A brief history of Radio Shack Computers

In 1976, the CB radio market (a big money-maker for RadioShack) had died, and Tandy was looking for a new product line to exploit. At the same time, some of Tandy's electrical engineers were ordering something called a MITS Altair 8800. Without a keyboard or monitor, the Altair didn't look like much, but it was a real computer that an individual could afford. A lot of people were buying them, and a lot of magazines had articles about them. John Roach, an executive at Tandy, decided that this 'fad' was at least worth looking into.

After tossing around the idea of selling a kit similar to the Altair, the team decided to do what no company had yet done--sell a fully assembled microcomputer, complete with keyboard, monitor, processor, memory, and a programming language. Tandy hired Steve Leininger, a member of the Homebrew Computer Club, to design what eventually became the TRS-80 Microcomputer System (Model I).

Still it seemed that no one was convinced the computer would be a success--no one but Leininger. In a meeting with John Roach, Charles Tandy himself and Lewis Kornfeld, president of Radio Shack, Tandy and Kornfeld were discussing what to do with 3000 computers if it was a bust. Leininger said he thought they would sell 50,000. Roach's response was simply, "Horseshit."

When theTRS-80 was released on August 3, 1977, no one in the press seemed to care about the TRS-80. The public, on the other hand, was obviously impressed. Soon, RadioShack stores were flooded with orders--they were back ordered for months. In the first year, Radio Shack sold almost 55,000--even more than Leininger's prediction.

In May of 1979, Tandy released the Model II with a faster microprocessor and larger, higher capacity, 8-inch disk drives. This would become the first computer in the TRS-80 business line.

In July 1980, Tandy released the Model III. TheModel III was little more than a Model I, expansion interface, monitor, disk drives, and power supply thrown into a single enclosure. This new design moved the computer from the hobbyists' realm into the plug- and-run realm more suitable for businesses and schools.

The Model 4, released in April 1983, was backward compatible to the Model III, but featured a faster CPU and better display (80 columns by 24 rows). It also included an updated DOS which finally answered most users' complaints.

By 1983, computers and accessories were the biggest single category of revenue for Tandy (34.5%). But this industry which Tandy pioneered had some serious competition. Tandy had been running a race with Apple since the introduction of the Apple ][ in 1978. In 1981 the computer giant, IBM, decided to enter the personal computer market. This move changed the face of the computer industry.

In November 1983, Tandy, still too proud to fully bow to IBM, introduced the Tandy 2000. The 2000 ran MS-DOS, like the IBM PC, but it wasn't really an IBM compatible. The 2000 sported an Intel 80186 processor which was considerably faster than the PCs 8088. The 2000 also had far superior graphics capability (600 x 400 x 16 colors) and higher capacity disk drives (720k 5¼"). By this time though, standardization was the game, and the 2000 failed primarily due to it's advanced features.

In 1984, Tandy released the 1000, a nearly 100% IBM compatible, which became its best selling line of computers ever. The glory days of the Model I/II/III/4 were over though. Tandy now took its lead from IBM.

A Brief Chronology of Tandy Computers:
Year Computer CPU Price (US$) Line
1977 Microcomputer System (Model I) Z80 $599.95 TRS-DOS
1978 Tandy 10 8080 $9950
1979 Model II Z80 $3450 TRS-DOS
1980 Model III Z80 $699 TRS-DOS
1980 Color Computer 6809 $399 Color Computer
1982 Model 12 Z80 $3199 TRS-DOS
1982 TDP-100 6809 $479 Color Computer
1982 Model 16 68000 $4999 Xenix
1983 Model 4 Z80 $1699 TRS-DOS
1983 64k Color Computer 6809 $399 Color Computer
1983 Color Computer 2 6809 $239.95 Color Computer
1983 MC-10 6803 $119.95 Color Computer
1983 Model 16B 68000 $4999 Xenix
1983 Model 100 80C85 $799 Laptop
1983 Model 2000 80186 $2750 MS-DOS (not IBM comp.)
1984 Model 4P Z80 $1799 TRS-DOS
1984 Tandy 6000 68000 $4499 Xenix
1984 Tandy 1200HD 8088 $2999 MS-DOS
1984 Tandy 1000 8088 $1199 MS-DOS
1985 Model 4D Z80 $1199 TRS-DOS
1985 Model 200 80C85 $999 Laptop
1985 Model 600 80C88 $1599 Laptop (not MS-DOS)
1985 Tandy 3000 80286 $2599 MS-DOS
1986 Color Computer 3 6809 $219.95 Color Computer
1986 Model 102 80C85 $499 Laptop
1987 Tandy 4000 80386 $3799 MS-DOS
Tandy continued producing MS-DOS computers.Tandy Computers was eventually purchased by AST.