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YouTube / Radio Shack
YouTube / Radio Shack

Vintage Tandy Computer Ads

YouTube / Radio Shack
YouTube / Radio Shack

In the 80s, Radio Shack sold a line of Tandy personal computers in its stores. Tandy machines were sometimes mocked -- 1980's TRS-80 model was derided as the "Trash-80" by critics -- but they were very popular with a certain kind of computer hobbyist, partly because they were available at the ubiquitous Radio Shack.

In these vintage Radio Shack ads, we see the evolution of Tandy computers from proprietary designs to IBM PC clones. It's a little depressing to see the ads go from fun scenario-based adventures to dull feature comparisons. But hey, it's Radio Shack, what did you expect? (Hey, while you're there, can you pick me up some speaker cable? Thanks!)

Color Computer 3 (Circa 1986)

The "CoCo 3" sold for just over $200 (!), and it could output either to a TV or a real computer monitor. In the TV mode, its ability to display text was extremely limited so things like word processing looked terrible -- then again, it was super cheap. Its CPU ran at a decidedly clunky 0.895 MHz, though there was a mode to double its speed (so you'd be cooking at just under 2 MHz!). The CoCo models were proprietary systems, so Tandy's ads spent a bunch of time touting the "over 100 programs" available for the system.

Note about this one: the kid doing a book report is using a CoCo 3 attached to a TV, which accounts for why the word processor looks so horrible. It's likely a 32- or 40-column display, meaning the letters are huge and blocky. And green! Ugh.

Tandy 1000 TX (Circa 1988)

By 1988, Tandy had given up on its proprietary system and jumped on the IBM PC clone bandwagon. In this super-boring spot, the main selling point is the price, though there is a nod made to software support (the kid at 0:22 is making a way-boring train image, apparently lacking a mouse, so just whacking away at the keyboard).

Tandy Sensation (circa December 1992)

The Tandy Sensation: it's a 486 with a CD-ROM drive. That you could buy at Radio Shack. But wait, there's...voicemail! What?! Never mind, watch out for those flying CD-ROM discs, dudes!

Did you have a Tandy in the 80s or 90s? If so, what did you most (or least) enjoy about it?

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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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holidays
The Plugin That Keeps the Internet From Spoiling Santa Claus
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iStock

During simpler times, the biggest threat to a child's belief in Santa was usually older siblings or big-mouthed classmates. Today, kids have access to an entire world wide web, full of potentially Santa-spoiling content. Luckily, there's a plugin that helps parents maintain their kids’ innocence through the holidays.

Created by the virtual private network provider Hide My Ass (HMA), the free software analyzes web activity for any information that might threaten to “bring a child’s belief in Santa crashing down.” In place of the problematic content, the plugin brings up an image of the jolly man himself. Typing the phrase “Santa is not real” into Google, for example, will instead take you to a web page showing nothing but a soft-focused St. Nick pointing into the camera and staring at you with judgmental eyes. The plugin is also designed to work for social media communications, internet ads, and articles like this one.


Hide My Ass

According to a survey of 2036 parents by HMA, one in eight children in the U.S. have their belief in Santa ruined online. Whether it's because of the internet or other related factors, the age that children stop believing in Santa is lower than ever.

The average age that current parents lost their faith in Santa Claus was 8.7 years old, and for today’s kids it’s 7.25 years. Concerned parents can download the plugin for Chrome here, though it may not be enough to hide every type of Santa spoiler: Of the parents who blamed the internet, 26 percent of them reported kids snooping over their shoulder as they shopped for gifts online.

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