Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer

The TRS-80 Color Computer, or CoCo, is sometimes left out of the discussion of great 8-bit home computers despite its popularity. Tandy sold millions of them through its network of Radio Shack stores, but a strong retail channel was not the only reason for its success.

TRS-80 Color Computer
Source: Tandy Corp., 1980

The CoCo was a strong performing, inexpensive computer with a solid base of software. Its powerful 6809 processor and support chips enabled color video before many competitors. With the later option of the OS-9 operating system and expanded memory, the CoCo was also a viable development or business system.

The photo here shows a first-generation CoCo, apparently in a law office. Though most CoCos were sold as family computers or to hobbyists, some small businesses did use them and there was enough of a software base to support business use.

Introduced: July 1980
Original Retail Price: $399
Base Configuration: 0.894MHz 6809E CPU; ROM cartridge slot; 4K RAM (16K max); 8K ROM; TV switch box, integral Chiclet-style keyboard; RS-232C, cassette, and two game ports; TRS-80 Color BASIC; operation and Color BASIC manuals; reference card
Video: 16-line x 32-column text, 64 x 32 graphics
Important Options: Multi-Pak Interface, external floppy disk drive, CTR-80A cassette recorder, enhanced graphics, joysticks, Quick Printer II, modem, Extended Color BASIC ROM

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