An Interview with Jack Crenshaw
Time Runner is a TRS‑80 game written by Yves Lempereur, the seventh of nine games that he wrote for the TRS‑80. It was inspired by Amidar, an arcade game created by Konami in 1981.
Funsoft released three versions of Time Runner for different platforms:
- a TRS‑80 version, written by Yves Lempereur, was released in 1982
- an Atari 400/800 version, also written by Yves Lempereur, was released in 1982
- a Commodore 64 version, written by Scott Maxwell and Troy Lyndon, was released in 1983
The inability to display lower case characters was a well known deficiency of the TRS‑80 Model I. There were a number of third-party modifications created to address that limitation, the most popular of which was the Electric Pencil lowercase modification. But the Radio Shack Lower Case Kit (catalog number 26-1104) was Radio Shack’s official solution for adding lower case to the Model I.
Introduced in late 1979 at around the same time as the Scripsit word processor, the price for the Radio Shack Lower Case Kit started out at $99.99 but was soon lowered to $59.95. Despite the use of the name “kit,” Radio Shack required installation by a Radio Shack technician.
The Tandy 10 was the second computer introduced by Radio Shack, although it wasn’t part of the TRS‑80 line. It was actually manufactured by Applied Digital Data Systems, also known as ADDS. ADDS (which still exists today as Boundless Technologies) was the largest independent supplier of video display terminals at the time. Unlike the TRS‑80 computers, the Tandy 10 was branded using the Tandy name (Radio Shack’s parent company) rather than Radio Shack.
First offered in 1978, the Tandy 10 (catalog number 81-2110) was actually the ADDS System 50, a variant on the earlier System 70. Described as a workstation, the Tandy 10 was clearly targeted at businesses. It had a good set of features for a computer at that time:
The Eliminator, distributed by Adventure International, was an adaptation of the arcade game Defender, released by Williams Electronics in 1980. Adventure International sold The Eliminator (the definite article “the” was part of the title) for several computers:
- the TRS‑80 version, written by Wayne Westmoreland and Terry Gilman, was released in 1981
- the Apple II version, written by John Anderson, was also released in 1981
- the Atari 400/800 version, written by Steve Coleman, was released in 1982
Here is the description of the TRS‑80 version of The Eliminator from a 1981 Adventure International catalog:
The best known limitation of the TRS‑80 Model I was its inability to display lower case characters. Although the lower case characters were present in the character set, the Model I lacked the extra memory chip needed to store the bit corresponding to lower case.
The significance of this limitation has been exaggerated over time (it’s worth noting that the contemporary Apple II also lacked lower case), but it created a real problem for word processors. There were many lower case upgrades for the Model I designed to fix the omission, ranging from simple to more complex.
One of the simplest modifications was commonly referred to as the Electric Pencil lower case modification. It was first detailed in 1978 in the manual for the TRS‑80 version of the Electric Pencil word processer, for which it was designed. It quickly became the de facto standard for lower case upgrades and was widely reprinted elsewhere. Several companies, including Microtronix, sold the parts and instructions for the modification as a kit.
The Electric Pencil lower case modification actually consisted of two parts:
Sea Dragon, written by Wayne Westmoreland and Terry Gilman, was one of the most popular games for the TRS‑80. It was released in 1982 by Adventure International, which also sold versions for other computers:
- the Apple II version, written by John Anderson, was released in 1982.
- the Atari 400/800 version, written by Russ Wetmore (Star Systems Software), was released in 1982.
- the TRS‑80 Color Computer version, written by Jim Hurd (Coniah Software), was released in 1983.
- the IBM PC version, written by Dan Rollins, was released in 1983.
- the Commodore 64 version, written by David H. Simmons, was released in 1984.
As far as I know, Sea Dragon was the TRS‑80 game that was adapted to the most computers.
According to Wayne Westmoreland, Sea Dragon was inspired by the arcade game Scramble, which was released in 1981. The ending of the game (which involves destroying a nuclear reactor) was inspired by the arcade game Phoenix, released in 1980. Of all the TRS‑80 games that he and Terry Gilman wrote, Sea Dragon was his favorite.
Electric Pencil (also known as The Electric Pencil) was the first word processor written for a microcomputer. The original version was created by Michael Shrayer and released for the MITS Altair in December 1976. The TRS‑80 version was released almost two years later and it dominated the market until the introduction of Scripsit.
Electric Pencil was one of only five pieces of software inducted into the 80 Micro Hall of Fame in 1983, with the panel stating that Electric Pencil “demonstrated conclusively that a TRS‑80 could be used for serious word processing, and was the model for later word processors.”
The Percom PHD was a line of 5¼″ Winchester hard drives sold by Percom Data for the TRS‑80 Model III, as well as several other computers. Introduced by Percom in 1982, the PHD used what was described as a “smart microprocessor-based drive controller” to allow up to four PHD drives to be connected to the Model III at one time. The Model III version also worked with the Model 4, but Percom never sold a version for the Model I.
The PHD drives were available in 5, 10, 15, and 30 megabyte sizes. The model numbers corresponded to the drive capacity: the PHD-10 was a ten megabyte drive. The prices started at $2495 and increased with drive size.
Time Bandit, written by Bill Dunlevy and Harry Lafnear, was a TRS‑80 Model I/III game first released by Computer Shack in 1983. Computer Shack (which changed its name to Michtron in 1984) also released versions of Time Bandit for a number of other computers:
- the TRS‑80 Color Computer (also released in 1983)
- the Sanyo MBC-550 (released in 1984)
- the Atari ST (released in 1986)
- the Amiga (released in 1988)
- the IBM-PC (released in 1988)
The Atari ST and Amiga versions in particular remain quite highly regarded today.
Other than the color graphics, the TRS‑80 Color Computer version is largely the same as the TRS‑80 Model I/III original. But the later versions have extra worlds and other features. For example, the two-player mode, the time log, the text adventures, and the ability to save the game were all added after the TRS‑80 version.
When the Atari ST and Amiga versions of Time Bandit became popular, many people assumed that the game was based on the arcade game Gauntlet, released by Atari in 1985. This was obviously impossible because the TRS‑80 version predated it by two years. According to co-author Harry Lafnear, Time Bandit was actually inspired by the arcade game Tutankham which was released by Stern in 1982.
The BETA-80 was an “intelligent” cassette tape system that could store up to one megabyte on a single digital tape cassette. It was sold by MECA as an alternative to an Expansion Interface and disk drives. MECA sold versions of their digital tape systems for a number of computers using different names:
- BETA-80 for the TRS‑80 Model I (and later the Model III)
- TAPE-II for the Apple II
- BETA-EX for the Exidy Sorcerer
- ALPHA-1 for S-100 computers