The Custom TRS‑80 and Other Mysteries
Eliza (catalog number 26-1908), also known as Talking Eliza, was a TRS‑80 Model I and Model III implementation of Dr. Joseph Weizenbaum’s famous ELIZA program. It was introduced by Radio Shack in 1979 for a price of $14.95. Eliza was written by Robert A. Arnstein and was licensed to Radio Shack through his company, Device Oriented Games. One unusual feature of the program was its ability to speak its responses using Radio Shack’s TRS‑80 Voice Synthesizer, hence the name Talking Eliza.
The original ELIZA program was created by Dr. Joseph Weizenbaum. He described it in an article “ELIZA – A Computer Program For the Study of Natural Language Communication Between Man and Machine” that was published in the Communications of the ACM in January 1966:
“TRS‑80 Strings,” later known as “Tandy Gram,” was a column in Creative Computing magazine that focused on TRS‑80 computers. It was written by Stephen B. Gray for most of its run and first appeared in the November/December 1978 issue.
Stephen B. Gray was best known for founding the Amateur Computer Society in 1966, a group for “anyone interested in building and operating a digital computer that will at least perform automatic multiplication and division.” Gray was also the publisher of the newsletter for the Amateur Computer Society (better known as the ACS Newsletter) that claimed to be (and probably was) “the first hobby-computer publication in the world.” The ACS Newsletter published 40 issues from August 1966 to December 1976.
EnhComp was a BASIC compiler written by Philip Oliver for the TRS‑80 Model III and Model 4. (Longtime TRS‑80 users probably remember Philip Oliver for his excellent game Scarfman.) Oliver wrote two versions of EnhComp: the original published by the Cornsoft Group of Indianapolis, Indiana in 1980 and the more popular second version (whose full name was the Enhanced BASIC Compiler Development System) sold by MISOSYS of Sterling, Virginia starting in 1986. Unlike most other TRS‑80 BASIC compilers (such as Simutek’s ZBASIC), EnhComp wasn’t primarily focused on compatibility with interpreted BASIC but on providing a new enhanced version of BASIC.
The TRS‑80 Pocket Computer (catalog number 26-3501) was the first in Radio Shack’s line of pocket computers. It cost $249.00 when it was introduced on July 31, 1980, the same day as the TRS‑80 Model III and the TRS‑80 Color Computer. The Pocket Computer was renamed the PC-1 in 1982 after the PC-2 was introduced.
Unlike their other computers (the Model I, Model II, Model III, and Color Computer), the Pocket Computer wasn’t a Radio Shack design. It was actually a rebadged Sharp PC-1211, which had been introduced in Japan the same year. (At the time, the PC-1211 wasn’t available in the United States.)
The Photopoint was a popular light pen for the TRS‑80 Model I and Model III. It cost $19.95 and was sold by Micro Matrix of Pacifica, California. Although virtually unknown today, light pens were once considered the way of the future to select items on a computer screen. The Photopoint was much less expensive than competing products when it was introduced around 1980 (some of which cost hundreds of dollars) and provided a way to experiment with light pen technology.
Light pens at the time worked using two approaches. The first was to detect the screen refresh. All CRT displays refresh the screen by continually scanning a beam from left to right and top to bottom.
The MISOSYS Quarterly, better known as TMQ, was the official newsletter for MISOSYS, a software company based in Sterling, Virginia. It was published by Roy Soltoff, the “system designer of TRSDOS 6.0” and co-founder of Logical Systems (the creators of LDOS and LS‑DOS). The MISOSYS Quarterly was far more than just a company newsletter, and was one of the best technical resources for the TRS‑80 Model III and Model 4. Along with TRSTimes and Computer News 80, it was one of the last print publications for the TRS‑80.
The MISOSYS Quarterly had similarities to an earlier MISOSYS newsletter, Notes from MISOSYS. But The MISOSYS Quarterly was far more ambitious, with outside advertising, articles by external authors, and information about non-MISOSYS products.
Model III TRSDOS, better known as TRSDOS 1.3, was Radio Shack’s official disk operating system for the TRS‑80 Model III. It was available either bundled with a disk-based Model III, as part of Radio Shack’s floppy disk upgrade, or purchased as a separate product (catalog number 26-0312) for $14.95. Almost everyone who had a disk-based Model III had a copy of Model III TRSDOS.
Unlike Model I TRSDOS, which was written under contract by Randy Cook, Model III TRSDOS was developed in-house by Radio Shack. It was at least partially based on Model II TRSDOS, and shares many of the same commands. Here is a description from a 1981 Radio Shack catalog:
ED-IT for the Model 4 is a very powerful text editor for the TRS‑80 Model 4. It was written by Mark Reed and was first released on June 17, 1991. ED-IT cost $17.95 and was distributed by Computer News 80 of Casper, Wyoming.
There were many capable editors for the Model 4. Most Z80 assembler packages included their own editors (ALEDIT in ALDS and SAID in MRAS were notable examples). The LS‑DOS 6.3 operating system even included a simple text editor named TED/CMD.
But ED-IT contains many useful features for programmers and is suitable for use with multiple programming languages or simple word processing. Despite its many features, it has one of the largest text buffers of any Model 4 editor. As Harold J. Hendriks wrote in the January 1996 issue of Computer News 80:
ED-IT is the CHAMP when it comes to editing large files. It can accept, load and edit ASCII text files up to 47K in size.
Creative Computing was a very popular early computer magazine and was one of the few to predate microcomputers themselves. It was created by David Ahl and published its first issue in October 1974. David Ahl once described Creative Computing as “the first personal computing magazine.” Although it was created to promote educational computing, it became one of the best magazines for hobbyists.
While working at Digital Equipment Corporation, David Ahl edited EDU, a newsletter aimed at educational users of Digital Equipment’s computers. (This was also when he first published his book 101 BASIC Computer Games). EDU became quite successful as the use of computers in education expanded. But Ahl envisioned a more generic magazine for educational users of all computers, not just those sold by Digital Equipment. When Ahl left Digital Equipment in July 1974, he developed this idea into Creative Computing.
The File Cabinet was the largest collection of TRS‑80 public domain and shareware software ever assembled. At its height, it was described as offering “15,000 programs for the Model I/III/4/4P/4D.” Disks from the collection were sold from 1987 to 2009.
The File Cabinet was started in 1987 by Tim Sewell, a sysop of the Tandy RoundTable on the GEnie online service. It began as Sewell’s collection of TRS‑80 files submitted to GEnie and that he had downloaded from BBS’s around the country. He described the File Cabinet as a “hobby that I enjoy doing” in the November 1989 issue of Computer News 80:
The File Cabinet was created out of a love for this computer and the chance through magazines who believed in my project to get software into the hands of the people who don’t have access to or use a modem to call BBS systems.