Remembering the TRS-80 Color Computer
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...