Celebrating Tandy laptop computing with Portable 100

Don’t forget the TRS-80 Model 100 and Tandy 102! In today’s world of ubiquitous notebooks, netbooks and smartphones, one device was there first. Introduced in 1983, the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 was an incredible platform.

While it was very underpowered by today’s standards, the 3-pound notebook had a full-sized keyboard, a very usable screen (8 lines by 40 characters) — and ran up to 20 hours on four AA batteries.

Accompanying the Model 100 was a magazine called Portable 100, published from 1983 through 1992. I worked on the magazine between 1985 and 1987.

The magazine had an up-and-down history. It was launched by a small publisher called Camden Communications Inc. in September 1983. CCI ceased operations after publishing the August 1986 issue.

The following summer, IDG Communications purchased the magazine, along with other CCI assets, and put out Portable 100 from August 1987 through December 1987. IDG then sold the Portable 100 to another company, which ended my formal association with it. (I wrote some freelance articles for the new owners through the April 1998 issue.)

I served as technical editor of Portable 100 for much of the CCI era, and was hired by IDG to help them restart it. (I stayed at IDG through 1990.) During a couple of crazy weeks in the summer of 1987, I wrote several stories for the “re-debut” August issue, and edited the whole thing.

Over the past weekend, I discovered that a group called Club 100 had scanned and uploaded every issue of Portable 100. While I have hard copy of all the issues produced during my tenure, this discovery prompted a walk down memory lane.

Here’s what I wrote for the August 1987 issue, which I hope you’ll download and enjoy:

• “Heir to the Throne,” a cover story on the Model 100’s mildly upgraded replacement, the Tandy 102 (co-authored with Carl Oppedahl, a Model 100 expert and contributing writer).

• Answers to most Letters to the Editor.

• The “New Products” department.

• “Industrial Strength Memory,” a review of a bubble memory system.

• “Time to Program,” a programming feature that walked readers through the software-design process.

• “Do-It-Yourself Letters,” a programming feature that presented a mail-merge application.

• “Learning the Protocol,” a column that discussed the ASCII character-coding scheme.

What fun. I really enjoyed the Portable 100 era. The magazine was so influential in its time that a top executive of Tandy Corp. (which produced the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 and Tandy 102) expressed frustration that customers referred to the computer as a Portable 100.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick