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30 Years of the TRS-80 Model 100

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the still-in-grad-school dept.

Hardware 143

An anonymous reader writes with this "interview with John R Hogerhuis, one of the key players in the still suprisingly active community for the TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer. As the Model 100 approaches its 30th birthday, John talks about what has kept the machine popular for so long, current software and hardware work that is keeping it relevant, and what modern developers could learn from spending some on a computer from 1983."

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Apparently running the website, too (5, Funny)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759371)

No comments yet, and the server is already slashdotted...

It must be running on one of those old beasties. :P

Re:Apparently running the website, too (4, Informative)

Announcer (816755) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759441)

TRS-80, that brings back not-so-good memory (0)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760149)

There were stuffs that brought back really good memory, but not the trash-80s

Of course, we read all the manuals and hand-coded some programs, but I didn't put in too much time for it, for there are other machines that offered much more flexibility and robustness

Re:Apparently running the website, too (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759469)

TRS-80 Model 100: Interview With John R. Hogerhuis
Tom Nardi April 21, 2012 2
TRS-80 Model 100: Interview With John R. Hogerhuis

Last month, on something of a whim, I wrote up an introduction and guide to working with the TRS-80 Model 100, one of the first ever “notebook” computers, released in 1983. The Model 100 was something that had always interested me, and I thought I would share some of my experiences with getting software installed on it, and maybe introduce this nearly 30 year old piece of hardware to a new audience.

Much to our surprise, the Model 100 guide quickly became one of the most popular pieces the site has ever run, completely dominating the site traffic in March. Clearly there is a lot of interest in this device, but why? We’re talking about a machine that’s older than many of this sites readers (and indeed, a few of the writers).

To try and get to the bottom of the Model 100s continuing popularity almost three decades after its release, we spent some time talking to John R. Hogerhuis, a key player in the Model 100 community. John’s unique perspective gives us an inside look at this extremely dedicated and knowledgeable community.
Getting Involved

John Hogerhuis

The Powerbase: John, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. Why don’t you start by telling our readers a little bit about yourself?

John: First of all Tom, thank you for your initial introduction to the Model 100.

I’m happy to answer your questions, and gratified at the interest in the Model T and our community.

I grew up fascinated by computers. I had a TRS-80 Color Computer, and later a Tandy Coco 3 (still have the Coco 3). I learned to program by reading books and typing in BASIC program listings which, once upon a time, appeared in hobbyist computer magazines. I went on to get a degree in computer science from Cal State Fullerton. After working as a programmer I went back to school and got my MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship. I make my living by doing contract software development.

I’m married and have three kids which get most of my free time. What is left goes to reading and my retrocomputing hobby, primarily Model T discussions and projects.

The Powerbase: How are you involved with the Model 100 community?

John: I run the mailing list and the web site and wiki. I write and maintain software for the machine and share it with my friends in the community. I try to maintain the friendly list culture that has developed over the years on the mailing list. Via the list and private email, I work with other folks across the globe to encourage new projects and assist with testing and development when I have spare cycles.

"Fun and Useful Stuff"

I am the author of DLPilot, LaddieCon, HTERM, and TBACK.

DLPilot and LaddieCon are “external storage” services that simulate a Tandy Portable Disk Drive.

HTERM is a terminal program that implements hardware flow control, UTF-8 character set mapping, and baud rates up to 76800bps. It is my first major bit of 8085 assembly, with some of the code (a perfect hash function for the UTF-8 mapper) generated by a Perl script. My current goal is to add Zmodem support to it.

TBACK is a command line swiss army to manage a Model T’s RAM file system without having to install a disk service on it. Very much a work-in-progress.

HTERM and LaddieCon are available in source form via Git repositories hosted at TBACK is not currently shared other than with those who have asked to see it.

The Powerbase: Between the mailing list, Wiki, and your Model 100 software projects, it seems pretty safe to say you are a serious devotee to this nearly 30 year old computer. What’s kept you interested for so long?

John: Well I didn’t actually own a Model 100 until about 2004. As a Coco kid, I salivated over Model 100 ads in the magazines and Tandy catalogs. I thought it would be great to use at school. But at several hundred dollars, it wasn’t affordable to me. But as an adult, via Ebay, I found I could get my dream machine for $50.

The Model T is a unique computer. It’s lightweight, rugged, and gets 20 hours of battery life on off-the-shelf AA’s. Think about that: what machine can claim that today? Drop an iPad from a few feet and it’s not likely to work well any more. Only recently are we seeing general computing devices like the iPad that are instant-on and come with built-in productivity applications.

That said, it’s got a sprinkler computer for a brain. It was underpowered when it was still being sold by Tandy. DOS machines with much more memory were widely available soon after the Model 100 was introduced. But I believe it’s the combination of a tight, well architected and integrated system that made it and make it so useful despite specs that today make it uncompetitive with scientific calculators on raw specifications. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Type in a BASIC program, and EDIT the whole program or a line of code it pops it open in the TEXT editor. Pop open the TEXT editor and select some text you can then use the PASTE key to dump it into another file or into a terminal prompt. Create a list of phone numbers in the TEXT editor you use the ADRS program to search for a given name and then have the modem dial the phone.

In addition to the excellent design of the machine, I am fascinated by the way that the Model T is a forerunner of other equipment. The next truly portable device in my mind was the Palm Pilot. That died out and now we are seeing new true portables in the form of the smart phones and tablets. But the Model T was the blockbuster product of its day, especially with journalists who depended on true portability, instant-on and appreciate its incredibly good keyboard.

Another big feature of the Model T for a hobbyist is its small footprint. I can put it away when I’m not using it, or carry it anywhere in the house if my workbench is cluttered with another project. My Coco is stuck on my rack, it really doesn’t get much use just because of the amount of gear you need in one spot to use it effectively. I can pull out the Model T, get my retrocomputing fix, and then put it away.

The Powerbase: The uninitiated may not realize that new hardware and software is still being actively developed for the Model 100, it isn’t as if everyone in the community is just stuck in the 80s. What are some of the modern advancements the Model 100 has seen recently?

John: Most new software development has been to support further development. I’d say that the Model 100 has a minimal but very useful set of integrated applications so the most useful things recently have been utility software. A lot of Model 100 use is just editing plain old text files or doing mobile data collection. This can be done with the text editor or a simple BASIC program and generally no one cares about your actual application but you, in those cases.

Then comes the point where you offload files, and that’s a spot where the built in tools are functional but could stand improvement. One of the most common issues users come to the mailing list about is just file transfer, getting old BA and CO programs to load, and memory management. So development has centered on expanding onboard storage, and convenient offboard storage in the form of REX and NADSBox.

REX adds onboard flash storage to the Model T. NADSBox adds fast SD card offboard storage.

Additionally REX unlocks the wealth of Option ROM abandonware. A lot of Model T software was distributed on pluggable Molex option ROMs. Formerly you could come to Club100 and have them blow a specific ROM for you. Now, with REX, you can blow a ROM image conveniently in-circuit so if you have an image, you can run it. Further, it has opened the possibility of easily developing your one ROMs. One aficionado has created a ANS-compatible Forth interpreter that runs from ROM. Also, there is a back burner project to boot 8080 CP/M on augmented Model T hardware.

NADSBox emulates the Tandy Portable Disk Drive over pluggable SD cards. Plus it has a nice interactive CLI interface accessible via TELCOM. This involved a lot of source code written by Ken Pettit.

Ken Pettit also created the Model T emulator “VirtualT” which in turn made these other developments a lot more feasible.

My recent effort has been HTERM. The need for this was a few of things. First, Linux doesn’t seem to implement XON/XOFF serial flow control properly so Linux will overrun the Model T’s 64 byte receive queue at any bps 9600 and higher. HTERM implements hardware flow control, which Linux does properly. Hardware flow control has always been supported by the hardware but Microsoft never implemented it. Second, I wanted access to higher baud rates including 38400bps and 76800bps that the Model 100 / T102 are capable of.

Finally, when connecting to a Linux getty over the serial port, many programs output ANSI escapes and UTF-8 characters which rended on the Model T as a garbage which really screws up formatting. HTERM properly filters out escapes it doesn’t need and maps many unicode chars (box drawing, bullets, quotes, etc.) so that programs like Mutt, w3m and Vim work VERY well with HTERM.

Steve Adolph has been working on a Bluetooth module for Model T. HTERM will work well to allow wireless bridging to smart phones and then to Linux via HTERM.

The Powerbase: Any standout pieces of software that new Model 100 users should take a look at?

John: VirtualT, NADSBox firmware, the REXMGR software that comes with REX, HTERM, LaddieCon come to mind.

For me, HTERM as a client to a Linux CLI is a lot of fun since you can try Mutt, Vim, and web browsing on a Model T. Kinda like Model T connect to the Cloud.

The Powerbase: Modern software development is a lot different than the early days, processing power has gotten so cheap that developers just don’t seem to take the time to optimize their code like they used to. Do you think the modern programmer would have something to learn if he or she sat down with a Model 100 for awhile and experienced what development was like in 1983?

John: I think it is a revelation both to users and programmers, in fact. When you see the Model T turn on instantly, no appreciable boot time, launch applications absolutely instantaneously, the question will appear in anyone’s mind as to why modern systems are so unresponsive in comparison. And the Model T has an infinitesimal fraction of the processing power of modern machines. In some very important aspects, it did more than we get today with far, far less.

For programmers looking at a ROM disassembly or writing their own assembly code, you get real appreciation for how to push hardware to its limits. Programmers today are focused on other things, mostly on making their own lives easier. There are absolutely reasons for that I’m no luddite. But I do believe we’ve given up to much. That pendulum is starting to swing back with embedded devices like tablets and cell phones based on embedded processors.

Also, I’ve noticed application developers that have no real understanding of low level programming and it absolutely hurts their ability to develop and debug software. Something has indeed been lost. I don’t know if you have to go back to assembly language to recover
that but it wouldn’t hurt.

Open Source, Before It Was Open Source

The Powerbase: Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Model 100, to me at least, is that the machine and the community around it were open source before open source was even a term. The hardware and software of the Model 100 were open and well documented simply because that’s the way you did things back then, not because they were being forced by software licenses. Do you think this is part of what’s kept the Model 100 going as long as it has?

John: Yes, in the microcomputer days there was a strong “open source” aspect. Not free software, but open source. The fact that BASIC was in wide use on machines deserves some credit for that. BASIC source was for the most part, readable. Also, for whatever reason it was common to have “service manuals” with detailed low level programming information available from your system vendor.

ROM disassemblies filled in the gaps in information coming from the manufacturer. There was never a golden era per se of open systems. Microsoft and 3rd party vendors jealously guarded their secrets back then too. But in online communities like CompuServe, Delphi, and computer magazines and books there was a lot of information available to programmers. Also, it was more expected that if you were a user of a computer, you wouldn’t mind having to get your hands dirty with running and modifying little programs too, something unheard of today where we have polished, consumer-oriented computer interfaces. When you turn on your Coco, you get a OK prompt and a flashing cursor, waiting for you to type commands or type in a program. The M100 is a step above it presents an arrow driven menu with a text editor, a terminal program, and BASIC. But widebar cursor over to BASIC and hit enter, and the situation is the same.

The Powerbase: That being said, there is a project to get older Model 100 software licensed under a proper free software license like the GPL. Do you feel this is important for the Model 100 community going forward?

John: The Model 100 Open Source Initiative was started when Kurt Dekker donated his library of assembly language games with source to the community. I’m hopeful that more people will share their code as part of the initiative or their own projects.

But more important than that, is that those who can contribute software, open or proprietary, feel that they have a healthy, welcoming community of users there to appreciate and use their work if they put in the effort to bring it to market.

I have a standing policy that any product which Steve Adolph or Ken Pettit bring to market, I’ll buy at least one of it. We aren’t in the days of blockbuster products selling thousands of copies. So love and friendship has to fill the gap.

The Powerbase: Do you find that some of the original Model 100 developers and users have trouble with the idea of a free software license like the GPL? Is it something of a foreign concept to them?

John: I find it is often seen as a foreign concept. That is slowly changing. It turns out that copyright tends to be a “fighting word” in retrocomputing communities. We have a big problem with orphaned or abandoned works. Some folks see a gray area in making use of proprietary abandonware, and others see it as a problem.

Also there have been some skirmishes over copyrighted work from Compuserve. Nevertheless, most folks make their best effort to be respectful of copyright holders wishes if they surface and make them known.
Looking Forward

The Powerbase: We are approaching the 1 year anniversary of Rick Hanson’s death, by all accounts one of the strongest and best known supporters of the Model 100 in the world. Yourself and others in the community have committed to continuing Rick’s work via the Club 100 site, could you give us any information on it’s current status? Are you looking for any assistance in keeping the site going?

John: Yes Rick used to say he just “swept the floors” at Club100 and the community made it all work. But he was more than that. He provided the ultimate back stop for folks to know that support was available no matter what. That gave a basic sense of security for a product whose producer basically doesn’t exist anymore. There are no real warranties at this point.

Anyway, Club100 continues. Ken Pettit runs the web site now and sells both NADSBox and Steve Adolph’s REX. We have a few co-sysops of the web site. Plus lots of programming information continues to grow at .

The best way to participate in the club is to get a Model T, join the mailing list and participate to the best of your ability. Use your vintage laptop! The mailing list is the nexus of the Model 100 world and where the community can give you quick support, so be there or be square. We endeavor to be a welcoming bunch.

Thanks to John R. Hogerhuis for giving his very unique perspective on the Model 100. The work of John and his peers has kept this technological milestone alive and kicking beyond its creators wildest dreams. Be sure to keep an eye out here on The Powerbase for our continuing coverage of the Model 100.

Re:Apparently running the website, too (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759551)

Actually no, that's the sad part. We use Dreamhost and pay for their premium services and they can never handle the heat. We are switching to HostGator and we were hoping to finish the move before we got Slashdotted again!

Re:Apparently running the website, too (1)

Faffin (2541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759579)

Not completely, took about 2 min to load though. You beat me on the "It must be running on one" thing by several minutes though. All I can say is imagine a Beowulf cluster of these :P

Re:Apparently running the website, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759753)

All I can say is imagine a Beowulf cluster of these :P

I have a few boxes of these sitting in my closet, along with accessories. I could actually make a Beowulf cluster of them.

Don't laugh *too* hard (2)

hawk (1151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759983)

There *are* we servers running on model 100s out there.

They don't serve much, but they exist.


Re:Don't laugh *too* hard (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760251)

There *are* we servers running on model 100s out there.

There are ??

Wow !!

I've one of those on my desk at work. (4, Interesting)

PotatoHead (12771) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759391)

Great curio. It runs forever on a set of AA batteries, and I've written a few BASIC programs to show it off. Once in a great while, I'll take notes on it, transferring back to PC via serial cable.

Love the keyboard, and the BASIC environment is the last OS type code that Bill Gates wrote.

Re:I've one of those on my desk at work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759451)

You can get off-the -shelf serial-to-bluetooth adapters, so you could probably transfer it to most laptops and phones.

Re:I've one of those on my desk at work. (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759923)

Wait! Gates wrote the code for the TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer?

Re:I've one of those on my desk at work. (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760327)

Yeah, back in the day, Bill Gates got his teeth wet writing BASIC interpreters for ROM chips. They turned front panel switch programmed paperweights into something a hobbyist computer geek could play with and actually do fun stuff, back in the Stone Age.

Re:I've one of those on my desk at work. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760501)

gw basic....ugh

Re:I've one of those on my desk at work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760841)

And wayback when it wasn't the OS but mass storage (TRS-II 300 baud? cassette tape) that kept you waiting.
1 Load assembler, load source (another 30 mins). 2 Assemble, save binary, reboot, load binary(another 30 mins.), 3 test , reboot, load source and edit, save source(another 30 mins.), 4 IF (TIRED EXHAUSTED) THEN goto 1. 5 GOSUB EAT, 6 GOSUB SLEEP, 7 GOTO 1. Repeat and rinse.
No, I don't use Gentoo today :).
The function "another 30 mins" should, with a modern OS, be replaced with a fork(toilet_process()) || fork(have_surgery_on_exploded_bladder());.
At least one would definitely learn to debug first and run _after_ debugging.

Re:I've one of those on my desk at work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39761105)

Wrong, Bill would check and add code to Windows all the way up until the mid 90's . He's a smarth, if ruthless, guy.

Response time (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759417)

The nice thing about those old computers was the response time. Type something, hit the enter key, and the prompt was ready for the next line. Of course you couldn't really do anything with them except play the simplest games, but still...

Re:Response time (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759687)

Hmmmm, what do you mean couldn't do anything. They were a programmable portable computer at a time that not many had computers. I remember writing quiz programs, adventure games, a ... what would you call a lunar lander game except landing on earth? I used it to figure out mathematical formulas since programmable calculators didn't work. I agree that a lot of people use have been taught to respond to computers, just like phones I suppose, phone rings you have to answer it. Personally, computers are tools, and though the equipment I use is more powerful nowdays, the model 100 had lots of functionality there wasn't anything to compete with it at the time unless you wanted to lug around an osborne.

Re:Response time (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759829)

Simplest games? I had written several Space exploration games that were quite complex. You had to read your sensor and change your course based on sensor input. you could also input a formula based on the sensor variables and create a type of "auto pilot" as well. It was very cool playing with a text only simulation of the Solar system and slingshot the ship around trying to use the least amount of fuel to land on titan from earth.

It required a knowledge of Physics and trigonometry to play the game.

I had also written several combat simulators One was three player using a special serial cable with diodes. I never did find a third person to play with so we used the Old Co-Co as a third player.

They are highly advanced computers. Even the Sharp Pocket PC was advanced enough to do some amazing things. People are utterly spoiled with their insane levels of computing available today.

Re:Response time (3, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759997)

Wha?? Play games? This was a *portable* computer, it was made for serious work. Typing text really hasn't changed (except for that great *cough* HTMLization) and all a serious writer ever really needs is a text editor to do real work.

Actually, ALL big-name home pc's are 30 years old. (4, Insightful)

ihaveamo (989662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759423)

All the big-names are 30 years old just now.

This includes the TRS80 Color computer (The computer that got me into this crazy field in the first place... OS9 for ever!)
, Commodore VIC 20, 64, Apple II, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad They are all are / going to be in their 30's !!.

Who feels old now??

Re:Actually, ALL big-name home pc's are 30 years o (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759455)

I do. My first computer was a TRS-80 MC-10 (a sort of little brother to the CoCo that run a 6803, where I did my first assembly language experiments). The first actual code I wrote was on a Commodore 64 and I mucked around with Integer BASIC on Apple II's at school. And OS9 definitely rocked, and BASIC-09 is still for me the best structured BASIC variant ever developed. I'd take my Pascal programming class at school and with relative ease port the code I wrote over to BASIC-09.

Gawd I do feel old.

Re:Actually, ALL big-name home pc's are 30 years o (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759559)

TRS-80 Mod 1, Apple ][, then ZX-81 here. It was a great intro as a kid to Basic, several assembly languages, Forth, etc. I still apply a lot of the lessons learned in writing maintainable (or not) code from those first machines and languages.

Re:Actually, ALL big-name home pc's are 30 years o (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759685)

My trs-80 has a serial number below 250. Not sure exactly what the number is though, I'd have to dig it out of my dad's attic 2000 miles from here to check.

Re:Actually, ALL big-name home pc's are 30 years o (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759701)

Model 1, neglected to say. There's also a model 4p up there. And a vectrex with all accessories and carts.

Obsolete tech museum.

I sold my model 100 and model 102 a few years back.

Re:Actually, ALL big-name home pc's are 30 years o (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759999)

"And a vectrex with all accessories and carts."

You do know those things are really rare to come along?

Re:Actually, ALL big-name home pc's are 30 years o (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759987)

Apple ][, then ZX-81 here.

Ouch. What happened?

Sad state of modern technology ... (4, Interesting)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759431)

The Model 100 had a number of features that modern computers lack. If you need a simple computer to make notes, its battery life was in the 20 hours region. It was many many long years before the modern PC laptop was "portable" and had a battery life greater than 3 hours. (I'm thinking of some of the old transportables, which weighed 35 lbs and had no batteries.)

At long last, with the advent of the OLPC, the Eee PC, the smartphone, and a few of the smaller laptops, battery life has reached the 6 to 12 hours. However, for taking a piece of equipment to strange places with no power, being able to use AA batteries to power your computer is a really helpful feature.

Really wish the modern laptop could run from batteries longer. It's sad that a 30 year old PC is still competitive with regards to battery life.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759461)

It really was the first of its kind. Yes, Osbourn had a "portable" computer, which stretched the definition heavily, but the Model 100, well it was pretty much the first laptop.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759529)

It revolutionised journalism because it make it possible for articles to be written once and uploaded via a phone line. It must have put a lot of typists out of work.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759573)

Didn't Jerry Pournelle use one and write a lot about it?

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759651)

I don't recall that but I wouldn't be surprised.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

Omineca (2623253) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759631)

I was just thinking that the first one I ever saw (in real life, not in the radio shack catalog) belonged to a roommate who was a radio reporter. It was 1990, and there really was nothing that quite matched it even then. I was totally jealous. I couldn't find one and ended up buying a smith corona pwp-something or other... which you could haul around .... but it was bigger than briefcase size and single-purpose.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760421)

For similar reasons a certain Texas lawyer and his two sons gained advantage by using them for oil and mineral rights ownership research and the leasing of said rights. Everything was uploaded to and stored on the drives connected a TRS 80 in the lawyer's office which was used to create much of the accompanying documentation. They used multiple crews visiting court houses and survey offices etc. By their own accounts they were the first to use portable computing for that purpose.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760433)

You beat me to it. It was very popular with journalists, all the way into the 1990's. I remember seeing one at the Radio Shack in 1992, amazed that it was still being sold as an active product. The manager gave the same explanation as to why the computer still sold--journalists. Think about it. It was extremely portable, had a great keyboard, ran great on off the shelf batteries, and had a built in modem. What more could a reporter want?

I do know someone currently in college who bought one of these at a garage sale and uses it in school, to the bewilderment of all his classmates.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

LVSlushdat (854194) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760385)

Still have one, still works like the day I bought it... Paid around $800 for it as I recall, and it was the low end 8K version.. Dug it out and put a set of AA's in it, and it works great...

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (2)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760609)

It really was the first of its kind. Yes, Osbourn had a "portable" computer, which stretched the definition heavily, but the Model 100, well it was pretty much the first laptop.

The Epson HX-20 [] got there first in 1981. Granted the screen wasn't as big, but the overall package is similar. It even has a built in printer and an optional micro cassette recorder for data storage. It even featured dual CPUs (one main CPU, the other handled I/O) at a whopping 0.6Mhz. The later PX-4 and PX-8 had a bigger screen and ran CP/M.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (0)

Howitzer86 (964585) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759531)

I have a ASUS Transformer with a keyboard dock. It gets 16 hours of battery life, and is pretty good at taking notes. You can also record the lecturer, take pictures of the white board and insert it into your notes (using Evernote).

Yeah... it took a really long time to get here, but then we had other priorities - like computing power (overheating P3s in 12 pound laptops anyone?), wifi internet access, and modern operating systems.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (-1, Troll)

spookthesunset (1562927) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759623)

The thing was probably, what, about 2khz? It had, what, 4086 bytes of ram?

Modern laptops have clock speeds of 2 gigs or more. They have dedicated video cards that push bazillions of pixels around. They have 16gb or more of memory. They also have onboard wifi and full fucking color, HD displays. What the fuck do you expect?

Besides, your metric is way wrong anyway. I'll bet you that from a "horsepower" to "battery life" comparison (say, clock speed to battery life), modern computers kick the shit out of that TRS-80. In no way is the TRS-80 competitive with modern laptops in terms of battery life. And hell, you should be comparing the kindle or something, which also kicks the ever living shit out of the TRS-80 *and* laptops *and* the ipad. Course, it can't do as much.. but it can do way more than the TRS-80 ever could.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759799)

The point is that the metrics you quote don't actuually help modern computers. My laptop runs at 1.6 GHz but it still has trouble performing everyday tasks. The software from the model 100 should absolutely fly on my laptop, probably to the point where you wouldn't see a difference. The problem is that programmers now operate in an abstract world where they do their little job and if you have performance issues then that can be blamed on a different layer in the system. I see this in my day job and you wouldn't believe the horrors. There was one guy using XML serialisation as a form of type cast, and building the intermediate xml documents as nested strings as the object hierarchy was traversed. It took a good part of a second to process one record, of which we get a thousand messages per second. Very elegant but the purpose of the job is to stay in business you know?

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760517)

Did you just call that elegant??

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39761027)

Sure, its all recursion, simple xml DOM tree manipulation, and calls to encode and decode a stream. Its an elegant design but horrible to run. I am sure modern software is loaded with performance sinks like that.

Oh (and now you got me started) there is a tendency for developers to turn efficient high level languages with strong typing into weakly typed performance sucks like perl by using string keys, root classes (every domain object really is an Object) and type casts all over the place.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759841)

And I did more on that 4khz processor than you will ever do on a 20 core 22thz 90tb machine.

People today dont know how to use computers, they know how to run a toaster.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1, Troll)

spookthesunset (1562927) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760381)

Isn't that how it should be? Who gives a shit if you know how to "use a computer"? They are fucking tools. No more. No less.

If anything, it is amazing how little you need to know to do really cool shit. Like, anybody can start a website using nothing but off the shelf tools... isn't that amazing? We live in amazing times. That 4khz proc is bullshit compared to it. "know how to use computers"... pshaw...

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (4, Insightful)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759893)

What the Model 100 had going for it was that for the target market you could put in 4 new AA batteries at 8 in the morning, set the clock (if needed) and start working, and not need to be plugged in again until midnight. For writers, and people doing data gathering in the field, this really does mean that you can work all day. The keyboard pretty much feels comfortable, you don't have extra hardware to keep track of in the field, (where did I drop that wireless mouse again?) and so on.

No it doesn't have an HD or Wysiwyg display. It's not going to run 3d games very well. etc. You are not going to watch TV on it, or have it read that book aloud to you. It's not the latest and greatest hardware. On the other hand what it did, and for what it was capable of doing, there really was not a lot of competition. It's not the sexy gadget of the week for endgadget or techcrunch. That's OK.

I don't recall the specs of the model 100, but the model 200 had an Intel 80c85 processor, with 3 26k banks of memory available. Each bank was available to the user as 19k of usable memory. The 200 had a 40 column by 16 line lcd display that folded over the keyboard, and that device gave Tandy a patent on the clamshell design for laptop and pocket computers they earned royalties on for the next 17 years.

I'm not saying that it was the sexiest device. But you would be hard pressed to find a device in the digital technology sector that has put in as many hours of work in as many fields, as the TRS-80 Model 100 (and by extension 102 and 200) portable computer.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759947)

You missed the point.

He didn't say the 100 had the power of a modern computer, or could run anything approaching modern programs.

However, go find me a COMPUTER that has a battery life of half a work week, running off the kind of batteries I'd find at Wal-Mart or 7-11. It has to be a complete, self-reliant computer - I should be able to not just install any program I want, but *write* any program I can write, all without needing any other computer.

I did some looking. There's a few ebook readers with 20+ hour battery lives, but I couldn't find any proper computers, no matter what "horsepower".

Easy (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760081)

However, go find me a COMPUTER that has a battery life of half a work week , running off the kind of batteries I'd find at Wal-Mart or 7-11. It has to be a complete, self-reliant computer - I should be able to not just install any program I want, but *write* any program I can write, all without needing any other computer.

Ok, I've got a HP calculator in my desk drawer that roughly fit that description and are VASTLY more powerful than the model 100.

The problem isn't making a computer that does what you are talking about. The problem is making one you'd actually want to use for more than extremely limited uses. We don't make general purpose computers like the model 100 anymore because we don't have to and because people don't want them, not because we couldn't. We could easily create a device today that outpeforms the model 100 for a narrow range of tasks.

Re:Easy (2)

spookthesunset (1562927) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760243)

Yeah, but this is slashdot... home of the luddite. Everything was perfect back in 1970 when computers were more useful, less bloated, and (clearly) more open.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39761053)

Psion 3 & 5.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... / HP 200LX (3, Interesting)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759661)

well the Pocket PCs such as the HP 100/200LX had CGA screen with full 80x25 text and graphics and could run for at least 30 hours, with almost any DOS program you wish, include TCP clients (browsers, telnet, ftp, etc).

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... / HP 200LX (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759751)

On my last DOS machine it was easier to just dial into the local freenet and use links/elinks and the other *nix utilities...

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... / HP 200LX (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760085)

Those HP palmtops were interesting machines. At one job, a Finance Director would carry one around and whip it out if he wanted to do some quick calculations using the built-in Lotus 123. I think they may have been largely forgotten because this was about the time when 'everyone' started using Windows & Excel.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... / HP 200LX (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760447)

They still sell on eBay for about their original retail price (several hundred dollars), even though a new one hasn't been made for over a decade. They really were cool machines at the time. An MS-DOS computer, in your hand? Amazing. I had a professor use one as a demonstration for an operating systems class.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759697)

There's always the Dana AlphaSmart [] . It's sold as a computer for children, but it is a lot like the Model 100.

Re:Sad state of modern technology ... (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759707)

Psion Series 5/5mx ran quite long on two AA batteries. IIRC it was somewhere between 10 and 20 hours, which is quite OK - I never had to use the PDA for 20 hours straight. Even if it ran out of energy, a new set of battereis can be bought almost anywhere (I mainly used rechargeable batteries).

Lenovo X220 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759739)

23 hours , as long as you use the "slice battery"

Ran on nicads, too (1)

hawk (1151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760029)

I used to run mine on nicads. I think I got 4 or 6 hours: I forget.

Many folks carved space and jerry-rigged a fifth battery to get 6 volts; I ran on just 4--which gave me longer battery life than on the correct voltage (with that type of CMOS, current dissipation was proportional to voltage).

It never occurred to me before, but it likely would have run on 4.5v from three alkalines, and boosted battery life. I'm not likely to put enough hours on ever again to ever find out . . .

However, when the low pow light came on, instead of 20 minutes, yu had 20 seconds . . .


I had the Olivetti version (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759487)

With flip-up screen. It was sweet, helped me get through high school. Yes, I was the geek with the laptop, the only kid in school who had one (bought cheap from DAK with summer job money). Gave me and my friend some fun self-wiring a connection between than and his Model 100 until we realized the motherboards and connectors were flipped between the two.

Re:I had the Olivetti version (1)

hawk (1151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760043)

The model 200 TRS-80 had that screen, too.

There were three versions of the machine known as the model 100--the TRS-80, Olivetti, and I forget the third. There were minor differences between them.


Re:I had the Olivetti version (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760083)

The third we saw was an NEC. They were all based on a Japanese Kyocera computer.

Trash-80 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759497)

In those days everyone called it the "Trash 80", probably including unit owners (as typical techie deprecating humor). TRS stood for "Tandy-Radio Shack", Tandy being the original name of the company that is now known as Radio Shack, and which would like to be known as "The Shack".

Re:Trash-80 (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759775)

Here in Australia it is still called Tandy, though the stores have gone downhill in the last 30 years.

Re:Trash-80 (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760491)

Tandy no longer exists, having been re-badged by Woolworths as Dick Smith a few years back.

Re:Trash-80 (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 2 years ago | (#39761005)

There are a few Tandy branded stores in Melbourne but they feel like a cheap goods outlet for DSE.

Re:Trash-80 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759897)

TRS stood for "Tandy-Radio Shack", Tandy being the original name of the company that is now known as Radio Shack, and which would like to be known as "The Shack".

So TRS could also mean The Radio Shack


Re:Trash-80 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759907)

And the "80" referred to ZILOG's Z80 microprocessor, NOT Intel's 8080/8085.

Re:Trash-80 (2)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760105)

Zilog's Z80 branding referred to the fact it was an enhanced clone of the Intel 8080.

But mostly people thought adding "80" to stuff sounded super futuristic in the 1970s. You'd see on all sorts of random electronics, and there was a semi-famous disco studio called "Sound-80".

And the OP is correct, "Trash-80" was definitely a term of endearment among the owners.

Re:Trash-80 (1)

Maxmin (921568) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759917)

Some refer to it as "Rat Shack."

Whenever I visit one, it's usually in desperation for an electronic component or battery that I can't wait to order online from a cheaper source. I almost always beeline it for the proper store section, but that doesn't stop the sales droids from trying to (up)sell me on mobile phone equipment or contracts.

Re:Trash-80 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760493)

You know, people are always hard on the poor Radio Shack clerks, but it's really important to note that these guys are essentially paid minimum wage. If they are in a high traffic store, they might make commission, but that's only a handful of stores per districts. You're not going to get any engineers working there for what they pay.

A historian I hope (2)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759633) of the key players in the still suprisingly active community for the TRS-80 Model 100 portable computer.

Reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons where Burns says "have I missed the 4:30 autogyro to Siam?"

Nostalgia (-1)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759647)

I had one of these as my office PC. It was diabolically bad, but I assumed it was state of the art, not really knowing any better. I used a program called Scripsit for word-processing. I thought it was pretty cool - I knew all the commands off by heart and could turn out pretty decently formatted work on a daisy-wheel printer.

Then someone came and put a Mac on my desk and at that moment everything changed. The TRS-80 was never booted up again.

Re:Nostalgia (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39759851)

Thank you for illustrating that you don't know what a TRS-80 Model 100 is.

Hint: it's not a desktop.

Re:Nostalgia (0)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760441)

So which one am I thinking of then? It was a TRS-80, it had an integrated monitor and floppy drives and it was "portable", in that it had a foldout keyboard which when closed covered the screen. It had a carry handle. I wouldn't call it portable in the modern sense, but it was portable in the sense that it meant in 1984 - you could tote it around, take it home, etc.

Re:Nostalgia (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760371)

Scriptsit was DA BOMB back in the day, just like VisiCalc was for an Apple spreadsheet.

Emulator (4, Informative)

Omineca (2623253) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759699)

Here's a link to the emulator: []

Re:Emulator (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759847)

that emulator is incomplete. It does not emulate the keys getting stuck.

Re:Emulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760211)

yeah. No "free battery club" card either :(

Ah, memories... (1)

bhlowe (1803290) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759821)

Used a model 1 briefly (a few weekends when I could borrow it from school) but fell in love with the CoCo. Ah, good stuff....

The Z-80 CPU is still in many new products. (1)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759921)

Retro video game fans know this CPU well but it's still being sold in brand new products with new software being targeted for it.

I use a Z-80 every day in my so-called car MP4 player. These are cheap car FM transmitter players that are easily found on eBay for a measly six bucks. They're so cheap I hand them out at Christmas to anyone who wants one.

The knock off second generation iPod Nanos are based on the same thing. Those are like twenty bucks because they have the battery and a bit more hassle than they're worth but what is cool in a geeky sort of way about these two products together is that since they both use the Z-80, they both use the same video compression format. It does work to play videos and the open source package works fine on Linux.

Re:The Z-80 CPU is still in many new products. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760099)

Yeah, except the TRS-80 Model 100 used an Intel 80C85

good article (-1, Offtopic)

mm4 w319ht cl4$$3$ (2623255) | more than 2 years ago | (#39759943)

goodd article please visit:

Retail price? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760023)

What was the original price on one of these? How did it compare to its competitors? By competitors I mean other computers of the time, as this was obviously the first portable. What sort of premium did you have to pay for portability?

Re:Retail price? (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760193)

They were expensive. In the EEvBlog teardown video, David Jones says they were north of $1400 USD, depending on options. That was about the same price as a 48K Apple II+ with floppy drive and monitor, so the Model 100 customers obviously paid a real premium for the form factor.

This thing is more like the ancestor of the iPad than the ancestor of a general-purpose Windows or Mac laptop, IMO.

Re:Retail price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760479)

It wasn't that much. The cheap ones were around $800 new. That wasn't chump change for the time, but it also wasn't a backbreaking price, either.

I wonder (2)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760047)

Battery technology has gotten much better, as well as tricks to lower power consumption. I wonder what sort of battery life you'd get if you took the same basic design, die-shrunk the chips to 32nm to lower the voltage, and used a large monolithic Lithium-Ion battery instead of a pack of AAs. Maybe add some dynamic frequency scaling, if that would get you anything.

I would not be surprised if you got a battery life measured in weeks.

Re:I wonder (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760549)

Most of the power consumption would be in the display, if you're talking about applications like word processing. I work with 8-bit microcontrollers all the time, and it's not hard to get one down to 1 mA at low clock speeds or when it's spending most of its time idle, waiting for input. I think 5-10 mA for a display is reasonable. A set of 4 AA batteries could probably manage about a month.

McDonald's ? (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760073)

Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, Weren't those used at McDonald's behind the counters ?

Re:McDonald's ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760205)

Not likely. It's possible that IBM PC's (or compatibles made from one of many manufacturers, including Tandy) were, though. For many years, one of the most popular business applications for the IBM PC was the 3270 terminal emulator for communication with an IBM mainframe. In essence, the powerful personal computer was used as an emulation of a dumb terminal that painted characters sent to it from across the network and, in turn, relayed keystrokes pressed by the user.

Re:McDonald's ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760277)

McDonalds used or may still use SCO Xenix. Low end x86 unix from microsoft back in the early 1980s before they invested in DOS and IBM compatibles.

We don't care. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760173)

Repeat. We don't care. (And I'm speaking as a middle aged programmer and consultant who has done EVERYTHING. Please, let these dinosaurs die with some dignity).

Good times... (4, Interesting)

evil_aaronm (671521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760393)

The Model 100 came out about the time I turned 18 and got an inheritance from my grand-father's estate. It was about five thousand bucks. Money was really tight and my new wife and I went round after round "discussing" whether it was more important that I get one of these devices or pay for something more "realistic" like things for the baby soon to arrive. I got one, but it wasn't pleasant. I still remember driving home from RS - had my wife drive so I could play with it - and being utterly enthralled with my new purchase.

Yes, the money probably could've been spent more prudently, but that computer helped launch my career in technology which has been, for the most part, very rewarding - my wife's not complaining about money, at least. After nearly 30 years, my wife doesn't argue so much about what I buy, my son has grown up and is doing just fine on his own, and my Model 100 is on the shelf right behind me. Still works, just like the day I got it.

Re:Good times... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760519)

If you paid $5000 for that, you got severely ripped off. I have the 1984 catalog in front of me saying, "New for 1984" (the catalogs came out early, remember), and the list prices were $799 for the cheap model and $999 for the expensive one. Still not chump change, but certainly not 5 grand.

Re:Good times... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760563)

You stupid idiot, he said he inherited 5k, not that he spent the entire 5k on this. And if it launched his career by driving his interest in IT as he says then it was a pretty good investment since otherwise he could've been in the hospitality sector.

Re:Good times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39760577)

ugh. vague pronouns and trolls are a bad combination.

Re:Good times... (2)

evil_aaronm (671521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760619)

Nah, dude, I paid list. The rest I used to have Van Halen play at my birthday bash. It was awesome! /Iwish

Olivetti M10 (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39760973)

I have an Olivetti M10, which is exactly identical to the TRS-80 100, apart for the obvious (the logo).

No laptop has ever had such decadent keyboard as this wee little machine. A joy to use.

Mrs Slocombe (0)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39761093)

No laptop has ever had such decadent keyboard

People who think that a long word is just a more fancy synonym for a similar but shorter word come across as utterance idiolects.

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