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Wyoming State Museum
Barrett Building
2301 Central Avenue
Cheyenne, Wy 82002
(307) 777-7022

Featured Artifact

Transportable Computer

Category: Businesses and Organizations

Transportable Computer
(G-1994.35.41 a,b)

Superman Comic from 1980 DC Comics: Superman Issue
"The Computers That Saved Metropolis".

Radio Shack advertisement from the January 1984
issue of Basic Computing.

The TRS-80 4P was introduced in 1983 by the Tandy Radio Shack Company. It was the second to last model released in the popular TRS-80 line. Although it was marketed as a portable computer, the 4P weighed 26 pounds, leading many users to describe it as “luggable”. The baseline model featured 64 kilobytes of RAM, and retailed for $1,799, approximately $4,354 in today’s dollars. Compare that to the recently announced iPhone X which features 3 gigabytes of RAM (over 50,000 times the amount in the 4P), retails for $999, and weighs a mere 6.14 ounces.

Even for its day the 4P was not state of the art. The TRS-80 line was marketed to entry-level home computer users and businesses. However, despite its poor reputation with computer enthusiasts (it was nicknamed the Trash-80), the TRS-80 had the largest software library at the time, besting competitors like Apple, IBM, and Commodore. This library coupled with its ease of use made the TRS-80 the best-selling “microcomputer” in the market through 1982.

A computer like this would run many of the kinds of programs we use computers for today, including word processors, databases, accounting software, and games. One popular program was a music synthesizer called Orchestra-90. The TRS-80 4P was short lived, by spring of 1985 Tandy had discontinued the machine saying that “even though you won't find a more enthusiastic and devoted group of owners than our Model 4P folks, transportables just weren't moving well for any company that also sold a desktop version.”

This computer was used by Dr. Robert Lavigne between 1983 and 1994. Lavigne was an entomologist at the University of Wyoming. He took advantage of the transportable nature of the TRS-80 4P during his work in Somalia from 1985-1986 on the USAID Bay Region Agricultural Development Project.

Written by Kevin Ramler, Supervisor of Museum Programs and Exhibits

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