Radio Shack and the early days of the PC (pictures)
The TRS-80 and the rise of consumer electronics.
Lewis Kornfeld personal computer legacy
In 1977, Lewis Kornfeld, former president of the Radio Shack Division of Tandy Corporation, named Radio Shack's first computer the "TRS-80" -- the Tandy Radio Shack computer with the Zilog Z80 microprocessor.
Kornfeld, who died Friday at the age of 97 in Fort Worth, Texas, recognized the future potential of the personal computer and saw a unique opportunity to make Radio Shack a manufacturing name as well as a successful retailer.
Behind the mass distribution ability built in to the Radio Shack network of 3,000 stores, the TRS-80 was the early leader in a personal computing market that was virtually uncontested at the time.
The original "TRS-80 Micro Computer System," which was launched in 1977 and later known as the Model I, was one of the earliest mass-produced and low-cost personal computers.
The original version, renamed the Model I when the TRS-80 Model II was announced in the summer of 1979, was invented by Don French, a buyer for Tandy, and Steve Leininger, the head of the Homebrew Computer Association.
The TRS-80 name became a generic brand name on other future versions of computers sold by Tandy, including the TRS-80 Model II, TRS-80 Color Computer, and TRS-80 Pocket Computer.
From Radio Shack's catalogue: "Just what is a computer? It's a tool for managing data. Working with numbers and alphanumeric data like names, words, addresses and stock numbers, a computer can be programmed to repeat the same function over and over. It evaluates information given to it, acts on its own findings, stores huge volumes of data for future use, references and updating and even 'converses' with its operator."
From the 1982 TRS-80 Microcomputer Catalog, Radio Shack pitched their new series of TRS' as business machines. With either 32K or 64K of RAM, the ads said said you can store "32,000 or 64,000 characters of information in the computer’s internal memory."
The disk drive provided 416,000 characters of storage - ..."on interchangeable 'floppy' diskettes. If that’s not enough, just plug in a Model II Disk Expansion Unit with one, two or three more drives. Each added drive stores another 486,000 characters, bringing the total capacity of a four-drive system to about two-million characters.
"To fill this amount of memory would require something like 96 hours of non-stop typing at 70 words per minute! Of course, a 32K Model II can be expanded to the full 64K of internal memory at any time, via our 32K RAM Add-On option."