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March 1, 2010

I Want An Old Computer! Part I

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

Want to relive digital life when a 180KB floppy disk was the most storage you’d ever need? Why, eBay stands ready and willing to sate your 1980 computer desires.

There are some specific, antique computer stores on the Internet. Google coughs up a bunch of them should you do a search using the name of a 1980s computer. To help you out, before the IBM PC rolled in around 1982 or so, those early systems were known as microcomputers.

Ah. Now that takes me back.

My first microcomputer was a TRS-80 Model III I bought in June of 1982. Sadly, I was unable to find a used one on eBay. I do recall finding a few Model IIIs several years ago. I toyed with the idea of buying one, but opted instead to get an emulator that I immediately deleted from my PC because, honestly, the Model III was really limited in what it could do.

Well “limited” is an odd term, given that the Model III got me started with a successful writing career.

I also hacked my Model III. I didn’t know it was hacking at the time, but it was a necessity because Radio Shack had a lock on any Model III upgrades and they were expensive. For example, $200 for an RS-232C serial port.

My RS-232 was bought mail order for $90 mail order and I gingerly installed it myself.

Next I replaced the annoying TV set inside the Model III with a soft, glowing amber monitor that I dearly loved.

After the Model III, I bought a Model 4p, which was a “portable” computer, with “portable” implying that the thing weighed less than 24 lbs and had a nifty handle. It’s portable in the same way that a sewing machine is portable.

Sadly, I was unable to locate a Model 4p on eBay either.

My attempts to relive the past are being thwarted by time!

I also hacked the 4P, adding an amber monitor just as I did with the Model III. I loved Amber monitors. My friend Tom still have my TTL Amber monitor I loaned him in 1988. I hope he plans on returning it sometime.

My next computer was a real-live IBM PC, a model 5150. It was purchased by my employer, a computer book publisher conveniently located right across the street from my apartment. (Back in the 1980s, I would move to a location right next to where I worked because I loathe commuting.)

The original IBM PC had two floppy drives and a cassette tape input hole. I immediately hacked it by adding a whopping 20MB (megabyte) hard drive, 512KB of RAM, and all the bells and whistles. The thing was so packed, it’s feeble 65W power supply blew, so I bought a new one of those as well.

Finding an original 5150 on eBay is a lot easier than finding old TRS-80 junk. I see one with a bid of $50, but the one with a $200 bid actually works.

Come to think of it, I probably paid my old employer $200 for the IBM PC back in 1985! Oh, well.

Now if only I had the time to play with and enjoy those antiques.


  1. Not as old as this, I had a computer from about 1999 which I gave to a friend because she wanted to play a game that refused to run under Windows Vista or Windows 7. So I set it up with Windows 98 for her and she was happy (and best of all, I got rid of a huge computer).

    I myself have a bit of a thing for older OSes, I’ve taken to running Windows 3.1 in Virtual Machines just for the fun of it. Ditto for Windows NT 4, which is about 14 years old now.

    It’s hard to imagine that, based on what we had about ten years ago (and before), that we have what we have today. We’ve gone from things where a 1GHz processor was conisdered blazing and now we’re onto processors with six cores on the one chip in excess of 2GHz a piece.

    Comment by Douglas — March 1, 2010 @ 1:30 am

  2. Once again, I’m going to promote . I’m sure someone is there that will have a TRS-80 Model III that would be willing to ship it to you.

    Comment by linuxlove — March 1, 2010 @ 8:41 am

  3. Egades! A TRS-80 Model III! That would bring back some memories, but I don’t think I would really want one for reals. I tossed out all my TRS-80 floppies ages ago. I still have some vintage books that I keep for sentimental reasons.

    Like I wrote, I ran a Model III emulator years ago and was disappointed in how limited it really was. It amazes me that I actually used the thing for work. Then again, we’re talking nearly 30 years ago.

    Darn. Now I feel old.

    Comment by admin — March 1, 2010 @ 8:56 am

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