Isaac Asimov introduces the Radio Shack TRS-80 pocket computer

I ran across this ad recently for an amazing new product, promoted by my own favorite science fiction author, Isaac Asimov.

Radio Shack’s TRS-80 Pocket Computer turned my dreams into a reality. Now I can take the power of a true computer with me wherever I go.
— Isaac Asimov

The marketing guys chime in a few paragraphs later.

And it can also function just like a calculator — something a desktop computer can’t do.
— Radio Shack

Wait, what!? With a standard calculator included in just about every phone that I can think of, it is hard to imagine a desktop computer ever existing without that ability. Crazy, right? Now that I think of it, it wasn’t too far in the distant past that desktop computers couldn’t be used for voice communications, something a simple phone could do. So what does $169.95 actually get you?

From Dave Dunfield’s old computer page:

The machine was actually a Radio Shack branded version of the Sharp PC-1211, which features:

  • Sharp SC43177/SC43178 4-bit CPU running at 256khz
  • 1×24 character LCD display
  • 57 key “Qwerty” keyboard
  • 1.5k of RAM for user program storage
  • Pizoelectric buzzer

Be sure to check out the full breakdown at Dave’s TRS-80 Pocket Computer page

As a point of comparison, here are a few highlights of Motorola’s Droid 2 tech specs:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 480×854 Pixel display (Characters displayed depends on the font)
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • 8GB flash (expandable to 32GB)
  • Support for stereo bluetooth (not sure if actual speaker is stereo or not)
  • 100’s of other features like camera, video capture, streaming video, and get this includes the ability to make phone calls. Sadly though, it can’t make you breakfast… yet.

Let me whip out my calculator on my i7 Desktop Computer! The Droid 2 has a 3,906.25 times faster processor (just based on clock rate, not actual computational power) and has 5,592,405.33 times more storage. That seems crazy right? The TRS-80 pocket computer came out in 1980, about 20 years ago. I wonder how people will feel about our state of the art smartphones in 2020? That is assuming we haven’t been taken over by robots gone wild, destroyed ourselves with nukes, or succumbed to a raging nano-plague. But that is all just science fiction.

Isaac Asimov promotes Radio Shack's TRS-80 Pocket Computer

Isaac Asimov promotes Radio Shack's TRS-80 Pocket Computer

1 thought on “Isaac Asimov introduces the Radio Shack TRS-80 pocket computer”

  1. Great old news! Anyway, think about what’s available today compared to 2011 🙂 As we put more mind in the machine, our own mind is loosing the power drop by drop…or at least so it seems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please prove you are a human * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Post

Luke Skywalker bionic arm waiting on green light for clinical trials.Luke Skywalker bionic arm waiting on green light for clinical trials.

I noticed today on my RSS feed for TheForce.net there was a news blurb about Luke’s prosthetic hand from Star Wars might soon become a reality. I tried clicking on the full article located at MSN but for some reason it didn’t come up for me. After a google search I found an article located on the IEEE Spectrum site that had more information. The prosthetic arm was nicknamed “Luke Arm” by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. An interesting video found via Engadget shows the arm in use and explains the modular approach used in manufacturing. It looks like the project’s fate lies in the hands of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which has funded the first two phases. If clinical trials are approved, it is possible that veterans could have access to these as early as next year.

John Oliver on Net NeutralityJohn Oliver on Net Neutrality

For anyone interested in an “open Internet” (not as the big cable companies and wireless carriers define it), take a look at this entertaining coverage of the new Net Neutrality proposal by the FCC. Please comment on the new proposal at the FCC website.

You can also learn more at the Entertainment Consumers Association website here. Through the ECA website, you can provide your information and it will generate form letters for your local representatives in Congress, the President of the United States, and the FCC.

Blue Brain project combines neuroscience with computers to simulate brain activityBlue Brain project combines neuroscience with computers to simulate brain activity

Ever since I first read I, Robot by Isaac Asimov I have been interested in robotics and AI. Back in 1996 or so I had no idea that simulation of a brain might be possible in my lifetime. John Lehrer with Seed Magazine has written a very interesting article, “Out of the Blue“, which covers the Blue Brain project led by Henry Markram. One of the biggest challenges was determining how exactly a neuron is supposed to behave. Without that information, it would be impossible to simulate it. One of the freaky things about this project is that they have a robot conducting experiments and recording data 24/7. This robot is more efficient than 10 experienced lab technicians combined. I would assume that this robot only has enough programming to complete these experiments, but what if robots become sentient? What would keep them from creating other more capable robots? The current project aims to first simulate the brain of a 2 week old rat, which would then be transferred to a robot body to see how it develops.

With the current progression of technology, Markram suggests, “In ten years, this computer will be talking to us.” That seem a bit crazy, but who would have thought 10 years ago that there would technology capable of simulating 10,000 neurons and 30 million synaptic connections? That currently only represents a small slice of a 2 week old rat brain, but given how fast computing power is growing, I can’t see why Markram’s prediction would be impossible. If not 10 years from now, why not 20, or 30? I think that it is just a matter of time. I highly recommend reading the full article, especially if you have any interest in robotics or AI.