It was a momentous day when my parents bought a Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer 2. This was the first personal computer in our house, and indeed it would be in our house for a very long time.
We called it the “Trash-80” because of the TRS-80 in its name.
Computer image by Adam Jenkins, from Flickr. Used under CC BY 2.0 license.
The Color Computer, or CoCo as I will call it, was a desktop computer released in 1980. It was based on the Motorola 6809E processor and came with the Color BASIC operating system. It was a contemporary of the Commodore VIC-20 and the Apple II. The CoCo came with anywhere from 4 to 512 KB of memory; I think ours had 16K.
We bought the Color Computer 2 in late 1983, when it first came out. I found a note in my diary from October 15, 1983: “went to Radio Shack => saw Color Computer (luv it!)” Keep in mind that I was 16. It ended up being a Christmas present for the family.
My parents may have thought my sister and I would need a computer for school. The CoCo was wholly unsuitable for that, but it was a pretty decent game machine. We had a few games on cartridges, and quite a few on tape.
The computer was set up in our dining room, next to the front window on its own desk. I’m not sure what we used for a monitor… maybe an old colour TV?
I remember playing a few Zork-like mystery games. They were all pretty similar – first-person text-based games that start with a paragraph or two describing what you see. You can then type in commands to “look” at things or “take” items, go through doors, and so forth. You can play Zork online!
We had a few Space Invaders-type games on cartridges. We bought joysticks for the CoCo on New Year’s Eve, 1983. These were a must since computer mice weren’t common back then. Mice weren’t necessary since personal computers didn’t have graphical interfaces at that time.
I eventually purchased my own computer in 1985 – a Commodore 64 – but my dad kept using the CoCo. He had it in his office for years, although I’m not sure how useful it really was for his business.
The CoCo in 2022
I visited my son and daughter-in-law in Waterloo in mid-November 2022 (see Bayview Junction and Between the Buildings for railfanning escapades). He’s a computer geek like I am, and he collects old computers. He actually has a Color Computer 2, and one evening we spent a few very enjoyable hours programming together. We wrote BASIC code to draw a snowman (with snow!) and play “Frosty the Snowman”. I recorded a video of it and it’s shared above.
Note the Philco television. Philco was an early radio, television and battery producer in the USA. In 1961 it was purchased by Ford, which is why this television has a Ford logo on it. Since Ford sold the company to GTE in 1974, that means the television is almost as old as I am!
The two reference books we used were Getting Started With Color Basic (available online) and Going Ahead With Extended Color Basic. These were well written books!
It was a treat to be able to program together with my son. I’m grateful.