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(subtitle: How TRS-80 Enthusiasts Helped Spark the PC Revolution)

Since posting about the convolutions I worked through to play one old computer game, I've continued on an "old computers" kick with the emulators I found, digging out some of my family's old computer magazines to start to type in (and debug the errors I made typing) some of the shortest programs they printed and also going through all the information I can find online. I also ordered a book I'd heard about a while before; there's something about "spending money" on this new kick that seems to make it a little more serious, even if it's also to learn more... "Priming the Pump: How TRS-80 Enthusiasts Helped Spark the PC Revolution" is by a husband and wife who wrote and sold a word processor ("Lazy Writer") for those computers. While they've interviewed a number of other notable people from those days, going from initial chapters about how a few people at the Tandy Corporation started a small project to build and sell a pre-assembled computer to make up for the CB craze drying up at Radio Shack stores and how a whole series of third-party disk operating systems were written for the TRS-80 to make up for actual or perceived flaws in the "official" DOS, apparently released too soon, to a chronicle of David Welsh growing up as an electrical experimenter does sort of make the book feel like a "personal project" in every sense. Still, something about that is appealing. The book doesn't feel as if it's out to settle old scores of any sort, although it does deal with old controversies...

As much as the history of "personal computing" (although, as the book mentions, it was once "microcomputing" before IBM gave a name to its own small computer) can be interesting, there can also be a sort of sadness to it, a sense that some are intent on turning everything into a morality play in which everyone makes stupid and obvious mistakes except for Bill Gates. The sadness in this book is the Tandy Corporation letting the TRS-80 sort of fade away as it started selling computers running MS-DOS. However, there's not quite the same sense that I got from my old family's computer magazines, which were constantly accusing Radio Shack of trying to pretend to anyone who walked into one of its stores that there was no such thing as a third-party market. Reading the book, you can at least understand that the publisher of those magazines also had his own software line he once tried to get Radio Shack to sell every title from... which is, of course, not to say that things should be seen as one-sided any other way. I suppose that for my own part, I noticed how the book mentioned the Radio Shack Color Computer, but didn't say much more about it. It sold for several more years than the computers developed directly from the original TRS-80, but I suppose it did sort of exist with its own close-knit community, similar to the one around the original TRS-80 but disconnected from it after a while. Of course, the book can't say something about everything, and what it does say is interesting.

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