Radio Shack, known for its DIY kits and gear, unveiled this low-cost computer in 1977 in a bid to capture the then-fledgling PC market.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

February 16, 2024

The revival of a TRS-80 computer is documented in this video.
The history of Radio Shack's TRS-80, and a hobbyist's attempt to get several models working again, are covered in this fascinating video. Kris Connor / Contributor/ Getty Images North America

At a Glance

  • Radio Shack unveiled the TRS-80 computer in the late 1970s as the PC market was starting to take off
  • The moderator of this DIY video is attempting to get several TRS-80 computers he obtained working again, after testing.

Mention the name Radio Shack, and one thinks of the now-defunct retailer that sold electronics hobbyist kits and parts for the DIYers for many years. However, the retailer made a foray into the then infant PC market in the later part of the 1970’s. According to this YouTube video on the site Retro Hack Shack, Tandy Corporation, which owned Radio Shack, came up with the idea of selling a pre-assembled PC as an alternative to the kit PCs that were popular with hobbyists at the time.

The video noted that while some Tandy Corporation executives were skeptical, the company went ahead with the development of the TRS-80, which began selling in August 1977 for just $600 with a 12-in. monitor and tape recorder. Sales of the TRS-80, projected at only 3,000 in the first year, instead eclipsed 55,000, with customers waiting as long as two months as Radio Shack having problems meeting demand.

While the TRS-80 was a sales success, the computer exhibited quality control issues. In an effort to improve the computer’s image, the video noted that Tandy dropped Radio Shack from the computer’s name.

The video then transitions to Aaron, the owner and creator of Retro Hack Shack, testing and repairing several TRS monitors, two TRS-80 Model 1 CPUs, and a host of disk drives and software with various probes, meters, and other electrical tools.  While a bit lengthy, the video provides a fascinating look into the workings of early computers and how to get them working again.

Click here and enjoy!

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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