Was the TRS‑80 affectionately known as the Trash-80?

written by Matthew Reed

It seems that whenever any article today mentions the TRS‑80, it always includes a statement that the TRS‑80 was “affectionately known as the Trash-80.” Although this idea is often repeated, it is simply not true.

“Trash-80” was a common corruption of the TRS‑80 name. It was intended to suggest that the TRS‑80 hardware and software were of poor quality and little better than trash.

Some have embraced the name in recent years and that has caused “Trash-80” to lose some of the original negative connotation. But that is a fairly recent development and was definitely not the case back when Radio Shack was still selling the TRS‑80.

Given the strong brand loyalties at the time, it’s hardly surprising that many people created unflattering nicknames for different brands of computers. What is a bit odd is that those other nicknames have mostly been forgotten and only “Trash-80” is remembered today.

I have yet to find a single contemporary reference to “Trash-80” being used in a positive manner. But here are just a few contemporary references to the negative connotations:

The TRS‑80 draws mixed reactions. It is derisively called the Trash-80 by many in the microcomputer industry. It is also adored by tens of thousands of users.

— “80 Remarks,” Wayne Green (80 Microcomputing, January 1980)

I got my first computer in March 1978. It was a Radio Shack TRS‑80 Model I. It was a collection of grey boxes with 48K of user memory and a 64-column screen. It had some problems (enough to earn it the uncomplimentary nickname “Trash-80”), but it was a computer, and at the time, the best there was.

— “Of Mice, Windows, Icons, and Men,” Harvard Pennington (Creative Computing, November 1984)

It’s become fashionable in many personal-computer circles to call Radio Shack’s machine the “Trash-80,” to speak of Model I’s hardware as poorly designed, and to cite various inadequacies of Level II Basic.

— “Why I Like the TRS‑80,” Stephen B. Gray (Creative Computing, December 1980)

The microcomputing community long made fun of the “Trash-80” and suggested that Tandy get out of electronics and go back to selling leather goods. …. Computer snobbery is nothing new, nor is the sales tactic of selling one item by slandering another.

— Editorial, Lawrence I. Charters (80-U.S. Journal, December 1982)

I have an Apple computer associate who refers to my TRS‑80 as the Trash-80. All he ever talks about is how much better the Apple is than other computers — especially the TRS‑80.

— Gordon Gibson (80-U.S. Journal, February 1983)

Sooner or later someone notices me and the inevitable question comes: “Which computer do you have?” The room quiets, and after summoning all my courage I blurt out: “A TRS‑80 Model II.” As my face flushes, I witness a mixture of open-mouthed disbelief and a few smirks. Then the remarks start:

“A Trash-80 owner, eh?”
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
“And here I thought you knew about personal computers!”

“Loneliness of the TRS‑80 User,” Stan Miastkowski (Digital Deli, 1984)

Back in the days of maximum unreliability, some foul-mouthed clod had made a little joke at the expense of our beloved computer. Playing on the fact that the TRS of TRS‑80 was contained in the word “TRaSh,” he referred to the system as the “TRaSh-80.”

The name stuck. The pride and joy of the Tandy Corporation has been saddled with this demeaning moniker ever since. And there has been nothing that the executives at Tandy have been able to do to unstick it.

— “TRaSH” to Cash,” Harvard Pennington (Computer User, November 1983)

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