Matthew Reed's

Bang the Motor – The Cassette Gazette Page 4

From page 4 of the Cassette Gazette:

Another cause of wow is a defective motor. You can often detect this with a little rough stuff. While listening to a tape, tap the motor smartly with a screwdriver handle… if you get a bug increase in wow you may have a bad motor. Replace or repair the motor? Unless you can do the repair yourself, or have access to the correct new motor, you probably should just do yourself a favor and go buy a new CTR.

Let's Get Our Heads Together – The Cassette Gazette Page 3

From page 3 of the Cassette Gazette:

Although you may not know exactly what it means, you have probably heard of a “head adjustment” or “azimuth” setting. There is a very narrow gap (vertical slit) in the record head that records the signal on the magnetic (oxide) coating on the tape. Essentially, ‘azimuth' is the angle that this gap makes to the direction of the tape movement. (See Fig 1.) The ideal is for the gap to be aligned at exactly a right angle (90 degrees) in reference to the direction of tape movement.

What Price Tape? – The Cassette Gazette Page 2

From page 2 of the Cassette Gazette:

Many mysteries and surprises lay in wait for the computer cassette-user. Early on we were surprised to find that high-quality (and high priced) music tapes in general, and even some of the expensive “certified” computer tapes in particular, are inferior to some 25-cent ‘cheapies'. The fact is that the loading performance of a tape cannot be predicted from its cost. Also, good and bad tapes are like bananas… they come in bunches.

Why the Gazette? – The Cassette Gazette Page 1

The Cassette Gazette was a 1983 one issue advertising newsletter that was a joint production of Lemons Tech and KWIK Software. The Gazette described the products sold by the two companies, mixed in with operational advice and interesting facts about using cassettes with your TRS-80. It appears to have been written by Wayne Lemons, the founder of Lemons Tech. The Gazette is reproduced here page by page with permission from Wayne Lemons' family.

The Norcom TC-III

The Model III added some nice improvements to the Model I and boasted nearly complete compatibility. But there were still some areas of incompatibility. Considering that most TRS-80 software development moved to the Model III, it was understandable that some Model I owners felt left behind.

The Norcom TC-III was a $399.00 ($499.00 factory installed) motherboard replacement for the Model I that promised all Model III features right in the Model I case. It was sold by Northern Information Technology Corp. The advertisements touted the following features:


Rally was written by J. Weaver Jr. (Factory Programming) and distributed by Soft Sector Marketing. Rally was based on Rally-X, which was released by Namco in 1980.

The goal in Rally is to collect all of the flags in a maze, while avoiding “enemy cars”. Touching an enemy car causes you to lose your life.

Model II Warning from 1980

This somewhat alarming warning appeared in the June 1980 issue of 80-U.S. Journal:

The video controller of the Model II is mapped to I/O port 255 (FFH). If an output is made to this port with a value of less than 25, there is a very good chance that YOUR VIDEO WILL BE DESTROYED! We don’t know why this happens yet, but we do know that about a dozen of them across the country have been blown in this fashion, resulting in an expensive repair bill. If for any reason your screen should go blank unexpectedly, accompanied by a very high-pitched whining noise, you have less than 7 seconds to TURN THE COMPUTER OFF! Don’t worry about having disks in the drives or anything. Even the data you lose is cheap compared to having to do without a computer while it is being repaired.

The Exatron Stringy Floppy

There were quite a few different storage products available back in the early days of the TRS-80 Model I. In the long term, the floppy drive (and later the hard drive) completely beat out all of the competition. But back when floppy drives were considered too expensive by many, one of the most popular storage products for the TRS-80 was the Exatron Stringy Floppy.

Founded in 1974 by Robert Howell, Exatron was a supplier of automated test equipment for manufacturers and OEMs. Exatron first demonstrated the S-100 version of the Stringy Floppy at the West Coast Computer Faire in March 1978. The TRS-80 version was introduced in May 1979 at the San Francisco Computer Faire. An early price for a TRS-80 starter kit (Stringy Floppy, wafers, and software) was $299.50. The Stringy Floppy provided an additional cost savings over floppy drives because it didn’t require an Expansion Interface. By 1982, the price for a single Stringy Floppy drive had come down to $99.50.


ZBASIC is probably the most popular BASIC compiler ever written for the TRS-80. It holds the distinction of being one of the few programs originally created for the TRS-80 that is still being developed in some form.

The first version of ZBASIC was written in 1979 by Andrew Gariepy for the Model I and sold by Simutek Computer Products. ZBASIC began appearing in Simutek advertisements in 1980. It originally cost $99.00 for the tape version and $129.00 for the disk version.

ZBASIC fell somewhere between a traditional compiler and an interpreter. As an early advertisement described it:

Gold Plug 80

Over time, many Model I computers (particularly those with Expansion Interfaces) developed the annoying habit of spontaneously rebooting. The reason was simple: the Model I card edge connectors were solder-coated tin and had a tendency to oxidize over time. Oxidation interfered with the electrical connections and tended to cause reliability problems, particularly with the critical Expansion Interface cable.

I’m sure that anyone who used a Model I still remembers that the best to way to remove the oxidation was to use a pink rubber eraser to scrub the connectors. The usual recommendation was to clean the connectors every month but many people did it every week.