The 100,000th TRS-80 Model 1 computer
As I check eBay once in a while for interesting vintage computer finds, I came upon a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1 computer that seemed a little odd. Looking through the pictures, the serial number on the back was an even “100000”. Well, that piqued my interest.
In the auction pictures, it looked well used as most do with wear marks on the silver face in front of the keyboard wear people normally rest their hands while they type. This appeared to be similar. It also did not come with a power supply and it was untested so I had no idea if it worked but that serial number was intriguing. TRS-80 Model 1 prices are in the rise as are most early vintage computers so while considering that, I made a reasonable offer to try to get a lower price then the $249 eBay auction as that seemed a little high. My offer was soon accepted.
I then started to look around to see if 100,000 was a special serial number. It was my understanding that 100,000 TRS-80 Model 1s sold but after a short google search, it appears to have been closer to 250,000. In my search, I ended up finding a thread on the Vintage Computer Federation forums entitles Model 1 #100,000 – Chrome! The thread talks about an auction from 2017 that had this chrome TRS-80 Model 1 with serial number 100000 but I could no longer find the auction. The original link to the auction is here.
As I do with some interesting auctions, sometimes I will keep the pictures; usually as proof that something exists. I made a post asking if anyone had kept the pictures and would share them. I looked back at the eBay auction I had just won and I guess it is in a chrome finish. The picture of the computer head-on didn’t have wear but that was the reflection of the person taking the photograph off of the chrome finish! The user “Trash-Eighty” had pictures and shared them. They matched. Right down to the one rusty bottom screw and the small blemish on the serial number label that another user thought might be evidence of the serial number label being tampered with.
Well, the beauty of that thread is the original owner talked about his 2017 auction and how he got it. The forum user was “texnet” but his real name was Ronnie Franklin. Quote from his post from September 6, 2017:
Hopefully I can help you guys with the authenticity of this computer as I am the person who owns it!
In short, I was the manager of the computer repair center in Tandy Tower I for a short time in 1979, the regional computer tech rep for Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, and later was the manager of Computer Technical Support and Training until I left Tandy/Radio Shack in 1982. Please read my profile for my background with Tandy/Radio Shack.
When Tandy Advanced Products created the S/N 100,000 Model I there was an article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram newspaper about it being presented to an executive of Tandy. At one point in time I found an archive of that article but I have searched and searched and have been unable to find it. The best I can remember, it was presented to Bernie Appel who was at that time the VP of Computer marketing. I saw the computer in 1979 and several times after that as I worked in both Tandy Tower I and Tandy Tower II. The computer was originally displayed, in a glass case, on the executive offices floor and was later moved to John Roach’s office.
When I saw the computer in the tent sale at the Radio Shack Outlet store on Terminal Road it was in a junk box and I could NOT believe my eyes! They had cleaned out a bunch of stuff from offices, engineering and other areas in Tandy Tower I & II and those items were in the tent sale. I asked the sales person “how much” and he said $5.00. I quickly paid him cash and secured the computer in my vehicle. Why was it in the tent sale, probably because by then the Model I was history and no one it Tandy/Radio Shack cared about the history of a single item even though it was a milestone!
I have had the computer in my possession since the day I purchased it. I can assure you the label has not been altered. The area that looks like a small crease you see in the upper left of the label appears to be a flaw in the printing of the label or a mark in the label as to where to lift it for placement on the computer. That corner is NOT lifted, it is FLAT and has not been tampered with.
As for the feet being removed, one or two of the feet were missing when I purchased the computer so I removed the others.
I have talked to several previous employees of Tandy/Radio Shack that remember the computer and its history and they also have stated they saw the computer in 1979 or 1980. They also wondered where the computer went and assumed it was misplaced or thrown away.
As for as the NIB Monitor…. I purchased this monitor still taped from the same RS Outlet store about the same time. I personally opened the box. I also questioned the label on the back being deteriorated, but in the bottom of the box I found another label that apparently fell off the back of the monitor. The label in the bottom of the box is the same physical size to cover the original label and is dated Feb 1979. I can only assume they had a problem with the monitors and returned them to TAP for modification prior to being sold. Yes, there a couple of nicks on the monitor and I have had it out of the box a few times to check the condition as it was stored in a 45′ Semi Trailer. The styrofoam is nice and white, the foam around the monitor is nice and old yellow, the rubber bands are nice and dark yellow and ready to pop!
If you have anyone that worked at Tandy during the 1979-1980 in Technical Support, at TAP or an executive I am sure they can help verify this computer. Unfortunately, Bernie Appel has passed and friend of my Ed Juge has passed.
In another note, I have a Altair 8800 that was assembled by Ed Juge prior to our just after he became an employee of Tandy/Radio Shack.
As for the for sale ad in Japan, I know NOTHING about that. It appears to be a Japanese translation of the Ebay posting.
Well, fast forward to today and I looked back to find the computer never sold. It was priced at an “I don’t want to sell it but if someone is willing to give me this much, I’ll sell it” price. I looked back at the seller’s auctions that I purchased the 100k Model 1 from and he also sold a MITS Altair 8800 which would have been the one Ronnie had that was originally Ed Juge’s. Through the VCF forum thread, there was a link posted to Ronnie Franklin’s obituary I had hoped he was downsizing but that was not the case. My condolences go out to his family for their loss.
As far as the computer goes, everything has lined up so this is the 100,000th TRS-80 Model 1 in a presentation Chrome finish. Sadly, if there was any further parts to the presentation piece, they are long gone as it looks like they never made the tent sale. I will put this in some form to make it a presentation piece as it will be held in high regard.
And in the end, it works just fine as well. In this picture you can see the difference between the chrome finish of the computer and the standard silver/grey used on the monitor. I literally have to use gloves to handle it because it attracts fingerprints. I have also put on clear feet on the bottom to avoid any scratches.
It is a very cool item to add to my collection. If anyone has any further history on this, please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to know more about it.