Matthew Reed's

Pion's Interstellar Drive

The Interstellar Drive, also known as Pion’s Interstellar Drive, was a solid state disk drive emulator that was sold by Pion, Inc. of Arlington (later Watertown), Massachusetts. It was introduced in 1982 for a base price of $1,095.00 for the 256K version.

The Interstellar Drive was an external 9" by 8 1/2" by 4" unit with its own power supply. It was compatible with the TRS-80 Model III and Model 4 and included drivers for the TRSDOS and LDOS disk operating systems. By using different host interfaces, the Interstellar Drive was compatible with a number of computers, including the Apple II and the IBM PC.

Much like a modern solid state drive, the Interstellar Drive had no moving parts. It provided non-volatile data storage at speeds far greater than a hard drive (then commonly known as a Winchester drive) or a floppy drive. Advertisements described the Interstellar Drive as providing “five to fifty times faster performance than floppy disks and Winchester drives.”

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The FPS-3

The FPS-3 was an unusual hardware add-on for the TRS-80 Model III and Model 4 that gave users the ability to make backup copies of their copy protected TRS-80 programs. It was created by Steve Sawyer and sold for $50.00 through his company J.E.S. Graphics of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Most products that could defeat TRS-80 copy protection, such as Super Utility or Trackcess, were software that used the TRS-80 hardware to make exact copies of protected disks or tapes. This didn’t always work depending on the type of protection used. The most notable example was Super Utility, which couldn’t be used to make copies of itself!

Rather than use this approach, the FPS-3 was hardware that made copies of the data that a protected program loaded from disk or tape. It could create an exact snapshot of a program immediately after it had loaded into memory. As long as the protected program loaded completely from disk or tape with no overlays (as most did), the FPS-3 could be used to create an unprotected copy.

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The TRS-80 Applications Software Sourcebook

The TRS-80 Applications Software Sourcebook, also known as the Applications Sourcebook, was a book containing short descriptions and information about third-party application software for the TRS-80. It was published by Radio Shack with at least eight volumes from 1980 to 1987.

Any publisher could buy a listing in the TRS-80 Applications Software Sourcebook. A listing cost $10.00 and included the name of the program, the price, a short description, TRS-80 compatibility information, and ordering details. A listing could only mention one program and there were no discounts for multiple listings.

Radio Shack first announced the TRS-80 Applications Software Sourcebook in the March/April 1980 issue of the TRS-80 Microcomputer News:

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The TRS-80 Micro Computer System Desk

The TRS-80 Micro Computer System Desk (catalog number 26-1301), also known as the TRS-80 System Desk, was Radio Shack’s recommended desk for the TRS-80 Model I. It was introduced in 1978 for a price of $199.00.

The TRS-80 System Desk was designed to hold a Model I, monitor, Radio Shack Expansion Interface, up to four floppy drives, and a TRS-80 Quick Printer, with all wiring hidden inside the desk. As one advertisement stated, the TRS-80 System Desk “concentrates your expanded TRS-80 system into one convenient area.”

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The Hurricane Labs Compactor

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.

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Plug 'n Power

Plug ‘n Power was Radio Shack’s brand name for products that used the X10 power line communications protocol. X10 was developed in 1975 by Pico Electronics, Ltd. of Glenrothes, Scotland. Radio Shack, along with Sears, Roebuck & Co. (with the Sears Home Control System) and BSR (with the BSR System X-10), was among the first sellers of X10 compatible products.

Radio Shack introduced their first Plug ‘n Power products in late 1979. Most of the products were appliance and light modules. These plugged into an electrical outlet, and an appliance or light was then plugged into the module. Some of those modules included:

  • Appliance Module (catalog number 61-2681) cost $16.99 (originally $15.99)
  • Lamp Dimmer Module (catalog number 61-2682) cost $16.99 (originally $15.99)
  • Universal Appliance Module (catalog number 61-2684) cost $17.99
  • Wall Switch Module (catalog number 61-2683) cost $17.99
  • Wall Outlet Module (catalog number 61-2685) cost $21.95

The modules were designed to respond to commands sent over the electrical wires inside the house. They could turn on or off, or in the case of a lamp, change brightness. The advantage of using a power-line communication system was that it didn’t require any additional (and costly) signal wiring.

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The TRS-80 Screen Printer

The TRS-80 Screen Printer (catalog number 26-1151) was the first printer Radio Shack sold for the TRS-80 Model I. It was introduced in March 1978 for $599.00. As the name suggested, the Screen Printer could print only one thing: the contents of the TRS-80 screen.

The Screen Printer was a very compact unit, not much larger than the four-inch wide “electrosensitive paper” that it printed on. It had a “PRINT command switch” on the front of the unit. When that switch was pressed, the entire contents of the TRS-80 screen (including graphics) were printed out on the aluminum-coated paper in around two seconds.

Unlike most other Radio Shack printers, the Screen Printer didn’t connect to the line printer port on the Radio Shack Expansion Interface. The Screen Printer connected directly to the bus card-edge connector on the Model I or on the Expansion Interface (also known as the Screen Printer connector).

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The Shuffleboard

The Shuffleboard and Shuffleboard III were CP/M hardware add-ons for the TRS-80 Model I and Model III. Although somewhat different products, each allowed unmodified CP/M programs to run on the TRS-80 by “shuffling” the TRS-80 memory map into one acceptable to CP/M.

Both the Shuffleboard and Shuffleboard III were created by Parasitic Engineering, but the Shuffleboard III achieved most of its popularity after Memory Merchant took over the product.

The original Shuffleboard was actually a companion to another Parasitic Engineering product, an 8" drive interface called the Maxi-Disk. Howard Fullmer and Gene Nardi created the Shuffleboard and Maxi-Disk and introduced them in May 1979 at the Fourth West Coast Computer Faire in Los Angeles, California.

The $995.00 (later $1079.00) Maxi-Disk consisted of two parts:

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The MISOSYS Hard Drive Kit

The MISOSYS Hard Drive Kit was a hard drive interface for the TRS-80 Model III, Model 4, and Lobo MAX-80. (There was no version for the TRS-80 Model I.) It was announced in the Spring/Summer 1989 issue of The MISOSYS Quarterly and began shipping in September 1989. It came in in two configurations: 20 MB and 40 MB.

Although Roy Soltoff described the MISOSYS Hard Drive Kit as a “pre-assembled kit,” it came fully assembled, tested, and ready to connect to the TRS-80. The only other item needed was the “host interface cable” which cost $20.00 extra originally but was later included in the package.

The complete unit was housed in a 5.5" high, 7" wide, and 15" deep case, which had room for two half-height drives. The case contained a 60-watt power supply and fan. The shipping weight of the entire package was 20 pounds.

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Scripsit was the product name that Radio Shack used for their word processors for TRS-80 computers. Over the lifetime of the TRS-80, Radio Shack created versions of Scripsit for practically every TRS-80 computer model sold. With only a few exceptions, the different Scripsit programs offered different features and capabilities.

Scripsit was described by 80 Micro magazine as “the overwhelming choice of TRS-80 owners.” Since the TRS-80 was the top selling computer in the early days of microcomputers, Scripsit was a very popular word processor. As late as 1984 (according to the market research firm InfoCorp), Scripsit was still the third most popular word processor across all computers (not just the TRS-80).

Both Model I/III Scripsit and Model II Scripsit won the 80 Micro Reader’s Choice Awards in 1982 and 1983. (Color Scripsit came in second both years.) Model I/III Scripsit was one of only five programs inducted into the 80 Micro Hall of Fame in 1983.

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