Jurassic Tech: The First Best Ultraportable – The TRS-80 Model 100 - InformationWeek

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8/3/2011
06:37 PM
Todd Ogasawara
Todd Ogasawara
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Jurassic Tech: The First Best Ultraportable – The TRS-80 Model 100

We used to call them Trash-80s. But the TRS-80 Model 100 has stood the test of time.

Sometimes they get it right the first time around. Radio Shack's TRS-80 Model 100 came out way back in 1983. It was the first practical consumer ultraportable computer. It had no floppy or hard disk drive. Everything was stored in RAM, kept alive by four AA batteries when the computer was turned off.

Those batteries could keep the TRS-80 running up to 20 hours. It had 32KB (that's kilobytes) of ROM, 8KB of RAM and its eight line display managed a 240x64 pixel resolution. It even had built-in communication capabilities -- thanks to a 300 baud analog modem.

Most amazing was its keyboard. I still think about it 30 years later when I use today's devices. I say it's the best keyboard ever produced for an ultraportable device, including what's out there today.

The Model 100 even had a BASIC interpreter that let you write your own software for it. The Model 100's firmware is said to be the last product that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates served as the developer for.


I bought the unit seen in the photo above in early 1984. An iPad 2 sits to its right, just to give you an idea of the TRS-80's size. As you can see, it still turns on and works when four AA batteries are inserted into it. They used to build stuff to last in the old days. The TRS-80 Model 100 is a keeper.

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