Tandy Computer Catalog, 1978
Before Apple Stores, there were Radio Shack Computer Centers.
And before Radio Shack Computer Centers (of which there once were hundreds), there was a single store in the basement of Tandy headquarters in Fort Worth Texas, where Tandy started experimenting with selling computer gear. And they released a single Tandy Computer Catalog, from which this rare page was scanned.
What a snapshot of a moment this is, for both Tandy and personal computing. Radio Shack was, of course, a force in electronics catalogs for 8 decades, so naturally they would issue a computing-only catalog. And at this moment they were just discovering that they could sell their own brand of computer – the TRS-80. But the “Trash 80” only occupied a few pages in the Tandy Computer Catalog. The rest was filled with nearly every other important bit of computer hardware that was available as 1977 ticked over to 1978 — page after page of now long-gone and little-remembered brand names. One of the biggest (just briefly) was IMSAI, whose personal computer gained national recognition when it had a key role in the 1983 hacker movie “WarGames“.
1978 was still a moment when you could decide whether to buy your computer as a kit and build it yourself. 1978 was a moment when you contemplated specs like cycle time, instruction sets, and interrupt levels. 1978 was a moment when you considered whether you wanted the cassette-storage-based system for $1800, or a “Business System” with one of those fancy floppy disks for $5000.
1978 was also a moment for disco music, for what that’s worth. Disco, like cassette storage, floppy disks, TRS-80 & IMSAI computers, Radio Shack and everything sold in this catalog is now ancient history.