Like a seemingly innocuous madeleine, an off-hand mention of old Radio Shack computers has unleashed the floodgates of memory at L.A. Observed. Yesterday's post by Kevin Roderick about a group photo of Alan Cranston's 1986 celebrity-packed campaign bus mentioned the TRS-80 (dubbed the “Trash 80”) that reporters carried. The four-line display screen got high marks for portability and ability to send over pay phone lines. Today's entry carries more technical details about the proto-laptop Model 100 version of the TRS-80, which featured an eight-line LCD screen and direct phone modem. (“Memory expands to 32K,” crows one ad.)
L.A. Weekly staffers of a certain era will remember film critic Michael Dare's own Radio Shack processor, a red-plastic device that looked more like an Etch-a-Sketch than a modern laptop. (According to Dare's autobiographical screenplay, Here Comes the Son, it was a Model 100). Dare took it with him everywhere, and his use of it to type copy during review screenings became as widely known as L.A. Times critic Kevin Thomas' note-taking with a flashlight pen. Today TRS 80s are found in tech and journalism museums, although it's unclear if they've been joined by flashlight pens.