The Guild to the TRS 80 Color Computer

quarkx

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Hi, all,
I have been asked a few times now about the TRS-80 Color Computer or "CoCo" now, and I thought I would share some of my knowledge on this cool little Computer, as, from what I understand, it was rare over in the UK and Europe. Here in North America, the CoCo was the only real Competition for the Commodore 64. We did not see computers like the Beeb, or the Acorn or such. We did have a third "low Cost" unit called the TI 99/4a, but Jack and Commodore pretty much killed them.

If you were anywhere in North America in the 1980's, you could not go to a shopping mall, or basiclly walk 500 feet without hitting a "Radio Shack" store. Radio Shack in the '70-'80 was a geek's Dream, they had all sorts of electronic parts,books, batteries, gagets gizmo's and well, it is hard to really explain, but now they are just another "Big box" store like Best Buy. In fact, most parents "dumped" their kids off at the shack while they went shopping, because the shack was "kid friendly". Who better to demo the computers, but the kids, and the CoCo was always one of the first things you saw when you walked in the store (you just had to avoid the RC Cars wizzing around :) )

The Color Computer was started as a joint Venture between Motorolla and RS, and it started as a VideoTEX machine so farmers could get weather reports , crop reports and such. One of the engineers designed a simple "graphics" chip and took out the modem and the Color Computer was born. The first "Grey" CoCo's shared the same case as the VideoText unit. -Tandy was going to call it the TRS-09 (as the TRS-80{Model 1} was named after the Z80 chip it had) but marketing thought that was too confusing, so they named it "Color Computer" because it was a Color Computer. It was only later that a fan in a magazine article shortened the name to "CoCo" and the name stuck.

The machine has a Motorola 6809 processor. Each incarnation just improved the Motorola Reference and added more ram up until the CoCo 3.
The CoCo1's and 2's are really transition machines, and not worth your time collecting. the CoCo 1 (except the "white" 26-3003B) are very limited in RAM, and very hard to type on (those darn Chicklet keys).

The CoCo 2 is so confusing with all the different models, but basically, Tandy was trying to catch-up and out do(never did) the C64. It wasn't until the last CoCo 2 that you even had true Upper and Lower case.

The CoCo 3 is the machine that is really the "Gem" unit. By this time, Tandy had redesigned the Graphics chip and did some very interesting work (there is even a fabled "256 color mode" in it- although no one yet has been able to unlock it). The new "Gime" chip, replace a few chips from the CoCo 1/2, added more graphics, an MMU and even controled the keyboard/mouse I/O.
Tandy had touted this as "world's most powerful 8bit computer" but obviously it was 1986 and the Amiga and other 16 bit machines had already came out.

The only "problem" was again, some of the older games could not work with the Gime, but they were usually the very old CoCo 1 games.
The CoCo 3 had OS9, a UNIX multitasking OS by Microware. Microware still exists and still sells and Supports OS 09 today (OS 09 being made for the 68"09" processor.). The very active community has updated OS 09 and made NitrOS 09 and does some very amazing stuff.

There is a website called "Cloud9tech" that still makes new hardware and memory upgrades of the CoCo 3. You can get Hard drive and such.

For those of you in the UK, The "Dragon " computer is almost identical to the CoCo. It used the same Motorolla reference design, but Dragon Data was smarter than Tandy. They put a true printer port and other very useful things in. I would estimate that at least 90% of Tandy Devices work just fine on the Dragon- and all the games (I can't guarantee this, because I have never had a Dragon to play with).

So, too sum up.
You want to get a CoCo 3. Period. the CoCo 3 is the only real useful machine.
You want to get a hold of the following Items
Multi-pak with CoCo 3 pal update - theMPI is one of the most useful assoriess. it allows up to 4 devices to hook up though the Cartridge port.

Either the 501 or 502 disk controller and double drive. The floppy drives will probably be the hardest and most expensive purchase for the CoCo, and could cost more that the machine it self. I have seen prices go as high as $150 for just the floppy drives. Trust me, you will want to get the 2 drives, as you will suffer from the old "floppy swap elbow"

If you have the CoCo 3, you may want to track down the CM-8 RGB monitor, it was the ONLY monitor made for the CoCo 3, but Colors will be different on the monitor than on a TV. For example the default colors for the "Deskmate3 " program were like blue on the TV, but pink on the RGB.
Once you have the floppy, you can download the Nitros O9 and hook up a few other CoCo's as terminals, you can share the OS with (I think) up to 2 other machines

One last thing is to get the "live Drive" system from cloud 9, it is like Amiga Explorer in Amiga forever.

They say that Tandy was working on a 16bit CoCo 4, but when the A500 came out, it pretty much what Tandy had was the same as the Atari 512, and decided to kill it. Also, Tandy did NOT want to really promote or Do anything with the CoCo. They wanted the salespeople to push the more expensive Tandy 1000 PC's. The CoCo was their little cash cow.

ok thats it for now, I hope this helped a bit out there.:D
 
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TheCorfiot

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My good friend :D

Many thanks for this useful info & history lesson and indeed the PM's you have sent.

I worked for Radio Shack in my teens & sold quite a few CoCo1's and had to defend the CoCo against many Dragon owners who used to visit the store to ridicule & put the machine down especially cost wise.
The reality is they were coming in to buy CoCo Software as the Dragon32 had none at the time :LOL:

I've managed to hunt a CoCo II Service manual down & if any one needs a copy let me know.

The info I was looking for ----- The ROMs in the CoCo are supplied by 2 8K 2364 style Chips. 1 for the 'Std' Color Basic & the other provided the 'Extended' Color Basic.

Although these Eproms are hard to find now it's not a big job to programme a 2764 Eprom (28pin) & use a modified socket to emulate the 2364 (24pin) & then simply slot it in....(y)

Just need to find some info on upgrading the RAM from 16K to 64K now :LOL:

But many thanks again indeed for your help.

Regards
TC :)
 

quarkx

insane in the main frame
AmiBayer
Joined
Aug 11, 2008
Posts
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Country
Canada
Region
Edmonton, Alberta,
Cool,
Did you see this ? it is the upgrade instructions for the 3026 and 3027 to 64 K

---------- Post added at 13:16 ---------- Previous post was at 12:59 ----------

All,
BTW,
If you are interested in Mac History, a few days ago I found a site called folklore.org. I am not a Mac fan, but the history is fascinating none the less.
 
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