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Shutdown: Clone Wars Edition

(Image source: hackedgadgets.com)

As anyone who grew up in the 1980s would be well aware, Tandy Corporation, the parent for Radio Shack at the time, was a manufacturer of computers and electronic components. Indeed, the Tandy computers were almost ubiquitous in many homes around North America, as they were among the first to offer a decent PC “clone” for a reasonable price.

Maybe it’s my personal anti-Windows bias, but I can’t help but find this ad funny as a result. Tandy made its name building PC clones, and of course the Windows operating system was a basic concept-clone of the Macintosh operating system, which was itself a clone of the earlier Xerox GUI. Neither of the technologies touted in the ad were a shining example of innovation and unique engineering, and yet those are the selling points used in the ad. Of course, in the pre-internet days, companies didn’t have to worry about the backlash that would result of any subtle inaccuracies that they printed.

Oh, the halcyon days of questionable honesty. Unlike the gospel-truth advertising we see now, of course.

  • bzr

    Anti-PC, or anti-Radio Shack? Because the latter is certainly more understandable, and relatable.

  • tonyola

    Tandy might have been early in the game with IBM clones in 1985, but its time in the sun was very short lived. That year was just the beginning of the PC clone explosion and Tandy quickly got a reputation for being overpriced, underpowered, and having mediocre build quality. Very few PCs used the 80186 chip, and the Tandy 2000 had compatibility problems with other PC hardware. By 1987, all Tandy computers were seen as pricey crap compared to the competition.

    I had been a long time Mac fan, having owned several Macs since I bought a Plus in 1988 as my first computer. I have no intention of starting a holy war, but I will say that Windows 7/64 Pro works very well (granted, it took long enough).

  • Tandys never seemed to achieve the penetration that Commodores and Macs did, although the Trash-80 was a bit of a cult fave. I do remember the negative connotations that Tonyola spoke of – Radio Shack was still "worth" something in those days so Tandy just charged for the brand. Of course in those days everyone built clones – it was like the wild wild west of fly-by-nights and Bob's Basement Beige Boxes.

    We saw this faux brand-name superiority again in the 90's via Sony's abortive effort to sell PCs… which lasted all of maybe six months (no) thanks to horribly overpriced, shoddily-built pieces of crap that were even worse than IBMs of the time. At least Sony salvaged the VAIO line out of their efforts.

    • tonyola

      I remember seeing Panasonic PCs briefly in the late '80s. They looked like a thousand other clones of the time. Other than the Sony VAIO, the Japanese have never been able to really break into the American desktop computer market.

      • name_too_long

        They haven't done much on the desktop side but the Toshiba notebooks are pretty solid and Panasonic's Toughbook line owns the civilian ruggedized market.

        The Sony hardware's decent but they ruin their machines with crapware.

      • dwegmull

        Over in Europe, I've used some 286 PC clones that were claimed by our lab manager to have been built by Toyota… A quick web search does not turn up any information about this. Anyone with first hand knowledge?

  • Oh, the halcyon days of questionable honesty. Unlike the gospel-truth advertising we see now, of course.

    ::cough:: ::cough:: GM

    I remember the Tandy 2000. Friends of our family had one. I loved it. It was quite different from my Atari 800XL.

  • I had to exchange something at Radio Shack just last weekend. It was the first time I had been in a Shack for many, many years. Shockingly, there is not one in the mall. Or anywhere around. In the greater Austin metro area, there are 3. How the mighty have fallen. Thankfully.

    • The only thing they are handy for now is hobby electronics in a pinch. They tried to be a battery center, but most batteries can be found elsewhere for cheaper and/or more conveniently.

      • P161911

        Only if you don't have a Frys close by.

        • I miss Frys. Best store ever. None in Michigan, though. In fact, I haven't found a good hobby electronics store here. I haven't looked that hard, to be honest.

    • tonyola

      Anyone remember the Incredible Universe stores that Tandy opened in some cities in the early '90s? These were huge ultra-flashy one-box stores intending to compete with Best Buy. They were set up almost like a theme park with different "worlds" and there was even a food court inside. The one in Miami only lasted a year or so and the hangar-sized building remained empty for years afterwards. The entire chain was gone in 1996 and I'd bet that's one reason why Tandy/Radio Shack has shrunken so much.

      • P161911

        I remember going to Incredible Universe stores in Columbus, OH and there was one here north of Atlanta. A Dave and Buster's has taken up HALF of the old building for the last 12 years or so. Fry's who only came to Atlanta in the last 5 years or so reminds me a lot of Incredible Universe, but with good prices.

  • Charles_Barrett

    In all fairness, the TRS-80 Model 100 portable was a very useful precursor to the laptop/notebook segment of the PC market. It had a full QWERTY keyboard, an 8 line LCD display, and built-in 300 baud modem. Its O/S was in ROM and provided instant on/instant resume. It also had a terminal emulator application built in. A text editor and Centronics parallel printer port allowed it to be a useful portable workstation, as well as remote dial-up terminal. ROM-based BASIC allowed simple custom programming and communications scripting.

    Tandy, of course, just licensed it from Kyocera and rebranded it for their product line, but the Model 100 continued to be very popular long after all the other TRS-80 models were gone and forgotten.

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