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YouTube / Radio Shack

Vintage Tandy Computer Ads

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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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Carol Munro // Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The End Is Near for Microsoft Paint
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Carol Munro // Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Microsoft Paint is one of the few programs that has come standard in every Windows operating system since the tech company was founded. Now, after a 32-year run, The Telegraph reports that MS Paint is set to be discontinued.

When the program was introduced as part of Windows 1.0 in 1985, MS Paint allowed users to sketch doodles with their cursor on a blank canvas. The low-tech concept hasn’t evolved much since then, but MS Paint still maintains a loyal fan base, attracting 100 million users a month in 2016. Now, those artists will have to go elsewhere to create their digital masterpieces: In its recent announcement of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft listed Paint as a “deprecated” app, which means the company will no longer support it and it will probably disappear from future Windows versions.

In place of Paint, Microsoft is launching a more advanced art-making app called Paint 3D. Like the original program, Paint 3D allows users to create quick drawings using digital pens and paintbrushes. But the new feature is geared more toward creating 3D art, something that was never offered in MS Paint.

When the Fall Creators update comes out in September, it may mark the end of an era for Windows users. But don’t count on MS Paint being out of the game for good—Microsoft has been known to revive classic features, as was the case with Clip Art in 2016.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow
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Play the Sneakers Computer Press Kit from 1992
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Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow

In September 1992, the computer hacking movie Sneakers hit theaters. To correspond with its launch, members of the press received a floppy disk containing a mysterious DOS program that, when launched, asked for a password. Once the reporters "hacked" their way in, they found the Sneakers Computer Press Kit. Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can play at being the film press of 1992.

It's hard to characterize exactly what this electronic press kit is. Is it a game? Sort of. It's essentially a very gentle computer hacking simulator, in which the "hacking" consists entirely of guessing passwords (complete with helpful prompts from the program itself), and the payload you discover is silly stuff like mini-biographies of Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, and Sidney Poitier. Still, it's a good match for the film itself, which helped set the template for Hollywood depictions of computer hacking.

A paper folder lies open on a wooden floor, with a black floppy disk on top. The folder is labeled SNEAKERS in giant red letters, as is the floppy. Inside the folder is printed material. On the right flap of the folder are instructions on how to load it.
Inside the Sneakers Computer Press Kit's paper folder. (The right flap contains installation instructions, along with a note that the studio will FedEx printed material if the user doesn't have access to a printer.)
Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow

Always remember: "My voice is my passport. Verify me." Now, get cracking on this press kit and don't be flummoxed—if you can't figure out a password right away, just wait a moment.

(Incidentally, Sneakers did also include printed materials for the press, in case they lacked a computer and/or the patience to deal with this approach. But who in the world would look at that, when they could play with this? There's also a method in the Computer Press Kit that allows the user to print out more detailed materials—provided they have a printer, and it's attached to a particular printer port on the computer.)

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