Vintage Tandy Computer Ads

Image credit: 
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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April 14, 2013 - 6:00am
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