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Remembering the TRS-80 Color Computer

Updated on November 30, 2011

The Beginning of Personal Computers

This hub might be out of my usual range of interests but I wanted to take a look back through the history of computers because my family, at one time, was at its forefront.

In the 1980’s, the most popular computers were the Commodore 64 and the TRS-80 Color Computer, sometimes referred to as the Trash-80. This was a time before the IBM/Microsoft takeover of the personal computing world. The personal computers of today didn’t exist. In the early 80’s you had to load programs onto your machine using a tape recorder. Later on, 5 ¼ inch floppy disks and external disk drives were the rage. Printers were of the Dot Matrix variety, no inkjet or laser printers existed. The TRS-80 Color Computer users were amazed when the ram went from 8K to 16K to 32K and then ultimately to 128K.

My family had all of them. My father programmed in basic (that’s all that existed at the time) and was a teacher by trade so he created many educational programs that we sold under the company name Computer Island, since we lived in Staten Island, NY. Cute name, well designed products and a stranglehold on a very small market made the company very successful. Let’s face it, creating and selling educational software was not the thing to do, at that time. Creating games or specifically cloning games that already existed in the arcade (or for the Commodore 64) was what sold. I remember playing the TRS-80 version of Pac-Man (called Packet-Man I believe and I still have the award for scoring over 2,000 nearly 30 years later). Centipede, Gantelet (mirroring the popular Gauntelet arcade game of the 80’s), even a version of Dig Dug, which as a child, I also excelled at were very popular.

5th Anniversary of RAINBOW

I’m not sure what spurred my memories of all this. I was talking to my mother about that time and asked if she still had any RAINBOW magazines, which was the trade magazine for the TRS-80 Color Computer. She said they never made the trip to Florida. I also mentioned that the founder of the magazine, Lonnie Falk, had passed away (several years ago actually – but I had just read about it). We talked about Lonnie, the magazine, Computer Island ads and software documentation, CoCo Cat and RainbowFest which was a huge trade show held in New Jersey every year. I remember going to several Rainbowfest’s as a kid and having a great time. The company also did very well selling many, many programs and doing a great amount of business.

At one point, several Departments of Education from different states were buying and using our software in their schools. In fact, my sister went to her school’s computer lab only to find them using software she helped test a few months earlier. They all used to buy “Network” versions so they could legally copy the program to many machines (now a company sells licenses for each copy of a piece of software). It was a strange, yet innocent time in the computer age.

I recently picked up some RAINBOW magazines and plan to redistribute them to my family. It is a part of our history that I often overlook but it truly shaped my life (I’m a technical writer and tester for financial software in the real world). I’ve also had a chance to show my kids a little bit of my family history, something nobody else could have shown them. My father was a monthly contributor to the magazine, and we had 1-3 page ads every month as well. It was great going through the magazines and seeing ads for some of those games mentioned above. Seeing references to lightpens, SYSOPs and something called a Mouse (HA!). Even my kids got a kick out of it.

For those of you who had this computer, I hope enjoyed the trip down memory lane...


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    • dblyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      It definitely was an interesting time in my life. I remember long weekends saving disks, testing out programs like Spanish Baseball and Vocabulary Builders and Mr. Cocohead (I think) which was a Mr. Potato Head like game. Great times....

    • profile image

      Allen Huffman 

      6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this. As one who was on the other side, reading through those pages in the 80's, it is neat to hear your perspective. I did not become a CoCo vendor myself until 1990, and while the money was not like it was in the 80's, it still provided for some great times and many trips to post-Rainbow CoCoFests.

    • dblyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      That's great. It was a long time ago but I remember saving programs on disks for whole weekends to fill orders and we used to give away binary dice with every order. If you live in the area, you probably attended Rainbowfests in NJ and we were at all of them.

    • profile image

      Rogelio Perea 

      6 years ago

      Computer Island... rings a name, for I am an avid Color Computer user (to this day) and live in Staten Island. Still have both a CoCo 1 (64k) and a CoCo 3 setup on active duty, not as active as in their heyday but still running from time to time. Great computers to tinker on I have found myself learning something new everytime I hack away at them. Long live those 8 bit CPUs :-)

    • dblyn profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      That sounds awesome. I remember those computers costing hundreds of dollars each (which was truly expensive back then). As we had a company in our house we were constantly upgrading computers but we had every version of the TRS-80 running in my house at one time. Wait until he sees what high tech was back in the early 80s... hard to imagine now..

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow - it has been about 30 years since I got my TRS-80 COlor Computer with 16K and Extended Color BASIC. My son is 5 now and getting interested in computers -- the other day I heard Super Mario music coming from the (modern desktop) computer and asked him what was going on. He said he got bored playing the thing I had set up for him so he "googled super mario" and found what he wanted. I resolved to get an old TRS-80 so I could introduce him to computers in a more historical way that might get him interested in the tech as opposed to the games. And of course, because I want to revisit my own childhood. With the help of eBay, for way less than we paid for that original system, I'm getting a 64K Co-Co II with a disk drive and all the trappings I never had for my Co-Co I. Can't wait for the delivery.

    • dblyn profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Staten Island, NY

      My friends had the Commodore 64 and 128 and they had great games (Bruce Lee and Space taxi were my favorites of the time) that the TRS-80 NEVER had. I also remember the Amiga but I didn't know anyone who had one.

    • catfish33 profile image

      Jeffrey Yelton 

      7 years ago from Maryland

      I have both the Commodore 128 (remember that?) and an Amiga, and used and loved them both.

    • RichFatCat profile image

      Alan Lehmann 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Oh sweet memories of my first TRS-80 COLOR COMPUTER with built in BASIC. Lots of Rainbow magazines. I wanted to have my own BBS someday. I remember chatting online with a friend using Procomm and our 300-buad modems. And, oh yes, I remember my 9-pin dot matrix printer hammering out for hours on a 3 foot banner deep into the night.

      I also believe my TRS-80 shaped my life... My parents didn't want me to buy the Atari or Comordore because they thought all I would do would play games. I swore I would not use the computer as a game. And to this day I still am not a gamer. I like doing stuff with computers, not playing games.

      I went on to work at RS and electronics became my career. What will shape my kid's life?


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