The Hurricane Labs Compactor

written by Matthew Reed

Hurricane Labs advertisement for the Compactor from the April 1983 issue of 80 Micro

The Hurricane Labs Compactor was part of a series of products that modified the TRS-80 Model III to allow it to run CP/M programs. Hurricane Laboratories, better known as Hurricane Labs, was founded by Ronald L. Jones, a member of the Homebrew Computer Club who had a great deal of experience with CP/M.

There were three Compactor products for the TRS-80 from Hurricane Labs, all designed by Ron Jones:

  • The Compactor I, introduced in late 1981, sold for $450.00, including a customized version of CP/M. It converted the Model III into a 48K CP/M computer.
  • The Compactor II was introduced in late 1982. It added the same features as the Compactor I, but also doubled the Model III speed using a 4 MHz Z80A processor. The Compactor II included an extra 64K of memory to create a 112K CP/M computer. It also provided a real-time clock with battery backup. I have never seen a reliable price for the Compactor II.
  • The Compactor IV wasn’t a CP/M board, but an 80 by 24 video board. It cost $475.00 and installed in place of the Model III RS-232 board. The Compactor IV emulated a Lear Siegler ADM-3A terminal, with reverse video, underline, and blinking. It also included a serial port to replace the one normally provided by the stock RS-232 board it replaced.

Microcomputer Technology, Inc. of Santa Ana, California, better known as MTI, acted as a distributor for Hurricane Labs. MTI sold their own line of modified Model III’s known as the Mod III Plus, some of which included the Compactor. For example, their “Mod III Plus CX 140” was CP/M compatible, with 64K of RAM, an 80 by 24 screen, a “cooling system”, two internal floppy drives, and DOSPLUS 3.3. The price for the Mod III Plus CX 140 started at $2,395.00. MTI also sold the Compactor separately as the “CP/M 64K” for $579.00. It isn’t clear which version of the Compactor the “CP/M 64K” was, but it may have been the Compactor II.

Hurricane Labs was out of business by late 1983, and MTI had stopped selling the Compactor models by that time.

After Hurricane Labs, Ron Jones founded Colossal Graphics, an innovator in large format printing, and co-founded SongPro. Among other honors, he received the Innovation Award at the 50 Most Important African Americans in Technology Awards in 2000. He died in 2004 at the age of 48.

Categories: Hardware


David Sutherland says:

Great research as always. Appreciate the “what they did afterwards” info also.

Would enjoy hearing more about products' tech implementations whenever know, eg if bank switching was used and how etc.