back to article Tandy 102 proto-laptop still alive and beeping after 30 years, complete with AA batteries

Readers' tales of very old computers keep rolling in, so we'll keep rolling them out at you. We even gave ourselves a name for this silliness: Runtime. The last week's most interesting inbox insertion was news of a Tandy 102 that's still alive and kicking and helping reader “Ed” to stay alive and kicking too. The 102 is a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But can it run Crysis?

    I'd get my coat but it's currently trying to kill me for this post...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But can it run Crysis?

      WALDORF: That was wonderful!

      STATLER: Bravo!

      WALDORF: I loved that!

      STATLER: Ah, that was great!

      WALDORF: Neh–it was pretty good.

      STATLER: Well, it wasn’t bad…

      WALDORF: There were parts of it that weren’t very good, though.

      STATLER: It could’ve been a lot better.

      WALDORF: I didn’t really like it.

      STATLER: It was pretty terrible.

      WALDORF: It was bad.

      STATLER: It was awful!

      STATLER & WALDORF: Terrible! Take ‘em away! BOO!!!

  2. big_D Silver badge

    I visited some friends near Hannover on Monday. Still sitting in the window of their shop are a Commodore PET (the original version, with the horrible keyboard) and my old Memotech MTX500, Both still work, although they aren't used for anything.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      They aren't in the window to lure people who go "Oh I remember that?"

    2. Stanislaw

      Is there also a saggy old cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams?

      1. TRT Silver badge

        re: saggy old cloth cat,

        Only virtually. It's running in an Emilyator.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: re: saggy old cloth cat,

          Classic. Unfortunately not.

          They do have a display of motherboards through the ages, going back to the mid 80s, an old TI desktop calculator from the 60s and an 8" or 12" hard drive (open).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Used to have

    An 80386 based "beige" laptop, with the socket for the i387 maths co-processor.

    This beastie had NiCads and a whopping 1.3 hours of runtime on a full charge.

    Monochrome screen, integrated 24K modem and a power connector which though bulky

    had the advantage of being nearly indestructible.

    It also had floppy drive and a stock 80MB (!) Connor Peripherals hard disk which got recycled into

    another laptop until that finally gave up.

    Sad to say its dead now, I saved a few parts but it finally succumbed to entropy.

    1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: Used to have

      "An 80386 based "beige" laptop, with the socket for the i387 maths co-processor"

      I have one of those, 387 socket is populated IIRC but I never had a set of working NiCads for it. I'll have to dig it out and test it. Very handy for debugging serial comms problems as it has two real COM ports. By real I mean not via USB. Such a PITA when you seek out a machine with physical COM port to avoid using USB dongles and it turns out the ports are through an onboard USB hub.

  4. mythicalduck

    Another vintage machine that caught our eye this week was a Commodore 64, gutted for use as a keyboard

    I assume you've not seen Jeri Ellsworth's C64 guitar? I suggest looking that up ;-)

  5. sabroni Silver badge

    Tandy 102?

    But, can I wipe it and put a PROPER linux on there?

  6. richardcox13

    > machine's much-better-than-a-ZX-Spectrum keyboard

    There is damning with faint praise, and then there is this statement.

    Is it possible to have a worse keyboard (outside of some ruggedised niche)?.

    1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Yep - ZX81

      1. Christian Berger

        The ZX81 one was even worse than the ZX80 one since it was connected via a flexible foil cable which tends to break while the ZX80 had an integrated keyboard. At least the ZX81 keyboard was easier to replace.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    got that beet

    still got an abacus that i nicked from school in the late sixties.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: got that beet

      I've still got a Brunsviga mechanical calculator that my dad brought home from work in the 1970s.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: got that beet

        Next to my desk there's still my grandfather Olivetti M-24 Tetractys (still working). It's at least from the late sixties, I believe, I really don't know when it was bought.

        iI's an electromechanical calculator, and it's not programmable, so it doesn't count as "modern" computer, yet it started to have a "modern" keyboard.

        Looking at it churning out a long division is marvellous - you have a glimpse of what would have been Babbage engines...

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: got that beet - Olivetti M-24

          I found this video of it on YouTube...

          Amazing piece of mechanics!

  8. VinceH

    That reminds me that I had a Toshiba T1000 - and it's possible that I do still have it, somewhere (probably in the loft).

    The last time I remember hitting the power button on it was probably a decade ago - and it appeared to power up, though I didn't have a DOS boot disc for it. Since then, various old tat has been skipped, but I don't know if I included that computer. Next time I venture into the loft, I'll make a point of looking for it - just to satisfy my own curiosity.

    (For any RISC OS commentards reading this, back in the early 1990s I used it to write the documentation for Trellis while travelling to/from places of work on the bus - using the DOS version of Pipedream.)

  9. TRT Silver badge


    I just loved those things. I used to work for Tandy, and I'd happily spend hours on one of those. Yeah, so I still say still sod you if I ignored you in Salford in 1986 with your dumb ass request for "have you got these 10k resistors in a 1% tolerance?"

  10. Scoured Frisbee

    I have a Model 100 in the kitchen, since last October or so I've used it to pseudo-randomly generate side items for the kids' school lunches. The RNG is horrid, but it looks scientific and thus cuts down on complaints from the kiddos.

    I'd considered submitting it, but since it was powered down in my bookshelf for 15 years it seemed unfair. I originally had two, but the other one stopped booting some years back and was discarded.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      The RNG is horrid, but it looks scientific and thus cuts down on complaints from the kiddos.

      This post deserves a dozen upvotes for this sentence alone.

      I eagerly await the day that one of your kids starts doing statistical tests on the PRNG. "I knew carrot sticks were coming up too frequently. Look at the cycle on this thing!"

  11. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
    Thumb Up

    "Runtime" works for me. The thumbs up is for the Die Hard reference... (BTW, does anybody know which computers can be glimpsed at in the data-centre?)

    1. Myself-NZ

      Die Hard

      All CDC (Control Data Corporation) are what I remember from the movie.

  12. Herby

    I have one too!!

    Mine is currently running a program that turns on and off my pool motors. I hooked up a relay board and that turns on and off the nice BIG relays that switch the one HP motors. I added a few features to control the various valves as well, so that a simple press of the 'H' key flips everything so that the hot tub comes up, and engages the heater. Thirty minutes later the nice hot tub part of the pool is at an ideal temperature.

    The difficult part was to get its printer port to work. It isn't like the normal PC port when the data is valid when you write to the port, but rather it is only valid when the strobe happens. I had to write a special subroutine to do the dirty work and not have the response line active. Thankfully the Basic (the last program actually written by Bill Gates personally) has a call routine. The task next month is to reset the time so that the motors will start an hour earlier. The Basic doesn't know about Daylight wasting saving time.

    This combination has been doing its job since the mid 80's and works quite well. I first used the relay combination to control sprinklers, but the controllers commercially available were easier for my mom & dad to understand.

  13. Efros

    Amstrad PPC-640

    I had one of those for a while, 10 D cells it took. IIRC you got a whopping 2 hours on them as long as you didn't use the disk drives too much. On of the least luggable portables I've used.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Commodore keyboard

    I tried to recreate the 1980s with a Commodore USA C64x "barebone" with a MiniITX motherboard a few years ago.

    It looks like a Commodore 64, and the keys are proper clicky chiclets, not the Speccy-like modern keyboards.

    Unfortunately it stopped being recognised by the USB controller, and CUSA went out of business. So I'm stuck with a non working C64 replica that I'm not sure what to do with but don't have the heart to chuck (especially as it cost a small amount in the first place).

  15. Felonmarmer

    Zenith Minisport

    Got one of these that still works. Used to play Populus on it in glorious 4 shades of grey. MSDOS 3.3 and a 2" floppy for a hard drive.

  16. witchy

    Commodore PETs

    I've spent the last 6 weeks resurrecting my Commodore PET 2001-32N from silicon heaven and the weeks running up to xmas bringing life to a PET 8096SK I bought bust back in 2001 for a tenner.

  17. calmeilles

    Tandy 100

    I encountered a Tandy 100 when I went to work for a journalist in 1984. Complete with acoustic coupler to phone in pieces.

    Nine years later I began working for the newspaper at the other end of the phone line, complete with rack of 300 baud modems.

    In '84 it seemed a technological marvel. But as better options turned up it was strangely hard to persuade the journalists to give up their Tandy's. Robust, simple and functional they were trusted far more than the new-fangled laptop things.

    The modems finally went in 2003 — with the mournful howls of the dozen news-hounds still using them — after 20 years of service.

  18. cortland

    My original

    My original ($884 in 1984) Model 100 was still working as of some time last year, and a 102; I have a Model 200 as well, and that one I actually used while I was being laid off in 2001. I'm not saying I use it now, and I only used it then to poke fun at another engineer in our layoff group, whose clamshell Apple laptop was only good for a couple of hours on its battery.

    The Model 100's, 102's, and 200's could typically get 40 hours on one set of penlight batteries.

    I also have an expanded Model 100 with 96 kB of available memory. Using it is like having three different Model 100s with 32 kB each.

  19. Mike 16 Silver badge

    My Model 100s

    Were both given to me by folks who observed my Olivetti M-10 and thought it needed company.

    One has a dead line in the LCD, but I still use the other when I need a portable terminal with a real serial line. Most recently while debugging one of my KIM-1s.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: My Model 100s

      "Most recently while debugging one of my KIM-1s."

      How old are your KIM-1s? Since they originally came out in 1976, you just might have a contender(s?) for oldest running computer right there!

  20. Colin Tree

    I rememeber that !

    '85, my boss wanted me to use one of those Trash 80s to test page printers I was repairing.

    It was so slow it wouldn't fill the buffer, yes, so slow it couldn't outrun an ancient dot matrix printer.

    I ended up bringing in my PC-XT clone, but even that wouldn't go fast enough running basic.

    That's when I discovered Forth - fast and flexible, did the job with ease.

  21. Filbert

    SInclair Z88

    I still have the Sinclair Z88 (and spare) that my wife used to write her PhD thesis back in the 19-somethings. However, I don't think she would recommend using an eight line display and memory that would evaporate when the batteries died for such a purpose.

    But, they still power up and seem to run...

  22. BostonEddie

    Got Autocad 14 on 5 1/2 inch floppies with the tablet and the transparent overlay, complete with the optical drive from a 386.Original box. Also Autocad 12 with two tablets and a few other accessories. Have any number of 386s and 486s including a DataGeneral One, have a CoCo2 with the Assembler pack. Somewhere is my Certificate of Competence for the IBM 026 Duplicating Keypunch.

  23. BostonEddie

    Memories, memories...still got a DIY manual for assembling and testing the 8080A, complete with hardware and programming. Still got some 8255s around somewhere for IO and RAM. How about Microcomputer Programming and Interfacing for the 8080A in two volumes by Titus, Rony and Larsen. Never could get the damn thing to work.

  24. Oldfogey

    All that old kit in attics...

    I reckon when Skynet goes live, it won't be the latest hot server boxes and such, but all the ancient tat festering in Reg readers attics, sheds, garages, and old office cupboards that will be struck by lightening a creak into life.

    But they won't be trying to kill mankind off with flash military hardware, instead they will just bore us to death by going on about how nobody writes assembler any more, let alone proper machine code.

    My coat is the one with the Psion II in the pocket.

  25. MasterofDisaster

    Mine still works too!

    Have it on my desk at work; still powers on and works like a champ, but not really using it for anything. Anyone have an acousticoupler to hook to up at 300 baud to the intertubes?

  26. PT

    Tandys all around

    I've got a Tandy 102, in full working order. Lovely keyboard. I use it occasionally for taking notes on a trip, because the battery life is so much better than my laptop. I even hacked the hard coded '19' in the ROM so that it displays the year correctly.

    More obscure, I have a "Radio Shack TRS-80 Pocket Computer", otherwise known as a Sharp CE-122, complete with printer docking station. It's also in working order, though the one-line LCD has started to go black along the top edge.

  27. Bushwood Smithie

    102's are for newbies.

    My Model 100 still works fine, thank you.

    What I miss is my TRS-80, Model 1, Level 1. Serial number was 98. Likely to have been the first day's production. The only documentation with it was photocopy of a marked-up galley proof of a reference card. Unfortunately it was stolen while I was in school one day.

    Real men only need monochrome 16 lines of 64 upper case characters


  28. mark adrian bell

    TRS-80 Model 100

    I did my first university degree (English literature) on one of these. Great keyboard and persistent memory, but backing up documents to cassette tape : oh noes!

    Eventually I learned to connect it to the university physics department through an acoustic modem and got my first email account. Also the first time I accessed a Unix system. University of Toronto, maybe 1990.

  29. Stuart Halliday

    Still got my hand held PC-1500 with 4K of RAM. It's a 6502 with 16bit accumulator still running off 4 AA batteries after 30+ years.

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