Sometimes added functionality isn’t exactly functional. Sometimes, it’s more a sort of demonstration that something can be done, whether or not it’s actually a very good idea.
UK readers may not recognise the machine below, but those of you in the USA (as long as you’re of a certain vintage) will be familiar with it. It’s a TRS-80 model 100: an incredibly early (1983-ish) laptop-type computer, whose market was mostly in the US and Canada, made in partnership by Kyocera and Microsoft. The 8k version would set you back $1099, and the 24k version $1399 – an absolute ton of money in 1983, when we many of us at Pi Towers were either not born yet, or still at the corduroy dungarees and deelyboppers phase.
The TRS-80, rather amazingly, was a connected machine, with a built-in modem. It was a popular tool for journalists; you could save about eleven pages of text if you were out in the field, and send it over that modem to your editor using a program called TELCOM – an incredibly liberating technology at the time. It was pretty power-efficient as well; it took four AA batteries, which lasted for about 20 hours.
So what better for retro-hardware lovers than an internet-connected TRS-80 model 100? That’s exactly what Sean Gallagher from Ars Technica made.
Sean says that the TRS-80 is the last machine Bill Gates ever wrote a significant amount of code for, and that Gates has said it’s his favourite ever machine.
This is a really tricky problem to work your way around when you consider that modern websites don’t really work within a 40 columns by eight lines display; that the TRS-80 keyboard doesn’t have a | or pipe symbol; that you can’t load a TCP/IP stack onto the device; that Sean had to build his own null-modem cable – it’s a labour of love and an absolutely fascinating read. Head over to Ars Technica to read more about dragging 1980s hardware some of the way into the 21st century.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
The TRS-80 model 100 goes online
at 5:08 AM