My next book project... A Radio Shack Color Computer (CoCo) history book!

Bill Loguidice's picture

I'm happy to say that as work winds down on my forthcoming book, My PlayStation Vita, I won't be idle for long, making a long overdue return to my classic videogame and computer roots. For my eighth book, I have agreed to co-author a Radio Shack Color Computer (CoCo) history with Boisy G. Pitre, who is a former Microware engineer who worked on OS-9-related technologies in the 1990s, and is well known within the modern day CoCo community.

Boisy has already conducted a good deal of research and lined up interviews with several notable individuals, but we could always use more authoritative information and resources as supplements, so if you have access to anything or anyone you might think of interest, please let us know either via email or in the comments. The more help we get, the greater chance we'll meet our goal of making this book entertaining for both general technology enthusiasts who love a good story, as well as all of the past and present fans of Radio Shack's longest lived series of computers. Thanks for the support!

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atrionfo
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Joined: 12/08/2009
Radio Shack's Window Computer... The CoCo

Even though I was a "C64 guy," I always enjoyed stopping by Radio Shack when I was a teenager in the 1980's to check out this computer. The CoCo did always seem to be on display at the front of the store, even if Radio Shack was actually trying to sell PC clones (which says a lot about the marketing-- I'm sure that will be glanced on in the book).

One of my favorite classic computer books is called "Priming the Pump: How the TRS-80 Enthusiasts Helped Spark the PC Revolution," by David and Theresa Welsh (and I'm more the Atari/Bally/C64 guy nowadays, so that's saying quite a bit). I'm not a HUGE fan of the system (and I find it difficult to emulate with skill), but I do have a CoCo 2 in the garage waiting to have some fun carts inserted into it. For some reason I have a soft spot for this system; maybe because it was such an underdog.

I presume that history will be the primary coverage here in the new book, I'd also like to see some coverage of MODERN emulation for the CoCo, as well as how to use the CoCo with modern devices (hard drives, thumb drives, HD TVs...?). I can't recall ANYONE owning the CoCo back when the C64 was popular in the U.S. (and to a lesser extent, the Atari 8-bit series), but enthusiasts for the system must have existed and I look forward to hearing an OVERALL history and not just the history of OS-9.

Bill Loguidice
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Thanks for the comments

@Matt: No publishing options have been lined up yet, though that's on purpose at the moment. While there's a possibility, I want to see how the book starts to shape up before determining if it makes sense to go with a traditional publisher or self publishing. As you know, I've been wanting to explore self publishing for some time now due to the flexibility that it provides in terms of design and other possibilities (like enhanced eBooks), and this may be the best chance to explore that. My co-author, who is the lead on this project, has a very rich design in mind, so the best way to see that through may just be avoiding the traditional publishing route. At the same time, that's all I've known to this point, so I obviously feel most comfortable going that route.

@Adam: Yeah, I too was a C-64 guy back in the day and also never knew anyone personally who had a CoCo. I have a nice assortment of CoCo stuff, though it's a part of my collection I've yet to explore much. This will be my chance, finally. The series lasted 11 years on the market and was never the cheapest, most powerful, or best supported systems out there, but there was nevertheless still some fascinating stuff going on both publicly and behind the scenes, and quite a bit of passion around them that's still burning today. That's all worth exploring. And yes, we're talking very much an OVERALL history, complete with modern usage. The intimate knowledge of things like OS-9 and what was going on in the 90s is just a nice bonus.

I have "Priming the Pump" signed by the authors if I remember correctly, who I met at a VCF East one year. I haven't read it yet, but it's my understanding some people dislike the one too many personal stories in there, plus there are few inaccuracies or "mis-remembrances." Still, your assessment makes me want to read it now.

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Matt Barton
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Congrats, Bill! Do you guys

Congrats, Bill! Do you guys have a publisher lined up yet, or is this a self-published thing?

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I wonder, that machine was

I wonder, that machine was the first one I got use "hands on", well not the color but the trash -80 its older sibling.. I must admit my knowledge of the Color one is "lacking" as I dont recall seeing them anyplace but the local radio Shack. Was it well known in other countries? I know it had a following in the US as my first real GF (out of High school) father was an owner and a NUT about it.. I had a good in (with him at least) as I knew enouhg to impress back then. I can remeber getting in trouble playing games on it with him whne i was suposed to be doing stuff with his daughter :)

Bill Loguidice
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Comments and a remembrance
clok1966 wrote:

I wonder, that machine was the first one I got use "hands on", well not the color but the trash -80 its older sibling.. I must admit my knowledge of the Color one is "lacking" as I dont recall seeing them anyplace but the local radio Shack. Was it well known in other countries? I know it had a following in the US as my first real GF (out of High school) father was an owner and a NUT about it.. I had a good in (with him at least) as I knew enouhg to impress back then. I can remeber getting in trouble playing games on it with him whne i was suposed to be doing stuff with his daughter :)

I too (and I believe Mark Vergeer in the Netherlands) used TRS-80's in school, first the III for me, then the 4. I also never saw CoCo's in the wild outside of RadioShack stores, and of course, regularly in their weekly flyers and catalogs. My school system moved from a mix of III/4's to Tandy Model 1000's, so there was clearly some type of contract with RadioShack. Naturally, there were a few Apple IIe's scattered about, but those were one-offs and, to my knowledge, never used in any computer classes.

The CoCo, similar to the TRS-80, was actually fairly often cloned/copied to a large degree, and did have a pretty reasonable presence in other countries. Perhaps the most famous pseudo-compatible was the Tano Dragon, which also saw limited release in the US. I have several of those systems myself.

The Color Computer series actually has an interesting analog to the Apple II series, in that there's some evidence to suggest that RadioShack, like Apple, purposely left out some features in their final models (CoCo 3 for RS and Apple IIgs for Apple) that would have made their older system lines even more powerful and enticing, which would have competed with what each company thought was the future, which of course was the Tandy 1000 series and the Macintosh, respectively. For me, the main technological failing with the CoCo 3 was its lack of improved sound capabilities over its predecessors. It certainly received an impressive graphical boost, though its my understanding that even that was held back to a degree from its full potential. Still a very interesting machine, though...

Actually, as I write this, I DO remember seeing a CoCo in the wild, albeit late life and in a very unusual situation. I was 16 (circa 1988) and working at a local five and dime (sort of like a smaller, lower class K-Mart/Wal-Mart) and the assistant manager was using a CoCo 2 connected to a tape deck to run the store's books! He would take the cheap tapes off the shelves and use those for saves.

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Matt Barton
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Feel free to use my dungeons

Feel free to use my dungeons of daggeroth write up if you guys want.

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Bill Loguidice
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We'll talk in a few months...
Matt Barton wrote:

Feel free to use my dungeons of daggeroth write up if you guys want.

Thanks, Matt. I'm not sure how much we'll focus specifically on games, but I'm thinking of a possible appendix at the end if there's room of "Top xx" games to check out or whatever. We'll see how this develops...

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Boisy Pitre
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Joined: 07/05/2012
Hi Matt, I read your article

Hi Matt,

I read your article and really enjoyed it. Dungeons of Daggorath was really one of those monumental CoCo games, and I'm sure it will have to get some page space in the book. Most any CoCo person from that era will mention that game as a "game changer" so to speak.

Anyway, looking forward to a solid collaboration with Bill.

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Thanks, Boisy! Here's the

Thanks, Boisy!

Here's the article for anyone interested.

What I still enjoy about the game is the bold design decisions. I mean, Douglas J. Morgan was obviously willing to take some big risks and wasn't at all concerned about slavishly copying anything. I only wish more modern designers had the courage, bank account, and creativity to pull off stuff like that.

Does anybody know Douglas? I'd love to have him on Matt Chat.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I know apples success (early

I know apples success (early days) was its deals with schools and getting them in. But I too remeber we had the TRS's for computer classes. The lone 2 apples we had whre both in the "special education" classroom and used almost none. We whre in a small school, had 4 TRS III's i believe a TRS keyboard model ( like the C-64 but a TRS). My first game was a PacMan clone.. and I use that term losely.. just a block that sorta resembled pacman.. U shape then O so it sorta looked like mouth opening.. and only one way (up) but you could control it with keyboard and random dots where on the screen you could eat, they popped in for about 10 seconds and then disappered. Also a giant square would chase you.. it was simple, it just went straight for you at all times and was about 20% slower then you. No walls, no goal.. my plan was to have hte dots tick down, give more points the sooner you ate them and to make the giant Square faster, and add another .. but i never finished it.. i got my own Computer at home and forgot all about it.. Spose i could have repeated it on that system, but I seldom redid things.. alwasy onto something new back then.. so much was new.

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