[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Quasar Hand-Held Computer

July 7th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

Quasar Hand-Held Computer HHC Pocket Computer Advertisement - 1982“One Picture is Worth a Thousand Numbers”

I’ve never used or seen a Quasar Hand-Held Computer in person, but I am a big fan of the similarly-sized TRS-80 Pocket Computer, which I’ve written about a number of times on this site.

According to this ad, one of the unique features of the Quasar HHC was that you could hook it up to a large color monitor if you had the right expansion accessory. That reminds me of the TRS-80 Model 100 Disk/Video Interface. Pretty cool. I bet the software that utilized that feature was extremely rare, though. I’d love to see it in action.

See Also: BASIC in your Pocket (RSOTW, 2009)
See Also: Asimov’s Pocket Computer (RSOTW, 2011)
See Also: Sharp Pocket Computer (RSOTW, 2013)

[ From Popular Computing – December 1982]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s the smallest pre-year 2000 computer you’ve ever owned?

7 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Quasar Hand-Held Computer”

  1. Jistuce Says:

    Man, I would LOVE to have something like that for my Texas Instruments Compact Computer 40.

    Speaking of small machines from the last century… surprisingly, the CC40 is only my second-smallest “fully-featured” device.

    I also own a Franklin eReader, which launched in 1999.
    I got it a decade later on clearance, but that’s not the point.

    Also have a programmable calculator(TI SR-56), but it’s bigger than the eReader, and a lot more limited in scope. I’m hesitant to consider it a “real” computer.

  2. Asterisk Says:

    Believe it or not, Mattel actually released a similar plotter for the Aquarius home computer, and I’m not sure there were ever any useful business applications released for that platform.

    Kind of a gimmicky thing, really – plotters are useful in CAD and design applications, but how much value could the general user get out of them. Both Quasar and Mattel’s plotters appear to only support paper about 5″-6″ in width, too – hardly sufficient for anything that would actually require a plotter.

  3. Alexander Says:

    The smallest computer I’ve owned from before 2000 is an Atari Portfolio. I was given one about 2 years ago, and it still works. However, the file system layout is baffling, and the keyboard makes typing kind of a chore. Therefore, it has been relegated to a curiosity rather than something I use.

  4. Justin M. Salvato Says:

    Probably my IBM PS/1 (2144 model) or Atari 400. Nothing portable. While I own a Epson PX-8 now, I did not before the year 2000.

  5. gene Says:

    A great deal of info on the Quasar can be found here:


    I have quite a collection of these types of guys. Several sharp models, the TI CC 40 and TI 74, The HP 71B and HP 75C, as well as the HP 41C calculator. Great little programmable calculator.

    The HP Musuem has a great forum for people who love these old machines. Worth a visit.

  6. Calibrator Says:

    A 6502 in a portable computer? Cool! Only 4 to 8K RAM, though, but in 1982 this wasn’t really surprising for a portable machine as (static CMOS) RAM was very expensive then.
    I literally LOLled at the “mainframe” description in the ad, though. 😉

    An Atari Portfolio was used in Terminator 2, by the way, so I would definitely keep it! 😉

    My personal retro craze made me buy a Sharp PC-E220 from Ebay in 2005, though 😉
    A relatively large but fast Z80-based machine from 1991 with 32K RAM and a display with 4 x 24 characters (I never liked portables with a single line…).
    It has many good features: Genuine calculator keys, engineering functions, a Z80-assembler & ML monitor(!) and an ASCII-based text editor that saves into a RAM-disk and allows for easy transfer to & from a PC (using a serial interface). Therefore you can write your program on the PC and transfer it to the E220 to test/run it…

    While all of this sounds great the display is a disappointment as it can’t be used for graphics as it isn’t a continuous area of pixels. This means no curves or graphical games…
    Dang, I should’ve paid more than the measly 20 Euros for the PC-E220 and gotten a PC-E500 or even better a PC-1600 (much better physical impression than the E-models)!

    Alas, I pretty much used it only for a few BASIC experiments and a wrote a few small BASIC programs for my job, for example a program calculate the amount of fluid in a horizontally oriented barrel that isn’t necessarily filled completely. Of course I could’ve used Excel for that but where is the fun in that?

    Funnily, the same AA-cells from 2005 are still powering it and it still has my last BASIC program in memory. Holy CMOS, Batman! 😉
    As I have no mass storage device for it I need to occasionally check the batteries and the backup cell – somehow I feel obliged to keep it operational. It’s a brave little warrior!


  7. Al Says:

    I had one of those TRS-80 pocket computers in 1984 when I was in high school. I had the thermal printer that went with it, although I never had a use for it. The BASIC language on it was very limited and not very useful, since you could only have 1 program in memory at a time, IIRC. As a result, you did silly things like having the “2nd program” start on line 300 or something like that. I think it only had integer basic (couldn’t do floating point). It sure looked cool though.

    I also had a TRS Model 100 portable computer in 1984 (which I still have). I had saved up my money from my paper route. Bought it on sale for about $400 CDN. I was the only kid in high school with a laptop computer at the time. In fact, I was quite likely the only *person* in the school with a laptop computer! I put that thing to extensive use typing up english essays, learning TRS BASIC and learning about it’s ROM memory maps.

    I even popped for the technical reference manual (which included schematics!) and the 8KB (yes, 8 Kilobytes!) memory expansion, which brought it to a whopping 12KB of memory! IIRC, the machine maxed out at 16KB.

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