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  • TRS-80 Pocket Computer

    Victory by Computer” (1981)
    Written by Cary Bates
    Art by Curt Swan and Vince Colletta


    Also known as the Tandy Pocket Computer, this was really a line of devices that were rebadged Casio or Sharp models. Over the years, there were eight different models. The original model, later called the “PC-1”, was a rebadged Sharp PC-1211. These were in no way compatible with any of the TRS-80 computers. Tandy/Radio Shack just really liked that name.

    These so-called “pocket computers” were really early programmable calculators. However, you could program them in BASIC and depending on the model you could interface them with a printer and cassette device for storage. The original included a 24 digit dot matrix LCD, full QWERTY keyboard, and taped drive / printer connector. It ran on four button cell batteries which could last more than 200 hours. They used a 4-bit Sharp SC43177/SC43178 CPU running at a whopping 256khz (that’s kilohertz, not megahertz) and included an equally impressive 1.5k of RAM.

    This thing was not cheap. The unit alone cost $249.95 when it was introduced in 1980. The printer would run you another $159 and the cassette drive was $99 and this was later after the price of the pocket computer itself had dropped to $199. There was also various software you could buy on cassette from Radio Shack ranging from $10 to $40. Later models would include improvements like expandable memory.

    Here’s the product descriptions by Radio Shack for the Pocket Computer, various accessories and software:

    Another Computer Breakthrough from Radio Shack Radio Shack puts big computing power in the palm of your hand with the amazing new TRS-80 Pocket Computer, the first complete, portable computing system you can program in BASIC. The Pocket Computer can solve problems, process data, assist with decision-making, teach, and even entertain – at a low price that seems all the more incredible once you’ve explored its exiting featuresYou Don’t Have to be an Expert

    If you’ve never operated a computer, don’t worry, because calculations on this “pocketable” TRS-80 are as simple as using a calculator – or you can use our cassette software that’s ready to run. The Pocket Computer had built-in arithmetic functions you can put to work immediately, simply by pressing the ON key. You can work with large numbers – up to 10 digits (mantissa) and 2-digit exponents. And using trig and angular functions is just as easy because they are also built in.

    The real power of the TRS-80 Pocket Computer comes from its ability to run programs, either yours or ours. It accepts your instructions on “how to do the job” in BASIC – an English-based computer language used by experts and beginners alike for a wide range of jobs. In fact, Pocket Computer BASIC is very similar to TRS-80 Level 1 BASIC, with the addition of 15 arithmetic functions.

    You can program the Pocket Computer to do almost any of the smaller jobs that the TRS-80 microcomputer can do, except those requiring graphics capability. Program it to file a stock portfolio or to calculate business, engineering or scientific problems. Programs can be saved on cassettes (with the optional cassette interface and recorder), or left in memory for as long as needed.

    Each program in memory can be identified with a single key label and run simply by pressing the specified key. Programs can accept words and names as data (strings of up to 7 characters) for storage in memory, and even sort or search for them. The 1424 step memory is automatically partitioned for program and data storage, and there is a 26 data element memory and a 48-step reservable memory for storing frequently used functions.

    You simply switch to the RUN mode to run your program or programs from memory – several can be stored at the same time. Your programs can display prompts in plain English for inputs and display answers with explanations.

    Both an Edit and Debug mode are provided so the TRS-80 Pocket Computer is much easier to program and use than any programmable calculators. If you own a programmable calculator compare it to our Pocket Computer. You may never use your calculator again!

    The keyboard arrangement includes 37 keys for alphabetic input and special functions, most having a dual function when used with the Shift key plus a 20-key section for numeric input, numeric functions mode and editing. The big 24-character alphanumeric LCD has easily readable 3/8″ high characters plus eight smaller mode indicators.

    For scientific and engineering uses the Pocket Computer is accurate to 10 digits and can handle numbers with exponents of 10 to the 99th power to 10 to the -99th power. Built-in arithmetic functions include trigonometric and inverse trig with readout in degrees, radians or gradians, log, exponent, square root, angular conversions, integers and absolute values.

    Power for your TRS-80 Pocket comes from 4 easy-to-replace long-life mercury batteries (available at Radio Shack). An automatic power-off feature saves battery life if no entry is made after 7 minutes. Programs and data are saved in permanent memory for instant recall.

    The optional cassette interface holds the Pocket Computer and allows you to store or enter multiple programs and data. There are already eight Radio Shack program packages available and many more on the way.

    Make Your Pocket Computer a Complete System

    The TRS-80 Pocket Computer Interface and Minisette-9 Recorder allow you to save and load your own programs, or use Radio Shack’s pre-recorded Pocket Computer software. Designed for portability and ideal for use at home, office, school or anywhere you travel.

    Cassette Interface. Connects your Pocket Computer to a cassette recorder. Includes cable and plugs to fit the Minisette-9 and most other com