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Friday, May 6, 2016

Flashback Friday -- My First Computer

Flashback Friday -- My First Computer

photo credit to old-computers.com/

The Tandy 1000 HX is a member of the Tandy 1000 series family.

The Tandy 1000 HX, released in 1987, was designed as another entry level IBM compatible personal computer and the successor to the EX. Like the EX, the HX was a compact computer with the keyboard built into the computer casing. The computer came with an Intel 8088 CPU, 256 KB of memory, and had one 720 KB 3.5" disk drive on the right side of the machine behind the keyboard. HX computers came with MS-DOS 2.11 built into the ROM and “Deskmate 2” on diskette.

The computer's memory could be expanded to 640 KB by the use of a memory expansion card; by default these cards, sold by Tandy, came with 128 KB, but one could add another 384 KB in memory chips to this board. These cards were named “Plus Cards” and used a pin configuration instead of the slot system used by IBM or the T-1000. The cards themselves followed all the IBM standards and eventually Radio Shack started selling the adaptors in their stores to allow the cards to be inserted into a standard IBM 8-bit ISA slot. There were three such spots available in the computer case.

There was also a spare 3.5" drive bay in the computer case. On the back of the machine there was a port which allowed a user to connect an external 5.25" (360 KB) or 3.5" (720 KB) disk drive. There was also a connector for a printer.

The 1000 HX did not come with a hard drive, and Tandy Corporation did not manufacture fixed disks for this type of computer. A HDD could be purchased from third party vendors, however.

It was also here that the DOS in ROM was getting a little old and for the first time the settings on the computer could be changed so that instead of looking in ROM for DOS at bootup, it would go direct to the floppy drive instead. Most versions of MS-DOS worked with the 1000 HX, including 3.x, DOS 5.x & 6.x. DOS 4.0 did not work due to a bug in its environment that prevented it from working. 
I started my 'typing days' back in 1987, when the Occupational Therapist at Somerset Crippled Children's Center decided part of my OT would be typing. So, they got me the IBM Selectric I typewriter, so I could continue my OT at home.

The IBM Selectric I typewriter -- photo credit to Wikipedia

However, When Mommy and I moved to Pennsylvania in 1989, the school district I attended (through the speech Pathologist, Ms. Lockwood) thought it would be a good idea for me to have some sort of computer to keep up with the classwork and any long homework assignments I may have had. Taking that huge typewriter back and forth to school would have been very inconvenient for a 10 year old. So, they gave me a very primal 'laptop,' the NEC PC-8201A. Seriously, this thing looked more like a label maker than a computer. It was powerful enough to do word documents and take spelling tests on. The problem was, I spent more time going to the Speech room to print documents than in class.

The NEC PC-8201A system -- photo credit to oldcomputers.com/

But this wasn't MY actual computer. I was only borrowing it from the school district, the elementary school in particular. So, after I finished 6th grade (1991) my mom took me to Radio Shack and bought me my own system, the Tandy 1000 HX system.

The Tandy 1000 HX system -- photo credit to old-computers.com/

The model she bought me included a monitor, which if I recall correctly was a 14" screen and a dot matrix printer. The monitor sat directly on top of the system and the printer was placed on a side table.

I loved this computer. I would sit in my room for hours during the summer, playing with the various 'programs' included in the 'OS,' Deskmate 2. The interesting thing about the Deskmate 2 GUI is it ran from a floppy disk. If I ever lost the Deskmate 2 floppy, or it became corrupted somehow, I had a pretty expensive (and heavy) paperweight!

Deskmate 2, Tandy 1000 HXs 'operating system' -- photo credit to winworldpc.com

The main programs I used were the Text, Paint and Music programs. Since I didn't have a mouse for this system, I really couldn't do much in the way of drawing, and what I could do, I had to use the keyboard arrow keys for. It came out very '8-bitish' or 'blocky/pixelated.' The music program relied on the keyboard itself for input of the notes, and I couldn't be bothered with figuring out what keys belonged to which notes.

Most of the time spent on this was in the text program, where I would do my homework. I could do reports and write stories on here. I remember shortly after Mom buying this for me, I started writing a story, which I ended up printing off and turning in as an English assignment. While I got an A on the assignment, I remember my 7th grade English teacher, Mr. Hickey, pulling me aside after class and explaining his margin notes. I guess talking about how a student entering puberty by growing breasts and getting her first period during summer break was a bit too advanced for a 7th grade assignment about writing a conversation in a story. (Personally? I thought it fit the grade level, since most of the girls were already going through these events, or soon would be going through the events, at the time)

I seem to recall having games for this, but off the top of my head, I can only recall Family Feud, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and I think Classic Concentration. I'm thinking I had more titles, but I do remember what I had was 'edu-tainment titles.'

The Tandy 1000 HX seems to have become a collector's item, since I cannot find this particular system on eBay at all. It is VERY obsolete now, but I think it would still be cool to tinker with.

The Tandy 1000 HX wasn't a very productive system for its time, but for a student who just needed something to do their homework on, it got the job done.

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