TRS-80 Model 1 (was: Arty computers (was: Re: PDP-11/70 in Yates Center, KS)

Jim Isbell, W5JAI jim.isbell at
Thu Feb 1 22:47:09 CST 2007

I used the 7070 because that was all that was available.  Don't know the
7090.  But at the time the 7070 was the best available.  The US gov paid
dearly for it even though it had only 9K of memory, 10 bit words and no hard
drives, just a bank of big Ampex tape drives.  When it shut down it took 2
days to get all the blown tubes replaced so it was back up again. Needed 30
tons of air conditioning and a room as big as a basketball court to contain
it.  But again, it was the best available at the time.  It was 18 more years
before the TRS-80, Apple, and Commodore were available so, yes, it was the
best for number crunching.  Even though the team of 12 mathematicians that I
belonged to that was tasked with the solving of a particular problem with
slide rules and locked in for 72 hours until it was solved, could solve the
problem faster than the 7070 for the first six months we had it.  After 6
months of tweaking the program (which was on pull out boards with jumpers)
they finally got the 7070 where it could beat us regularly and with equal
accuracy.  That was a relief for us since we really hated those 72 hour
"lock ins" which could come on a moments notice usually starting in the
middle of the night.  But I think my wife hated them even more because she
didn't even know where I was or what I was doing.  All she knew was, "Good
night, honey, I will see you in a few days."

As to enabling the computer, I think loading a program is enabling...don't

Please don't talk down to me.  I think I have been around computers as long
as you and I don't like your condescending tone..

On 2/1/07, Warren Wolfe <wizard at> wrote:
> On Thu, 2007-02-01 at 13:35 -0600, Jim Isbell, W5JAI wrote:
> > The apple was a flop, yes.  The Commodore also was a flop.  Just look at
> the
> > numbers.  The apple was a flop because it was marketed as entertainment
> and
> > drawing pictures (which it excelled at) while the TRS-80 was a
> scientific
> > machine that crunched numbers.  Yes, today the tables are reversed, but
> back
> > then, those of us who were into computers (I had been in computers since
> > 1960 on the IBM 7070) were looking for computing power for serious work.
> > The Apple was just not that.  The Commodore didnt make it because it was
> > under powered and again was marketed toward using it for games not
> serious
> > work.
>     Both the Apple and Commodore were hardly flops.  They did what they
> were designed to do, and made a bunch of money for their respective
> owners.  I'm not sure I understand how you are defining "success" and
> "flop" here.  The Apple, additionally, had the exciting market-making
> feature of an open bus, allowing others to make products for the
> machine.  This was later adopted by IBM.
> > I still have several of all three and at the time I would use my
> > TRS-80 whenever I was programming.  The others were FUN machines made
> for
> > children while the TRS-80 was capable of programming in BASIC, FORTRAN,
> > NLOS, FORTH and Assembly to name only the languages that I had  enabled
> on
> > my machine.
>     "Enabled?"  Uh, it APPEARS that you don't understand the concept.
> Languages are LOADED on a machine, they're not there waiting to be
> "enabled" and then used -- other than the BASIC in ROM on several
> machines, the IBM included.  Any language could be implemented on either
> the Apple or the Commodore, and a wide variety WERE implemented -- I'll
> leave it to the outraged fans of both camps to provide a detailed
> list...
> >   AND the DOS in the TRS-80 was miles ahead of the others and was
> > accessible.  When IBM came out with their machine I wished they had
> licensed
> > TRS-DOS and then developed that instead of starting with their own.  Yes
> > IBMs DOS went on to outstrip TRS-DOS, but just think how much faster the
> > development would have been if they had started with the solid base that
> > TRS-DOS had set down.
>     IBM licensed MS-DOS from Microsoft, and CP/M-86 from Digital
> Research, and did NOT develop their own Operating System until OS/2,
> which was essentially stillborn.  And, since MS-DOS was simply an XLATed
> hot copy of CP/M-80 with a couple of changes, IBM computers essentially
> ran by the grace of CP/M, one way or the other.  While TRS-DOS wasn't
> actively bad, it was highly clumsy, and did odd things for some speed
> which tied it to specific hardware altogether too tightly, such as
> sticking the directory of a diskette in the middle tracks of the
> diskette.  That kind of kludge doesn't translate well to a move to hard
> drives, and other large media.  TRS-DOS also took advantage of hardware
> specifics of the TRS line of computers, as I understand it, which would
> have made it more difficult to port to other-company machines.  Of
> course, had the goal been to have TRS-DOS succeed, rather than the
> TRS-80 line of computers, these issues could have been addressed.
>     But, when it comes to early "solid base" operating systems, nothing
> beats CP/M.  And, since the IBM went in what amounted to the CP/M
> direction, this worked out well for them.
> > Today I use offshoot of the Apple....which is far superior to
> > Windows and their "pretend" DOS.  But it wasn't back then.
>     I write this on a Linux machine, and I love the operating system.
> Linux is a work-alike of UNIX, developed by Bell Labs (K&R).  The Apple
> OS-X is a licensed variant of UNIX.  Linux is NOT an offshoot of Apple.
> I also own several Macs, and I have to say that I did not find the older
> Mac OS stuff to be as stable as was claimed.  What I found was that Mac
> owners (more often hobbyists) tended to hide the fact when their
> computer crashed, whereas PC owners (more often businessmen) tended to
> gripe about their computer crashing.  This gave, as I see it, an
> erroneous impression of much greater stability for the Mac.  I think it
> WAS more stable, but not by the nearly infinite margin portrayed by many
> Mac enthusiasts.  I liked the simplicity and intuitive nature of the
> Mac.  On the other hand, I detested the idea that they refused to put in
> a command line interpreter because it wasn't part of "the vision."
> Bugger that, I have work to do.  Make it easy for me, don't force me
> into your vision...
> > We have to look at the market and environment of the late 70s when we
> start
> > comparing systems.  Today the market is different and the systems are
> > different.  We cant compare apples to oranges.
>     Sure we can.  Most apples are red, and have a smooth, thin skin.
> Oranges reflect light at a higher frequency, and have bumpier, thicker
> skins.
>             Peace,
>             Warren E. Wolfe
>             wizard at

Jim Isbell
"If you are not living on the edge, well then,
you are just taking up too much space."

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