Why Our Son is Even Leaning How to Program! Gosh Thanks Radio Shack…

Posted by Michael Pinto on Apr 24, 2009 in Tech |

I always assumed my love of tech was natural, but looking back at this early 80s advert you can see the pressure on every young member of Gen X to grow up and be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. The funny thing is that these early computers struck me as being clunky at the time because my expectations were set by watching science fiction TV shows where computers were much larger but did cooler things. The commercial above and below feature a later version (from 1980 on) of the Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer which was lovingly renamed as “The Trash 80” because it was in competition with cooler machines like the C-64 and Atari 400 which were cheaper and better.

By the way the earlier versions of the TRS-80 were even cruder featuring monochrome screens and painfully slow audio tape drives for storage. But what’s amazing is that despite this track record for poor quality Radio Shack did manage to sell this line of computers until 1991 — although that may have been due to the sheer marketing power of selling to somewhat clueless parents now that I look back at it. In fact it’s somewhat sad to think that back in the day that Radio Shack was once an industry powerhouse on the level of an Apple or Atari — yet now they’ve been relegated to the place where you get your battery recharging stocking stuffers before Christmas.

TRS-80 Microcomputer News, December 1982

By the way despite what you’re seeing in these ads with mom smiling about her “organized recipes” the reality was that back in the day Radio Shack seemed to be designed to scare away ladies more than a comic book shop. The place was a notorious recruiter of non-social nerds in training lording over a wide selection of every miscellaneous electronic part that ever existed. Of course sadly today the shack has lost all of its old world charm — but there was once a lost golden age when corporate America would dare to feature a science fiction writer in their ads:

Asimov selling the Radio Shack TSR80 Color Computer

Ah yes the early 80s! Strangely while I’m very nostalgic about my lost youth, Isaac Asimov and the new wave music of that era I still don’t miss the crude state of that technology and my mismatched expectations one bit at all…

Special thanks to Bryan Costin for the image of the TRS-80 Microcomputer News and to Steve for his Isaac Asimov ad.

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