioned on the Blue many times. That game was pretty insanely difficult and I figured out so many ways to cheat, and still never got close to finishing it. I've taken electronics classes in the last year that cause me to have Robot Odyssey flashbacks. I've considered many times getting an emulator and ROM for that game so I could give it the old' Ghana Bwana treatment, but honestly, I'm a little scared I'd lose this time around.

Plus, that intro sequence still freaks me the fuck out.
posted by etc. at 8:19 AM on August 5, 2012


It took 4 upgrades to get to 64k back in my day. I remember 16k seeming like an endless amount of memory.

IIRC 64k was accomplished by piggy-backing 32k chips.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:33 PM on August 5, 2012


In principle, I'm a prime candidate to join in the TRS-80 nostalgia festival. The first computer I ever touched was a TRS-80 that I was astonished and overjoyed to receive as a Christmas gift when I was 9 or 10. Today I'm a professional scientist in a very tech-heavy field, and spend a fair part of my week writing software. (Mostly kludgey hacks that would make a trained programmer cry, but software none the less.)

But, in truth, I have very few fond memories of the device itself. The first days were a lot of fun, copying BASIC out of a manual and learning that I could draw things on the screen, make them blink, and generate ugly square-wave tones.

It didn't take long, though, for the magic to wear off. Unlike the computers in Star Trek, this one couldn't do any of the things I cared about. It couldn't interact with physical hardware. It couldn't talk to other computers. It couldn't make nice sounding music. (Of course it could have done all these things, but I didn't know that at the time.) I could write documents, but I didn't have a printer, and storing them on cassette tape seemed like a poor archival strategy even to a 10 year old. The two or three glitchy, repetitive cartridge games we purchased couldn't hold my attention for long either.

There are plenty of things I could have learned using that box; things that the person I am today would immediately suggest to any child with a computer and free time. I could have learned all sorts of interesting and fundamental computer science. But, I didn't even know which questions to ask to find material on that subject, and my family didn't know any more than me. (And it wouldn't have occurred to me to ask a librarian. The start and end of my 9 year old's view of the library was that it was a place where one could borrow novels.) I could have started learning machine programming; however, I didn't even know such a thing existed. I could have learned all sorts of numerical techniques, but, at the time I had never met any problems that couldn't be solved with a hand calculator.

As far as I could work out, the box was an expensive gaming system with only one dependable game: "find the BASIC syntax error." Within the year, I turned it off for the last time and went back to my junkyard electronics bench. My clumsy circuits were far less sophisticated than the computer, but at least they had tentacles that extended into the world of objects. The computer sat for years in our living-room. Every time I walked past it, my childhood conscience would itch at letting such an expensive gift go to waste.

In short, for me the actual TRS-80 was a disappointment. In the right context, with a little more information, I could have gotten a lot out of it; but, that context just wasn't there. And I didn't know enough to go searching for it. (It was until we got hold of a loaner IBM machine several years later that I discovered what computers could do and began to get excited about them.)

But, the idea of the TRS-80, what it represented, that was meaningful. To this day, I'm thankful that my single, working-class mother with no tech background went to such lengths to acquire that computer. It was a really expensive device - relative to the purchaser's disposable income, almost certainly the most expensive object I've ever owned - and I rather doubt she could have told you why I wanted it. But, she knew it was important to me and saved up for months to give me the chance to experience it. Her kindness, encouragement for exploration, and enthusiasm for new things were a lot more important than the computer could have been, even if it had been put to great use. That, I suspect, is something I share with a lot of those who have fond memories of the machine itself.
posted by eotvos at 1:51 PM on August 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So who remembers the Pac-Man clone that was pure evil? Dead-end corridors, no power pills, and when you died these big bugs said in a synthesized voice, "Weeee GOTCHA!!!!"
posted by evilcolonel at 6:07 PM on August 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I did play a lot of Outhouse on my TRS-80, as well as a lot of the way-more-interesting-than-I-knew Dancing Demon. But the real thrill of the computer was the books of games written in BASIC (I distinctly remember the cover, a sort of giant Frankenstein with a TRS-80 for a head, crushing the city). There was usually a cassette included so you could just copy games right to your computer, but even at that age I understood that it would be vastly more satisfying to write each line of code; even if I just copied it from the book, simply passing it from the page, through my brain, and out my fingers was valuable. I don't work that deeply with computers or programming now, but I still credit all that BASIC with my, er, basic understanding of computers, which has served me well through a million tech support problems.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:49 AM on August 6, 2012


Indeed I remember a lot on my time with all three main models including the various games and word processors.

* scripsit
*Telengard
* Taipan
* Galaxian

There were more but dang, I loved being with computers at a young age. This also reminds me to track down the teacher who against great odds actually outfitted a full lab of TRS-80s in the 1980's for a middle school in a semi-arid region of California. He had an amazing impact on my life and I wish to thank him. Hiya Mr. Gomes!
posted by jadepearl at 9:58 AM on August 6, 2012


It was in my first class in computer programming that Mrs McElroy taught us that the computer [as it was then, 1982] was just a dumb box, dependent wholly on us, to provide any meaningful response. GIGO was the concept, Garbage in Garbage out. Here’s a snippet from the wiki entry,

It refers to the fact that computers, unlike humans, will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical of input data and produce nonsensical output. It was most popular in the early days of computing, but has fallen out of use as programs have become more sophisticated and now usually have checks built in to reject improper input. The aphorism GIGO was originally coined by Stephen "Wilf" Hey, a programmer who had a regular column in PC Plus magazine.

I bring it up because I find that these fundamentals – syntax error, gigo, lifo, fifo – have not only stayed with me but colour my view of this box in front of which I sit right now to write this post. In actual fact, over the past 25 years much has changed. While gigo is still true to a great degree – any excel spreadsheet will show you quickly, spewing out crazy charts if your data is incorrect, there has been a major shift in the way I perceive this box on my desk.

Because of my understanding of what this box could do or not, I had never perceived it as more than a glorified calculator – sure with bells and whistles – but conceptually it was no more than another electronic tool to be used when required for a task. It was dead otherwise. But over the past decade or little more, there has been a major change – one that I didn’t notice until yesterday afternoon. And that is the advent, the spread and flourishing of the world wide web.

Today, this screen in front of me is closer in analogy to a ‘window’ to the world – a virtual world, intangible yet visible, digital yet more human – one that allows me to communicate, to collaborate and to conduct commerce. It is my connection to the global village, to my parents in Singapore, to my friends around the world, and more.

But what it is not, anymore, is simply another tool, albeit a powerful one, on my desk, like the calculator or typewriter, as it used to be for me, in the first decade I used it. Today, this desktop PC is simply my access to the wider world. imho, only.

And this ‘screen’, whose curtains I pull aside, every morning, to peek in and see what’s up in the world, is now no different than the bay windows in my living room, from which I peek out every morning to see what’s up in the world.

There’s a nugget of something here, an idea or phrase or concept, that feels just a little out of my reach right now as I grapple with these words trying to articulate it.
April 2007
posted by infini at 10:09 AM on August 6, 2012


Continuing the thread of thought from the previous post, what was once a productivity tool for word processing, data analysis, document management – aah, the days when we were told that the paperless office was right around the corner – has become in fact a communications tool.

Now, if we take a step back from that thought, and look at it from the point of view of value analysis, identifying the basic function and secondary function of this ‘gadget’ or ‘machine’ – there has been a reversal in terms of what the basic function of this tool is and what the secondary function. Similarly, the next step is assign ‘value’ to each function – therefore, if one were consider that the trend towards the majority of the applications that were originally available to us ONLY in terms of what was on our hard drive [or floppy if you're old enough to remember Scripsit] now available freely online [thank you google] for the most part, how does this effect the ‘value’ of each function – the processing function [cpu] and the communications function [being able to access the internet]?

Today, I don’t need my fixed location desktop or even my portable laptop to access my workspace [except for MS Office and even that is out of habit more than anything else].

I can go and sit down at any connected machine anywhere in the world that allows me access to the interweb and I can write and post to my blog, access my research and bookmarks, look up my photograph collection and pay my rent.

But that’s just ‘playing around’ online, that’s not your real work, some might say. It depends, I’d answer. We are at an inflexion point here, imho, and as the digital infants growing up totally and wholly immersed in an internetworked world start to go to ‘work’, how do you think they will collaborate, communicate, connect and conduct commerce?

Today, I don’t simply interact with this computer, I interact with other human beings on other devices around the world, via the computer’s keyboard and connection.

So the basic function of this tool and the secondary function of this tool, for me at least, has reversed itself over the past decade, one could say, conceivably.

I value this box more today for its current primary function of allowing me to access the webworld than for its secondary function of allowing me to track my recipes, balance my checkbook or write a neatly edited document that can be prettily printed.
April 2007
posted by infini at 10:11 AM on August 6, 2012


So who remembers the Pac-Man clone that was pure evil? Dead-end corridors, no power pills, and when you died these big bugs said in a synthesized voice, "Weeee GOTCHA!!!!"
posted by evilcolonel


MegaBug. My mom was hooked on that game and was pretty damn good at it. Me, on the other hand, just wanted to hop in a pixelated spaceship and blow things up.
posted by azpenguin at 9:30 PM on August 8, 2012


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