Terry Stewart's (Tezza's) Classic Computer Collection

TRS-80 Colour Computer 1

A classic computer showing a classic game

(Note: Click on the image for a larger view. I also describe this machine in a YouTube video)

Having succeeded in the micro business with its very popular TRS-80 Model 1, Tandy saw the potential for cheap computers decked out with colour and sound to replace the video arcade units popular in homes at the time. They weren't the only ones. Commodore had the same idea with the Vic-20 and the Atari had already moved down that road with their 400 model.

Tandy's answer was the 6809 Motorola-driven TRS-80 Colour Computer, affectionately known as the Coco. Released in 1980 and decked out in the dark silver which defined the TRS-80 range at the time, the computer looked sleek, classy and yet enigmatic. A cartridge slot made for easy loading of games, but the user could also pull programs off cassette and (later) disk drives.

There were never any Radio Shack outlets in New Zealand so these units are relatively rare here. I first saw the Coco in 1981 in the same shop I obtained my Dick Smith System 80. The owner was a microcomputer entrepreneur who used to import all sorts of makes and models. The Coco was playing "Dino Wars". I remember being intrigued at the time, although I did wonder about the chiclet keyboard for really "useful" things.

My impressions now I own one? More favourable than I had expected. The computer is solid and well-made. The keyboard has quite a positive feel and is the best of this type I've come across. It's hopeless for touch typing of course but it is usable. One thing I like is the integrated nature of the unit. The power supply is built-in and so is the RF modulator. This makes for an uncluttered work (or play) space unlike the Vic20 and other contemporaries where these things are external. One detracting feature are the screen colours on boot-up. Black on lime green? Contrast that garish display with the cheerful white with pale blue border of the Vic-20. Were the designers colourblind? What were they thinking (-:

One interesting observation is there is no direct composite video output, just a jack for the TV cable. That speaks volumes that this is a home games machine first and foremost. Another odd thing is that the joystick ports seem to have proprietry connectors. They are round DIN sockets, not like your everyday Commodore/Atari ones.

My unit has been well cared for. It's very tidy both inside and out and works like a charm. It's badged with 32 K on board, and appears to be a top-of-the-line early model. I was a little concerned when it arrived, as the cartridge slot wouldn't open? I discovered the flap had been installed the wrong way around by the last person to explore the innards of the machine. An easy fix indeed.

A couple of boxed cartridge games accompanied the unit. Later I added a delux joystick, a manual and a small set of defining games from the Internet.

A classic machine which I've been wanting since 1981.

Update: This Coco found a new owner in August, 2021 and is no longer with me.

Want to know more about this micro? Google is your friend.

This page last edited 17th September, 2021

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