I Had That! #6: Tandy 1000 Computer

The first computer I ever got was a Commodore Vic-20 back in 1983. In 1984 I upgraded to a Commodore 64. You’ll be hearing a lot about those two later, but today I’m going to talk about the third computer I got.

In 1986 I was getting ready to start college, and that meant I’d need I “real” computer, one I could do college things on. That meant an “IBM-compatable”. And since my dad was buying this for me, there was only one place worth shopping: Radio Shack.

My dad loved Radio Shack. As far as he was concerned, it was the place to go for any electronics. He always found what he was looking for there because he never went anywhere else. The free battery club? That was like a free crack cocaine club for him. The man was a classical music and opera aficionado, but if there was better equipment to listen on than “Realistic” stuff, he never knew.

The Tandy 1000 was Radio Shack’s entry-level IBM-compatable computer, and the Tandy 1000 was what I got.

It was mostly IBM-compatable, though I’m not sure what the differences were. It had an adorable 128K of RAM. Yes, K. It had a single 5.25″ floppy drive. I don’t remember what kind of monitor it came with. I know that at one point I used an old green-screen Apple monitor, but I don’t know when or how I got it. I remember not having color until I was at LSU, and that would be several years later.

The Tandy 1000 was good at a lot of things, but games weren’t one of them. Going from a Commodore 64 to it was like going from a toy store to a funeral. I don’t know a lot about the history of computers at the time, so I don’t know if there was just a dearth of games for computers like it, or if the Tandy 1000 didn’t run the good ones, or what. I know I had Rogue, a marketed and stripped down version of Nethack. I’m pretty sure I had electronic Arts’ “Adventure Construction Set”. Otherwise my mind is a blank.

Of course I did BBSing on it. And I spent a lot of time on PeopleLink, a nationwide “chat room” thing that I spent way too much money on.

I don’t think I ever upgraded anything on the Tandy 1000, mostly because I was too poor to. It always had the single floppy drive, no hard drive, no color monitor, no mouse, nothing. Frankly, I wasn’t that keen on it.

Eventually my friend Gene took pity on me, and in 1989 or so he helped me build my next computer, a 286 assembled from components bought through Computer Shopper. That one would eventually get a hard drive and catapult me into the real world of PCs.

When I got the 286, the Tandy 1000 went to go live at my parents’ house, and my dad used it. It was finally in the hands of someone who appreciated quality Radio Shack equipment.

When did I get it? 1986, the year I graduated high school.

Do I still have it? Nope. Eventually it gave up the ghost and Dad replaced with something else, possibly a computer he got at Radio Shack (though by that time it may have been from his second-favorite store, Big Lots.)

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