[ Retro Scan of the Week ] BASIC in your Pocket

March 16th, 2009 by Benj Edwards

TRS-80 Pocket Computer  PC-4 Ad - 1983The iPhone has nothing on this. (Click for full advertisement.)

Here we see the state-of-the-art in 1983 pocket computer technology, the TRS-80 PC-4. I have the PC-1 in this series, and it still seems advanced. How many other pocket calculators allow you to program in full BASIC?

I remember taking my PC-1 to high school in the mid-1990s and programming on the sly in my ELP class. It felt so high tech — and my model was made in 1980! Ah, those were the days.

[ From Personal Computing, 1983 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What was the first PDA or pocket computer you ever used?

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7 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] BASIC in your Pocket”

  1. Sirpaul484 Says:

    My first pocket computer was made by casio. It was a Windows CE 1.0-based system that resembled a tiny laptop. It was quite nice for its time, and I wish it still worked…

  2. Captain Angry Says:

    The TI-85 calculator I had in high school had TI-BASIC on it and I used to have a great time poking around with it when I was supposed to be paying attention.

    Once upon a time I impressed my girlfriend (now wife) by asking her to hand me her TI-83 "for a minute" and gave it back to her with a crude SIMON game (using the arrow keys) programmed on it. I think its still in the memory today!

  3. Fessic Says:

    Yes! The Palm m100, black and white LCD and all. And this time (unlike my many other gadgets…Game Boy, N64, NES, those little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. Men) I'm hanging on to it.

  4. Rockin' Kat Says:

    The closest things to a pda or pocket computer I've ever used are my TI-83plus and TI-85. I got the 83plus first, but switched to the 85 I bought on clearance because it had the z80 processor in it that allowed it to run stuff that was programed in assembly, and there were a lot of cool free games I could download off the internet and load into it over a serial connection from my Mac.

    I think I spent more time playing games on my TI-85 than I did using it for math.

    There was a Tetris game that had versions for both the TI-85 and the TI-86 that could be played two-player using the serial link cable to hook up two calculators. I had a friend in school with an 86 who had that game. I thought that was so cool it could work that way.

    I also used to go into the graphing mode on it, turn off the axis and grids and use the draw functions to make little pictures which I'd save to memory when I was bored but didn't feel like playing tetris, and, arkanoid clones etc….


  5. Benj Edwards Says:

    I love your calculator pictures, Rockin' Kat. Thanks for sharing.

  6. JayP Says:

    HP-28S: Thought I needed it to pass Mech Engineering in the late 80′s… Didn't help.

    Most of my classmates had one, probably 10% knew its capabilities beyond massive formula storage.

    In the end, the profs got smart to the HP and made the students using it sit at the front of the class. Some even banned it from the tests.

  7. Cody Says:

    Holy cow! I had one of these when I was a kid in the mid 90s (without the printer attachment though). I think I got it from a second hand store.

    I also had a couple books to go with it that had games you could program into it. It was a long and tedious process, being all in BASIC and on a one line screen. As you can imagine, the games weren't that fantastic or exciting either.

    Memory was really limited, you couldn't store more than one program in it at a time.

    And also, because it had no graphics capabilities, it was useless in maths class compared to newer scientific calculators. So after trying a lot of stuff with it, then leaving it in a box for a few years, I remember giving it away back to the second hand store.

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