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John Roach, Spearhead of the TRS-80 Personal Computer, Dies at 83

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Sam Roberts, writing for The New York Times:

He was instrumental in prodding Tandy to venture into the computer market. At the time, most small computers were sold as kits to be assembled by hobbyists, but Mr. Roach believed that consumers would welcome a model that they just needed to plug in.

His team presented the original TRS-80 prototype — cobbled together from a black-and-white RCA monitor, a keyboard and a videocassette recorder — to Tandy’s chief executive, Charles Tandy, and to Lewis Kornfeld, the president of RadioShack, in January 1977.

The Apple 1 had been introduced the year before, and Commodore and other companies were marketing their own home computers, but the TRS-80 (the initials stood for Tandy RadioShack) quickly became, for a time, the most popular computer on the market.

“Charles blew a little smoke and said, ‘Build a thousand and if we can’t sell them, we will use them in the store for something,’” Mr. Roach recalled in remarks to the Fort Worth Executive Round Table last month. “We were finally able to ship some machines in September and shipped 5,000 that year, all we could assemble,” Mr. Roach said. “Our competitors shipped none.”

The links in the passage above are not to be missed, including this 1977 Times story on home computers. But the last one is the most interesting — it’s a YouTube video of a speech Roach gave just last month. He’s funny as hell. Glad to see he was active and sharp right up to the end.

As a kid, the TRS-80 was, for whatever reason, the personal computer I had the least exposure to. I had friends with Commodore 64’s and my school had a bunch of Texas Instruments TI-99/4A’s and a precious handful of Apple II’s, but to my recollection I only ever saw a TRS-80 when I was inside a Radio Shack. But you can be damn sure when I did, I played with it until my parents dragged me out of the store.

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ktgeek
52 days ago
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We used discarded TRS-80s to run home brew party lighting rigs off the parallel port during high school in the early 90s. Good times
Bartlett, IL
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Grandpa 100

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ktgeek
195 days ago
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Bartlett, IL
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Homecoming 2021

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ktgeek
219 days ago
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Bartlett, IL
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Hidden Room

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ktgeek
498 days ago
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Bartlett, IL
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Christmas 2020

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ktgeek
519 days ago
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Bartlett, IL
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Who Buys Big SUVs?

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Aaron Gordon, writing for Vice on the return of the Hummer:

And that portrait is largely the result of one consultant who worked for Chrysler, Ford, and GM during the SUV boom: Clotaire Rapaille. Rapaille, a French emigree, believed the SUV appealed—at the time to mostly upper-middle class suburbanites—to a fundamental subconscious animalistic state, our “reptilian desire for survival,” as relayed by Bradsher. (“We don’t believe what people say,” the website for Rapaille’s consulting firm declares. Instead, they use “a unique blend of biology, cultural anthropology and psychology to discover the hidden cultural forces that pre-organize the way people behave towards a product, service or concept”). Americans were afraid, Rapaille found through his exhaustive market research, and they were mostly afraid of crime even though crime was actually falling and at near-record lows. As Bradsher wrote, “People buy SUVs, he tells auto executives, because they are trying to look as menacing as possible to allay their fears of crime and other violence.” They, quite literally, bought SUVs to run over “gang members” with, Rapaille found.

Perhaps this sounds farfetched, but the auto industry’s own studies agreed with this general portrait of SUV buyers. Bradsher described that portrait, comprised of marketing reports from the major automakers, as follows:

Who has been buying SUVs since automakers turned them into family vehicles? They tend to be people who are insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors or communities.

I recently rented a Chevy Tahoe because we needed the storage capacity for a day trip. I can’t believe anyone chooses to drive these things daily. It’s like driving a car inside a car, no feel for the road at all.

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ktgeek
830 days ago
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we recently bought a SUV because we needed towing capacity for our camper. I find myself liking it much more than I thought I would... we went SUV over pickup because for the times we do need it for daily driving, we wanted more comfort and space. If I could get the towing capacity I need in something that wasn't a land barge, I'd be all for it, but that's not how it works right now.
Bartlett, IL
tingham
830 days ago
I've been driving a tacoma for years (mountain bikes, camping, always having "friends") and when my wife wanted out of the minivan we put her in a 4 runner because it's the same frame. Even the Sequoia is too big.
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kazriko
813 days ago
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"As Bradsher wrote, “People buy SUVs, he tells auto executives, because they are trying to look as menacing as possible to allay their fears of crime and other violence.” They, quite literally, bought SUVs to run over “gang members” with, Rapaille found." Yeah, right, and all of Freud's patients actually did want to sleep with their mothers.

If I were getting an SUV, it'd be entirely for the towing capacity and cargo capacity. Otherwise I'd just get a van. Of course, right now I have two cars instead.
Colorado Plateau
trekkie
813 days ago
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Six family members, we buy big SUVs to go anywhere. Minivans are cool and all if you don't need to bring stuff with you with that many people.
Wake Forest, North Carolina
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