The history of personal computers started early in the 1970s with three micro computers, all released in 1977: The Commodore PET, Apple II and TRS-80. Of all these, the latest will become one of the most innovative and out of the box ideas. The computer was created with a different goal in mind. Unlike the other two computers, the TRS was designed for the average American consumer. It was one of the first products that came fully assembled and ready to use, bridging the gap in accessibility.
So, what lead to the creation and development of this technology? It all started in 1975 when a buyer for Radio Shack (a chain of electronics store), Don French, purchased a MITS Altair computer. Fascinated by the computer, he began to design his own kit and then tried to sell his idea to the manufacturing vice president, John Roach. The idea came to life in 1976 when Steve Leininger was hired to design the machine.
The computer was released in 1977 and was well received and exceeded everyone’s expectations. Over 10.000 models were sold in the first one and a half months. The first model became one of the best-selling microcomputers and was succeeded by other models that were improved based on customer’s feedback.
But what made the TRS-80 such a market hit? For starters, the price was a significant differentiator. On a market where personal computers were sold to specialists at a price range of 800-1300 USD, the TRS was sold at half that price (399 USD). The selling strategy was also well thought. The computer was distributed to almost all of Radio Shack’s electronic stores. But the main advantage was its technology and usage. Intended for the average American consumer, it came equipped with already assembled pieces and clear instructions that assumed no prior knowledge on the part of the consumer.