Boisy Pitre and Jerry Heep Discuss the Tandy Color Computer

Boisy Pitre has been a RadioShack fan since he saw his first Color Computer at a friend’s house in 1982. He credits the Color Computer, or CoCo for short, for where he is in his career today. He saved up all his money cutting grass for neighbors and family friends to go to his local RadioShack to put a CoCo 2 on lay-a-way.

We had the opportunity to get Boisy as well as Jerry Heep, a RadioShack Staff Engineer for more than 30 years and was around when the CoCo was created, together to discuss how this computer changed both of their lives. They discuss the definitive history of the Color Computer, the book project which Boisy and his co-author are currently creating and some great RadioShack memories.

The definitive history of the Color Computer:

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A book on the Color Computer:

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RadioShack memories:

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What is YOUR favorite memory of the Tandy Color Computer? Leave a comment below!

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27 Comments

  • Kenia

    Sadly I don’t have any memory of it. We didn’t get a computer until like the 1997!

  • tracy p.

    Same here Kenia. I am only 26 and I don’t remember computers until I was about 9 or 10 in middle school. I do remember floppy disk. I liked those :)

  • Allen Huffman

    It is great to see RadioShack remember some of its heritage. Because of wandering in to a Radio Shack (with the space in the name, back then) while my grandmother shopped next door, I discovered the original TRS-80 Color Computer. I soon was hanging out there every Saturday and soon had my own. A great salesguy named Don Burr was responsible for me ditching my $300 VIC-20 and moving to the Color Computer, which led me to discovering the OS-9 operating system which, in turn, let me to getting a job at Microware (who created OS-9 and did the CoCo 3 BASIC extensions). What a long strange trip it’s been!

    And Boisy Pitre was the CoCoist I met at the conventions that brought the Microware job opportunity to my attention. I owe so much of what I know and do today to that little computer.

    AND, it started a lifetime of frequenting Radio Shack for all kinds of things. Had I gotten my computer from Toys R Us, I might have just ended up being a gamer ;-)

    Thanks, Radio Shack, for some great times. And thanks, Boisy, for all you are doing to rpeserve the legacy of this fine machine.

  • Keith Clark

    First computer I owned! I wanted an Apple II but at the time they were way too expensive for my family. We ended up getting a Colour Computer I with 4 K RAM. I already had a cassette player so I was all set to go.

    The BASIC manual was written very, very well and that pretty much taught me how to program. I didn’t know of any other sources at the time. I’m not even sure there really were any!

    I still have this very machine, but it has been upgraded to 64 K and Extended Colour Basic. I cannot boot it up any more but when I have the time I’ll have to look into that.

    Great machine, great era!

  • John W. Linville

    The CoCo still lives!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42jBBrqn70w

    http://www.fahrfall.blogspot.com/

    http://vdgtricks.blogspot.com/

    Also, CoCo stuff will feature prominently in my talk at LinuxCon Europe in Barcelona this November — “Coding For Fun: Silly Projects Keep You Sane!”

    Finally, don’t forget CoCoFEST! — http://www.glensideccc.com/

  • Gary Coulbourne

    I learned 6809 assembler with EDTASM on the CoCo I, and then moved on to OS-9 on the CoCo 3. Still my favorite computer memories.

  • Mike Craig

    In the 80′s I’ve owned a CoCo2 16K and had it upgraded to 64K. I loved it so much that I eventually moved on to a CoCo3 128k. I fixed a motor bike and sold it to buy a 5.25 disk drive. I remember fondly typing in programs from the Rainbow Magazine and saving up my lunch money (sorry mom LOL) to buy games for it (mainly from Diecom Products). Great memories. I still own 3 of these machines and I’d like to say thanks to Cloud9tech for still supporting this great computer! :-)

  • David Lien

    To Jerry Heep:

    Hello Jerry. Good to see your face again. That other yehoo talked so much I didn’t hear you say anything, but am glad to see you are still around and kicking! Still got that Corvette?

    -David Lien

  • John R(Bob) Kelty

    I enjoyed the coco years. My main contribution was the “Cheap Talker”, not exactly an ancester of Siri but at the time was “ph-un.”

  • Jim Anderson

    I have fond memories of my color computer. I forget the designations now and the memory size, but I do remember it used a cassette recorder, I upgraded to 2 single sided 62.5″ floppy drives and I upgraded the memory. I taught my middle school aged son to program in basic on that machine. He went on to be a computer geek in HS and college. That was a great little machine.

  • Carolyn Agenjo

    My first computer was a 4K CoCo in the early 80s, I quickly moved to a 16K and discovered that cutting a trace on the motherboard gave me a “secret” 32K!!! I still have my 1985 Rainbowfest T-shirt – from Princeton, NJ. Remember Marty Goodman??? He was a well-regarded CoCo programmer – chatted with him on email a few years ago…. Fond memories!

  • Todd Bernhard

    Loved my CoCo! First computer I owned, if you don’t count my Sinclair ZX80 , which I returned… It was nice but no CoCo! Learned programming, wrote my own programs, had some great accessories like the Wico controller… Man, I miss that. Good times.

  • Herby

    The Color Computer! I got one after a friend had his. He had upgraded to 32k (piggy back DRAMs), but then upgraded to 64k (bigger DRAMS and more wiring). He still had the 32k upgrade sitting around. I got a 4k CoCo, and it got out of warranty in about 1 hour when I upgraded it to 32k. Once a bunch of years later, I saw a CoCo3 keyboard in a display at the local Radio Shack, and being an enthusiast I bought it and put it on my original CoCo-1. Lots of fun, and I still have the OS-9 documents and stuff in my bookcase. It is truly a wonderful machine!

  • Paul (J.P.) Jones

    Back in the eighties, we used a CoCo2 with 64K to run the lights for our band with an expansion card from NEI, and used another one to run a Norton cylindrical grinder at the machine shop where I worked.

  • Jerry Heep

    Wow another big writer back ion the day logs in!. I’m impressed. It is great to hear from you. No. the Corvette is gone, along with my hair. This one was Boisy’s turn. But I did a lot of talking in my three parter, a couple of months before. Check it out!

  • Joe Martin

    Ah, the original Coco. Cut my teeth on Canon card-reading programmables, the Coco was a trade-up. Self upgrade in ram, eprom peogramming, “flippy” disk drive and OS-9. Ran inventory and payroll on it. Dial-up at 300 or 1.2k. Netware 1.0 updates at that speed took 6 hours.

    Internet was Compuserve. Dot matrix and daisywheel printers. And the lowercase p didn’t extend below the line.

    Great way to learn assembler. No better way to learn hardware/software interaction.

  • Bob Taylor

    I had a 1st generation CoCo with the silver paint and 16K of RAM. Eventually I added a printer, an Assembler cartridge (With “Z-Bug”) and learned how to imbed assembler output into BASIC programs for use of semi-graphics (somewhat undocumented) video modes and other useful things. Sadly my ex-wife gave it away after our divorce. I was the only person in the house that knew anything about it.

  • Ed Kattak

    I started with the original TRS color Computer back in late 1980 – you know, the silver cabinet, white chickelet keyboard? There were a few choices at the time (Commodore VIC 20, Texas Instruments TI-1000, and some game consoles) but with the CoCo, I was able to master Color Computer Extended Basic and write my first program – a video tape libarary management program that I would eventually get to save data on an external 5.25 inch floppy disk. Multipak interface notwithstanding, the CoCo ran flawlessly. I would eventually go to the annaul CoCo fest in Pronceston where I could always count on a cool upgrade or peripheral to buy. When the warranty was up, I cracked up the cabinet and wired in a third-party video board to allow me to connect to an external analag monitor – breaking free of the limitations of the requitsite “television connection.” Many things have come and gone in my life so far, but the Color Computer remains one of the most iconic in Radio Shack’s history for me.

  • Dr. Rich Goldman

    Boy, you guys are making me smile. Still have my original CoCo 1, with the upgraded keyboard and the original “chicklet” keys too. Also have my CoCo 2 and CoCo 3, along with drives, trackballs, cartridges, software, and a COMPLETE set of cassette magazines (I believe it was called CHROMASETTE). Never had the heart to throw it all out! I guess I figured that one day we’d all abandon our PC’s and Mac’s and realize that the TRS-80 Color Computer was back in style…

    BTW, ran my entire dental office for at least 2 years (the first two) on software I wrote for the CoCo. Had forgotten that. Used the VIP Writer, etc. to do it

    Any of you remember the DigiComp? It was the very first hand-operated, non-electronic computer. It made the CoCo seem like Star Trek. Remember that there will always be something newer, but the memories from the older times (I’m 59 now) stay just as sweet as when I first experienced them.

  • Jim Dickison

    When I was in high school in the 70′s everybody thought I was crazy when I stated that I would someday own a computer. In the early 80′s my dream was realized via the Radio Shack Color Computer. Chose the CoCo (over the Commodore 64 or Apple II) because I could get a computer and a printer for under $1000!)

    I remember my first upgrade… from 16K to a whopping 32K of RAM by piggy-backing chips and actually running a new addressing line from those chips to the CPU chip!

    I remember buying surplus TEAC floppy drives and interfacing them to my CoCos.

    And the hours of typing code in from Rainbow Magazine… until I finally subscribed to Rainbow on Tape! (And, anybody remember CoCo Cassette?)

    I mastered BASIC on the CoCo, moved on to EDTASM assembler, and dabbled in OS-9. I dialed into BBS systems using a 300 baud modem before anybody knew what “the internet” was!

    I eventually switched from CoCos to Macintoshes, and have since made computers my career. (Did you know that the Macintosh was originally prototyped using the Motorola 6809… the same CPU used in the CoCo!) But, I’ll never forget my first computer love… the CoCo!

  • Donald McBride

    Wow, what a blast down nostalgia lane! Like others have reminisced here, I also have fond memories of my original silver CoCo, the upgraded keyboard, memory upgrades, EDTASM, OS9, and all the other things that excited us.

    My job at the time was implementing computer literacy in 13 schools. With technical training provided me at Tandy Center in Ft. Worth, our students greatly benefited from their first computer experiences. We never regretted choosing the CoCo as our original platform.

    What a thrill it was to see my first article in RAINBOW.
    And, who can forget Princeton CoCoFest? I came home with such stars in my eyes from that weekend at P-ton that my then nine-year old daughter proudly announced that she would go to Princeton someday. 13 years later, she did graduate from P’ton. I guess we have Jerry Heep and others behind the CoCo to thank for the influence.

    Thanks for the good memories and lasting impressions.

  • Derek Snider

    The CoCo was my first “real” computer (I started with a Tandy MC-10). It was exactly just because Radio-Shack didn’t take it seriously (as compared to their business class machines), and therefore did not offer much in the way of software that I ended up learning how to program, and ended up making it a career.

    I’ll never forget all the time I spent after school hanging out at Radio-Shack, playing on the display models until I got my own.

  • Kimberly Joice

    My fondest memories were going to my then boyfriends house, Bob Giuffre, and reading programming from Rainbow magazine to him while he typed it in. This took hours! Then he would run the program and see if it actually worked! If not we would go back through and find the problem. He had the dual floppy drives, cassette player, a bunch of games, and went onto BBS often. These were some of our most fun “dates”! He then hooked me up with my own CoCo – silver case, full size keyboard, 64K. I begged my Mom for the cassette recorder for Christmas one year and got it! I then saved to by a joystick to play my favorite games -Doubleback and Canyon Climber. I still have my CoCo in storage and a boatload of Rainbow magazines. Could never bring myself to get rid of them. Had no clue there was still such a following! Been wondering recently how to hook up to new style TVs and wondering where Bob is now and what he’s up to. What great times!

  • Alan L.

    Can you let Jerry talk?

  • caryn

    I remember having a Tandy computer in my living room long before any of my friends – that would be because my dad worked for Radio Shack for as long as I can remember! I also vaguely remember taking a BASIC programming class at a local store:)

  • Torsten Dittel

    The CoCo influenced my life a lot (from 1981 on) – even in Germany where it had been quite exotic (bad enough a 230V 50Hz PAL version had never been available here in Central Europe – only in Australia…).

    PS: The book Boisy Pitre mentions has been published in the meantime:
    http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781466592476

    • Torsten Dittel

      oops… should read: “bad enough a 230V 50Hz PAL version *** of the CoCo 3 *** had never been available here in Central Europe – only in Australia…).

      All other CoCo versions (silver & white models) have been available.