Tandy TRS-80 creator John Roach has passed away


From The New York Times:

John Roach, a marketing visionary who helped make the home computer ubiquitous in the late 1970s by introducing the fully assembled Tandy TRS-80 for $599.95 or less through RadioShack chain stores, died on Sunday in Fort Worth. He was 83.

His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by his wife, Jean Roach. No cause was given.

Mr. Roach already had college experience fiddling with refrigerator-size mainframes by 1967, when he joined the Tandy Corporation, a Texas conglomerate that was founded as a leather goods company and included RadioShack and its thousands of franchised dealers in electronics farrago.

He was instrumental in prodding Tandy to venture into the computer market. At the time, most small computers were sold as kits to be assembled by hobbyists, but Mr. Roach believed that consumers would welcome a model that they just needed to plug in.

His team presented the original TRS-80 prototype — cobbled together from a black-and-white RCA monitor, a keyboard and a videocassette recorder — to Tandy’s chief executive, Charles Tandy, and to Lewis Kornfeld, the president of RadioShack, in January 1977.

The Apple 1 had been introduced the year before, and Commodore and other companies were marketing their own home computers, but the TRS-80 (the initials stood for Tandy RadioShack) quickly became, for a time, the most popular computer on the market.

“Charles blew a little smoke and said, ‘Build a thousand and if we can’t sell them, we will use them in the store for something,’” Mr. Roach recalled in remarks to the Fort Worth Executive Round Table last month.

“We were finally able to ship some machines in September and shipped 5,000 that year, all we could assemble,” Mr. Roach said. “Our competitors shipped none.”

Comments (7)

7 responses to “Tandy TRS-80 creator John Roach has passed away”

  1. christianwilson

    I love hearing stories about those early days of the personal computer. John Roach had a vision that pushed the industry forward and he should be remembered for that.

  2. Sprtfan

    My first computer was a TRS-80. My dad taught chemistry and physics in high school and the administration decided that since he was a science teacher, he was the logical choice to teach the new computer science class. I was in elementary at the time, but we spent a good deal of time together learning how to use it. Thanks for the look back and also love hearing stories about the early days of personal computers.

  3. wright_is

    I used to go to the Tandy stores as a kid and play with Trash 80 Model III, but I couldn't afford one. I ended up with a ZX81 and then a 2n hand VIC=20.

    The late 70s and early 80s were an amazing time for the development of personal computers, so much variety. I remember reading Personal Computer World and they would go down to the individual chips on the motherboard and what they all did. Every PC was different, each had its own OS. or maybe CP/M, if you were lucky.

    • lwetzel

      I had a TRS-80 Model 4 (portable/luggable). If I remember right I could run like 5 OSes on it. 3 were CP/M. Loved it.

      • wright_is

        I took my Amiga to work once. We used DEC VT100 terminals onto a VAX, Macs and PCs. I could plug it into the network and pull data down in the Mac emulator, copy it onto the system-wide clipboard, switch to the PC emulator and paste the text into an application running there and a windows running in the background with a serial connection to the VAX.

        The Mac emulation was good, but the PC emulation was dog slow at the time, as it was emulating the processor.

        That really shook the people up, but it wasn't good enough to get them to buy me one for work. :-(

        The TRS-80 never really took off in the UK. They were too expensive, compared to everything else (typical of US kit at the time, the Pets, Atari 400/800, TRS-80 and IBM PC were 3-4 times more expensive than locally sourced machines, onl< the the VIC=20 and later the C64 ever came down low enough in price to be competitive). Apple were the worst, when the Mac came out, the Mac II cost around $2,000, ISTR, but cost 4,000UKP ($8,000) in the UK! Apple really did its level best to price itself out of the UK market, then started suing grey importers for bringing US models in and selling the for 3,000UKP ($6,000) or less.

        I did look at the Commodore 64 portable, when it came out, but it was too little, too late. The world was moving on and it was a lot of money for "just a C64", even if it did have a colour display and floppy drive built in.

        • lwetzel

          I started with the original TRS-80 Model 1 and progressed all the way through (I believe it was) the 1200. I have has so many computers I can't remember them all. I build my first one from a HeathKit. It was a Microprocessor trainer with a course included. Built the thing then went on to learn about microprocessors and digit circuits. 8 digit hex keyboard, 8 digit Hex display, all hand-entered machine code. Those early days were great. I was in my 20s then and it was a new world.

Leave a Reply