[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Asimov's Pocket Computer

September 26th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Isaac Asimov promotes the TRS-80 Pocket Computer - Magazine Ad - 1982"It's so small I nearly swallowed it."

The TRS-80 Pocket Computer was an amazing little gadget. This 1980 calculator-sized computer packed a full QWERTY keyboard and the BASIC programming language built in. The ability to program BASIC on such a tiny pocket machine was incredible in an age when few calculators were programmable at all, and the ones that were required arcane rituals to program.

I used this exact model myself in high school on some math tests to perform some trigonometry equations in a BASIC program I wrote. Even though that was in the mid-late 1990s, the Pocket Computer seemed so futuristic that the teacher had no idea it was possible. Even today, the Pocket Computer remains incredibly useful for certain tasks. That's an amazing thing to say about a device released in 1980.

[ From Byte, February 1982, back cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the smallest computing device you owned prior to the year 2000?



9 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Asimov's Pocket Computer”

  1. luke kurtis Says:

    I love this ad (and the site in general). It reminds me of the Rainbow magazines my dad subscribed to when I was a kid. I read through those things so many times over the years.

  2. SirPaul Says:

    Isaac Asimov: Probably better known for his awesome sideburns than his actual work..

    The smallest actual computing device I used before 2000 was probably the V-Tech Pre-Computer 1,000. It was a decent system, even if it is countless times larger than the TRS-80 Pocket Computer.

  3. Xyzzy Says:

    The smallest I had was courtesy of the tech bubble: I was the moderator of a ~2k member group at OneList (now YahooGroups) and so, inexplicably, they gave me a brand-new Palm V.

    Otherwise, just the same answer a lot of people that attended high school in the 90s would give: either the TI-81 or TI-85 graphing calculator. (I can't recall which was smaller, just that my parents were upset at having to buy the 85 only a year after the 81.)

  4. jarson Says:

    Smallest "Computing" device was my casio wrist calculator in the early 80′s.

  5. Daniel Says:

    I had a Casio graphing calculator in my last year of high school, which was 87-88 (I remember the model no. started with 'fx', but I can't recall anything beyond that). The TI-81 was my second graphing calculator and was a typical requirement for college math courses of the era. I also had a Palm III some time in the late '90s. The Palm Pilot was probably the smallest (and lightest), but not by much.

  6. Sir Fatty Says:

    @SirPaul: I hope that is sarcasm….

  7. SirPaul Says:

    Yes, it was sarcasm.

  8. Donn Says:

    Pre-2000, smallest was easily my Palm IIIx. Heh, and there I thought I was living in the future. Little did I know in 2000 that in just 7 years, the entire landscape for mobile computing would change forever.

  9. David Payne Says:

    My 1st computer which I bought at Myer Melbourne in June/July 1982 marked down to $65 + $17-80 for the plug-pack power adapter. (Power supply was optional?) It was a SINCLAIR ZX-80, 1024 bytes of RAM. (Not that I counted them). Lent to a computer columnist & not returned yet!!!

    I had non-programmable calculators from 1973- 1st a 'Sheen'.

    The RS PC-1 was a Sharp PC-1211 & the RS PC-2 was a Sharp PC-1500. Tandy/Radio Shack just sold them with a different badge.
    The Casio FX-702P came out about the same time.

    The 1st Laptop I SAW was also in 1982, an Epson HX-20. Epson was part of Seiko, not to be confused with Timex that sold Sinclair ZX-81s in the USA. (And possibly manufactured them?)

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