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?

Big Questions
Why Are the Keys On a QWERTY Keyboard Laid Out As They Are?

Why are the keys on a QWERTY keyboard laid out as they are?

C Stuart Hardwick:

What is commonly called QWERTY (more properly, the Sholes layout) was designed by Christopher Lathan Sholes, then modified through a series of business relationships. Sholes's original keyboard was alphabetical and modeled after a printing telegraph machine. The alphabetical layout was easy to learn, but not easy to type on.

For one thing, all practical typing machines of the day relied on mechanical levers, and adjacent letters could jam if struck with rapidity. There has long been a myth that Sholes designed the QWERTY layout to slow typists down in order to prevent this. Nothing could be further from the truth, but Sholes’s first customers were telegraphers. Over several years, he adapted the piano-like alphabetical keyboard into
a four-row keyboard designed to aid telegraphers in their transcription duties.

This new layout mostly spread out commonly struck keys, but also placed easily confused telegraph semaphores together. This layout was sufficient to permit telegraph transcription to keep up with transmissions and created a growing market.

During this time, Sholes teamed up with several other inventors to form a typewriter company with assignment of all related patents. An association with Remington led to increased sales, at which time another company acquired the shift platen patent that permits a typewriter to type in mixed case, and they seem to have made a few essentially random changes in order to avoid the original typewriter company patents.

So that’s it then, right? QWERTY is crap?

Well, no. QWERTY was based mostly on the needs of telegraphers in transcribing Morse code, and Morse had been scientifically designed to make transmission of English language messages as efficient as possible. The result is that the QWERTY arrangement is pretty good—efficiency-wise.

In the 1930s, John Dvorak used modern time-motion study techniques to design his own keyboard, and around it had grown up a whole cult following and mythology. But the fact is, it’s much ado about nothing. Careful scientific studies in the 1950s, '70s, and '80s have shown that choice between the Sholes and Dvorak layout makes no material difference in typing speed. Practice and effort are what yields rapid typing, and studies of professional typists have shown that however well we may perform on timed trials, few typists ever exceed 35 words per minute in their daily work.

So relax. Take an online typing course, practice a little, and relax.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Afternoon Map
Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

[h/t Thrillist]


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