Centronics 761 Printer

Before USB sticks and floppy disks, the primary option for output from a computer was the printer. At that time, printers were big, heavy industrial-class beasts designed for constant use. Centronics was an important leader in the printer market. In fact, its Centronics interface became a standard for parallel ports to this day.

Centronics 761
Source: Centronics, 1977

The Centronics 761 printer was typical for the late 1970s. By then the terminal printers were starting to shrink in size and generate a little less noise. Many retained a keyboard to communicate with the mainframe or minicomputer they typically connected to. A dot-matrix printhead was capable of producing output in multiple fonts.

The unit shown in the photo has a keyboard with the APL character set option. APL (A Programming Language) was developed at IBM and used on a number of its systems, which is why Centronics thought it important to offer the option.

Canada’s Telidon Videotex System

Before the World Wide Web, or even CompuServe or AOL, there was videotex, an interactive information network that typically required a dedicated terminal, though some services used a TV.

The content was crude by today’s standards with low-resolution graphics. Some were text only. The information videotex services provided were usually things like weather, stock reports, and general news. Some offered services like telebanking.

Telidon terminal
Source: Telidon, 1981

Telidon was Canada’s videotex service. Launched in 1978, it never gained the audience that was expected. The service closed 1986. The screen captures below show what the experience of using an early videotex system was like.

Telidon main menu
Source: Telidon, 1981
News story on Telidon
Source: Telidon, 1981
Graphics to support Telidon news
Source: Telidon, 1981
Telidon services for farmers
Source: Telidon, 1981
Telidon’s Farmer Magazine
Source: Telidon, 1981
Telidon graphics
Source: Telidon, 1981
Telebanking services on Telidon
Source: Telidon, 1981

Electronic Tool Co. ETC-1000

Source: Electronic Tool Co., 1976

The ETC-1000 was used a design typical of early 1970s microcomputers. The main components were housed in a large rectangular box, in which you could add functionality by plugging boards into a backplane. At its most basic configuration, the ETC-1000’s input was through a front panel keyboard and hex display.

The system came in four configurations. The first three–labeled A, B, and C–were targeted to hobbyists or people looking to build a control system. They offered incrementally greater memory and features such as additional ports and connectors, cassette drives, and a full keyboard. The D configuration was aimed at the business market. It came with floppy disk drives, Electronic Tool’s FDOS operating system, and 32K of RAM.

The ETC-1000 was derived from an earlier Electronic Tools computer, the multiprocessor Etcetera System. The ETC-1000 is the central control unit of the Etcetera system configured as a standalone computer. Although the ETC-1000 came standard with a single 6502 processor, it could be run as a multiprocessor system, too, with optional 8080A, 6800, or F8 coprocessors.

Radio Shack TRS-80 Microcomputer System (Model I)

Source: Radio Shack, ~1978

This roomful of TRS-80s appear to be undergoing some kind of QA testing. Radio Shack, along with Apple and Commodore, was one of the first companies to sell microcomputers at scale in 1977. By 1979, it had sold 100,000 of these Z80-based systems.

Considered ugly and referred to as the “Trash-80” by some, this computer was reliable with a strong, fiercely loyal vendor and user base. Help was only as far away as the nearest Radio Shack store if you needed it.

The Model I was never officially branded as such. Radio Shack sold it as the TRS-80 Microcomputer System. The company followed it with systems branded TRS-80 Model II and Model III, and the original TRS-80 was commonly called the Model I after that, even by many at Radio Shack.

Original Retail Price: $400 to $600
Base Configuration: Z80 CPU, 4K RAM (16K max), 4K ROM (12K max), integral keyboard, Level I BASIC, user manual, AC adapter
Video: 16-line x 64-column uppercase text, 128 x 48 graphics
Size/Weight: 16.5 x 8 x 3.5 inches
Important Options: TRS-80 Expansion Interface, CTR-41 cassette recorder, external 5.25-inch floppy disk drive with TRSDOS, 12-inch monochrome monitor, Level II BASIC, RS-232 interface, Modem I