Radio Shack – My Look Back

In childhood, I wasn't a Radio Shack/TRS-80 fanboy.  I just never experience them.  My first introduction to TRS-80s was in junior high, when one of the students had a Model I and used it to tally the class elections in 9th grade.  It was very intriguing, but so far out of my world that I didn't understand what he was doing.  This got me to start visiting our local Shack, as it was between the school and home and honestly was the closest "computer" store around me.

The strangest things can bring you into new experiences.  My mother worked for someone who owned shopping malls and he had closed some restaurant for not paying their rent and took over the space.  They had a TRS-80 Model II with multiple 8" drives and a bunch of software.  This was like 1980, before the PC.  They took it on as a business computer.  We bought a TRS-80 daisy wheel printer and software and I have to say this was one hot setup.  If anyone has ever seen one of these earthquake making printers in action knows what I am talking about!  This alone got me visiting that Radio Shack store more often.  In fact (now I was a teenager) I remember getting the catalogs and imagining what I could buy from it with say 50K (like today saying what could I go with 1 million on Amazon LOL).

Radio Shack really had their *hit together at this time.  They had a store front, a business computer, applications and a host of accessories.  They even had computer furniture that fit their gear! I will be honest, I never looked at their other computers like the I, III or color computer.  What I did fall in love with was the idea of the Model 16 that ran Xenix.  Unfortunately my only experience was with one at the college with 2 terminals but only 1 meg of memory that spent so much time swapping to disk, its use was impractical.  To this day, I have wanted to acquire a Model 6000 with all the trimmings.

Looking back, I really do believe that RS could have owned this market more solidity if they pushed harder.  They had a retail space, they had very capable business systems, but then went off the mark on non-compatible PCs like the 2000.  One of the most successful systems at the time was Xenix from SCO on 286/386 systems used for POS systems and storefronts.  Radio Shack was already there.  Their Z80 (which could run CP/M) systems were more widely available then those from IMSAI. They just never marketed them!

I do have to make a shoutout to Radio Shack though personally.  I became a friend of the local store manager, who later operated an OS-9 BBS running on a Color Computer.  We kept in touch.  It turns out that his brother was the lead developer at a software company in Miami where years later, I got my first job out of college!

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