October 20, 2015

The Word Processor

, another type of
“dead” collectible writing instrument.

[Posted on L&P on Sept 2, and 3, 2005.]
        Rob Astyk wrote on Sept 2, 2005, “Think about the software companies of the 1980s and 1990s, all the dead ends, odd excursions and peculiarities that left us Apple and Microsoft.  What was that computer that Tandy/Radio Shack marketed?  Whatever it was, it was the Caw’s of its day.”  Rob was thinking about the
“Coco”, the TRS-80 Color Computer.  Here’s the link to the homepage for this site about Old Computers.  And here’s a link to “The Dead Media Project” homepage.  It includes computers, but also a lot more.  Here are two of the lists of dead media by category and numerical order.  And here are three lists of dead personal computers, mainframes, and computer languages.
        The PBS documentaries
The Machine That Changed the World and Triumph Of The Nerds laid out the early history of personal computing.  One of the first Texas Instruments desk top computers was as big as a full desk with a shroud over the screen.  They are now so rare that they are worth $50,000.  And a 1976 Apple 1 computer recently sold for $200,000, but others have sold for as much as $365,000, $387,000, and $671,000, and a mint-in-the-box one for $905,000.

        Dennis Bowden wrote, “As I recall, Radio Shack’s biggest seller and an early leader in PCs was the TRS-80.  I remember taking a federal government class in BASIC programming in Chicago and the class room computers were TRS-80 with two floppy drives.  This was in 1989.  Later I progressed to a compiled BASIC, Turbo Basic, and wrote programs for use at our office.”

        Dave Johannsen wrote, “Yes, the TRS-80.  To anyone old enough, this will be affectionately remembered as the Trash-80.”

        And I wrote, “The above link for the “Coco” says that the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer was known to be called the “Coco” by its users, and the link for the
Tandy TRS 80 Model 1, the one with the b&w screen, says the Tandy competitors nicknamed it the Trash-80.”

        JeffL wrote, “The color variant is a later computer.  The Trash 80 is the name of the earlier black & white models as well as the black & white models sold in parallel to the color models.  I worked on them in maybe 1981-83, or so.  Everyone called them Trash 80s.  I don’t recall anyone saying CoCo as these models were being eclipsed by other makers by the mid-80s.”

        Dan Carmell wrote, “I’d suggest that the eyedroppers and safety pens of the computer world were the dedicated word processors, which largely preceded the multi-programmable personal computer.  I learned to word process on a Wang word processor, which was one of the leaders in this market.  And into the early 1990s, some of the law offices I worked in were filled with dedicated word processors for the secretaries, while the attorneys remained computer illiterates.
        “By the way, here’s an odd story about how I learned on that Wang.  After college, I was be-bopping around, not very interested in a career, and was offered a chance to learn word processing by doing volunteer work.  The volunteer work turned out to be with a Werner Erhart EST group called the Hunger Project, which was going to end world hunger by 1989 by talking it to death, and by lining Werner’s pockets, of course!  I did learn the Wang system there, and it’s a good thing I was a quick learner because I was promptly fired.  I proved myself an ingrate by transcribing the Dear Leader’s speeches with all his “ahs” and “ums” intact, which really pissed off the fanatics.  Boy, was EST ever a creepy outgrowth of the personal growth movements!  Sorry to digress, but the memory arose.”

        Mark Z. wrote, “I remember those old Trash 80s.  Around the winter solstice of ’81 or ’82 I was visiting my sister’s best friend from childhood, who had just gotten one.  While she was at work, I set it up for her.  Getting home and turning it on for the first time, the screen flashed “Hi Raquel, my name is HAL”.  The look she gave me had me Rolling On The Floor Laughing My Ass Off.  To this day, all my computers have been nicknamed HAL9000.”

George Kovalenko.