After Hours

Clearly Superior (?)

Radio Shack's slogan for its Tandy line of computers in the early 80's stated that Tandy's were "Clearly Superior". Here's an ad by Bill Bixby for the Tandy 1000 from 1984. Just how superior was the Tandy 1000?

Bill Bixby was the spokesman for Radio Shack's Tandy computer line in the early 80's. This ad was for the Tandy 1000 computer, which was actually the first computer I bought. I suppose the subtle idea to the commercial was that you should buy a Tandy computer or it would make him very angry. And you wouldn't like him when he was angry.

The Tandy 1000 was a clone of the ill-fated IBM PCjr. It included the extended CGA colors found in the PCjr (a whopping 16 colors at 320x200) and the PCjr's 3 voice sound circuit. Although the PCjr crashed and burned in the marketplace, the Tandy 1000 line was very successful. In various incarnations, it wound up being a best seller at Radio Shack into the early 1990's.

I still have my old Tandy 1000 sitting on my desk in the computer room at home. When I bought it, I went all out and got the 2d half-height 5 1/4" drive for it, along with an internal 300 baud modem. (For the mere price of $175 - the 1200 was too much money and was really too fast anyway of course)

In later years I upgraded it by adding more memory, a hard drive, a color monitor, and a 286 accelerator board. This board sped it up to a whopping 8 Mhz. You removed the CPU from the motherboard and placed it on a daughter card that also had an 80286 on it. A ribbon cable connected back to the CPU slot. You could shift back and forth between CPUs.

Bill reminds us at the end of the commercial that the Tandy 1000 was "so affordable". When it was introduced, the Tandy 1000 cost $1199. That included one 5 1/4" drive, MS-DOS 2.1, Deskmate, 128 Kb of RAM and NO monitor. You could get a monochrome monitor for $150 and a color monitor for $499. Adjusted for inflation, that's over $2400 today. For the same price, you could get a MacBook Pro and still have some money left over.

Today, Radio Shack doesn't make their own computers. They sold off the Tandy computer line to AST in the mid-90's and now resell HPs. Computers, as they always do, have increased in power and decreased in price. In 2030, I'm sure today's $2400 computers will look just as quaint as the Tandy 1000 does today. It will also be interesting to see what other computer makers don't survive on their own.

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