Watts (chipotle) wrote,

Ghosts of computers past

In my ongoing cleaning effort, I pulled down my Tandy 2000 from back closet shelves, connected it all up and turned it on. The caps lock key is stuck and there are hard drive errors reading some files, but for the most part, the damn thing still works.

Most people won't have heard of the Tandy 2000, which predated the popular Tandy 1000 line. The 2000 was basically Radio Shack's attempt to do the IBM PC without all the shortcuts in the original PC design. Instead of the 8-bit 8088 processor (yes, it was 8-bit, despite a lot of propaganda that said otherwise), they used not the 16-bit 8086 but the 80186 (making it about the only mass-market computer that ever did). They gave it a true 16-bit expansion bus. They designed the memory system so it didn't have the 640K limitation. (The 640K limit wasn't in MS-DOS, it was in the PC hardware that mapped video memory to a fixed address space.) The 2000 had nearly-VGA graphics back when EGA was the high-end standard. It had 720K 5.25" disks rather 360K.

The problem, of course, is that by fixing all IBM's limitations, Radio Shack made the Tandy 2000 into its own machine: it wasn't a PC clone, it was a new computer that ran MS-DOS, the way business machines of the late '70s to early '80s ran CP/M on 8080-compatible CPUs with otherwise incompatible hardware. PC software that only went through MS-DOS's BIOS ran fine on the 2000; the 95% of the software that talked directly to PC hardware had to be rewritten. Most of it, of course, wasn't.

Interestingly, it's been reported that the Tandy 2000 was the machine Microsoft Windows was originally developed on, but by the time Windows 2.0 was out, Radio Shack had already cancelled their advanced ugly duckling.

Checking through the hard drive of my 2000 has been interesting. MUCK logs from long ago. A collection of programs for my TRS-80 Model 4--if I recall correctly, at the time I only had one modem, attached to the 2000. Old stories, nearly all of which I'd had in other places. The original text file releases of A Gift of Fire and The Lighthouse. Despite having looked for these in soft copy, I didn't keep those versions; they're the ones Revar turned into the HTML on the Belfry Archive. (What I need is the version of Gift I did for the "Bloodlines" APA a few years after that, but alas, I haven't even found the hard copy for that yet.)

I'm not sure what I can actually do with the 2000, of course; selling it on eBay is a possibility, but mailing it would be a tremendous, multibox undertaking. The main unit is built like a tank, and to complicate matters, the one I own has an external hard drive--they could certainly have internal ones, and most did, but mine was the configuration Radio Shack used for their "Store Operating System" (I picked this one up for $300 around 1992, when Radio Shack was replacing the 2000s all of their stores had in the back with machines from their business PC line). I may just put up an ad on the Tandy Usenet group saying "if you can pay to get it out of Tampa, Florida, it's yours."

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