[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Interact Home Computer

October 13th, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Interact Computer - BYTE 1979(click for full advertisement)

When I was compiling my list of the ten worst PC keyboards of all time last year, I considered many rare and obscure computers, like this Interact Model One. If I had included the Interact, it probably would have been high on the list. Among the original chiclet keyboard’s eccentricities is the fact that the number row starts with 2, counts up to 9, then 0, then finally reaches the number 1 (sort of like a really old typewriter whose lowercase “L” was used for “1,” but lacked a “1” key altogether.).

The advertising copy bristles with entertaining hyperbole and awkwardness, with lines like:

“Giant Computer Hardware”

“…it is the only computer able to transmit full sound through a TV.”

“The Most Efficient Business Tool Ever”

“…our Level II Basic is Interact’s version of the Microsoft and is…”

“An Incomparable School Teacher”

And notice that one of the cassette programs available is titled “Star Track.” Classic. Did anybody out there have one of these?

[ From BYTE, April 1979 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the worst computer keyboard you’ve ever used?

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7 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Interact Home Computer”

  1. Geoff V. Says:

    I’ve used worse, but the Macbook Pro has one of the worst keyboards ever on a laptop… and that’s saying something. The keys are small having almost no space or bevel between them, it’s like typing on a flat piece of paper.

    I was an IT monkey for years and have typed on a lot of laptop keyboards, but the Macbook is just awful, especially if you consider the price tag. $2.5K

    I typed this on a Lenovo T61. My keys are full sized and not too close together. Key travel is moderately short, but the response is crisp. Unlike the Macbook’s keys which are bunched together and key travel is short and mushy.

  2. Pedro C. Says:

    I had one of these as a child (1980). I loved it! It was my first computer and of course my first game console. Star Trak was a Nettrek clone if I remembered correctly. I had about 8 programs for the system, all games except for the one BASIC cassette. I learned BASIC on it, but couldn’t get too far because I didn’t know how to save anything back onto another tape (and if you even could).

    It finally died after 6 years of regular use. We tried getting it fixed, but nobody had any idea what the heck it was.


  3. Jim Ulrich Says:

    My guess is that the piano keyboard overlay wasn’t that great for learning how to play the piano.

  4. Jason L Says:

    I find the Mattel Aquarius keyboard to be the most comfortable for long writing sessions. The soft rubbery keys reduce stress and fatigue while providing a sure-touch, no-slip grip for accurate typing. I cranked out my Master’s thesis using hunt and peck in a little under three months, thanks to the Aquarius. (that’s without breaks) . I’d like to play with one of these Interact machines for a while. It looks really interesting.

  5. SirPaul Says:

    The worst one I used was the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer 1’s keyboard.. It just felt… wrong.

  6. Steven Says:

    Very bad keyboards were the ones I learned to program on, the Oric 1, the ZX81 and the ZX Spectrum. Bad keyboards on small and cheap computers, but good for learning programming.
    Still have fond memories of the Oric and the Spectrum.

  7. David Says:

    I had one of these. I paid (if I remember right.) $400 from a clearance outfit called Protecto. Cheapest computer I’d ever seen at the time. It came with a 4k and an 8k basic and a bunch of games on cassette.

    I actually got an “unencoded” keyboard which was basically a matrix of switches with keyboard tops (It was actually quite nice.) I hand wired it and transferred the connecting cable to it.

    I got a few newsletters from some company that was using Model Ones as promotional displays. They also sold a serial port adapter and a 16k memory upgrade. I bought the serial adapter ($100) but by the time they sent it I had gotten a Vic 20 and returned it.

    The computer had SERIOUS overheating problems which kept it from saving my programs. (FRUSTRATING!)

    As bad as the keyboard was, the display was worse. The characters were composed of a 5×5 matrix and you could only get 17 characters across and four or five rows down.

    Some of the games wouldn’t load at first and I later bought a cassette alignment tape from Protecto. It produced a tone that got louder as the heads came into alignment. When I got the Vic 20 I had the same problem with their datasette and was able to fix it when necessary without a special tape–but I had to drill an access hole for the screwdriver.

    Ultimately, I sent it off to Commodore for a $100 rebate for a Commodore 64.

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