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UnderColor, Volume 1, Number 4, February 1, 1985

  • Title: Hindsight
  • Author: Bob Rosen
  • Synopsis: If only...
  • Page Scans: Link


In September of 1980 Radio Shack introduced the 4K Color Computer for $399. Computers that followed were the 16K Color Computer, 32K Color Computer, TDP-100, 64K Color Computer, Dragon 32, MC-10, Color Computer II and Dragon 64. What most Color users have never heard of is a machine that was going to be called the Deluxe Color Computer.

What is a Deluxe Color Computer? Good question! I will proceed to tell you about the Computer that wasn't. The Deluxe Color Computer was scheduled to hit the market before the 1984 Christmas season. The retail price was going to be $399. It was going to include the following features: true lowercase; full screen editing; two RS-232 ports, the second port having an ACIA; 32K RAM Disk; keyboard with two additional function keys; 6-pin joystick inputs; sound chip; and color video output.

The true lowercase was going to be a vast improvement over the current reverse video mode now used for lowercase operation. The two RS-232 ports would have been a welcome addition for OS-9 users since the second serial port would have an ACIA chip in it. This would enable communications between two computers to operate up to 19,200 baud instead of the 300 baud limitation provided by the infamous bit-banging PIA chip. It should be also mentioned that the Deluxe's ROM would have had a built-in terminal program. You notice that I said ROM, singular? The Deluxe was going to contain a single ROM that would have Standard, Extended and Disk Basic all in one! This would have caused some problems with existing software, especially from the third party market. After going through the new ROMs trauma for the past year, I certainly wasn't going to lose any sleep about missing out on this feature of the Deluxe!

When l heard the Deluxe was going to have 6-pin joystick inputs I immediately thought of Apple joysticks with two fire buttons. This would have created a new dimension for games. Even Marty Goodman’s "Graphicom" would have benefited from two fire buttons on a single joystick.

Color video output is a feature I am going to miss. Nothing can match the vivid picture of a color monitor. Many a user has suffered from severe interference on their TV sets caused by disk drive cables, unshielded 300-ohm TV switch wire boxes and an assortment of hardware gizmos. Hooking a color monitor straight to the back of your computer would solve any interference problem. Fortunately, there are third party video drivers available. Still, having a video output on the back of the machine would have been nice....

Am I sorry the Deluxe was pulled off the market just before

its final stages? The answer is yes and no. The features I mentioned are definitely improvements over the present Color Computer II machine. But the two most important features that almost every owner would have wanted was more memory and a hi-res screen. The lack of memory expansion to 128K or more and a 80 by 24 screen would have taken some steam out of the initial enthusiasm for this new computer. 0S-9 software, especially business applications, must have more than the 32 by 16 screen and 64K memory supported by Tandy.

The lack of these two features doesn't surprise me; present Color technology will not support them. The SAM chip must be redesigned or replaced for "true" 128K or 256K memory, and Motorola’s new RMS and VDG chip set will not be available for initial supplies until the fall. Known as the "RMC chip set," it will have the following features: able to support up to 1 meg RAM, vertical resolution from 64 to 640 pixels, horizontal resolution from 64 to 500 pixels, 32 colors simultaneously out of a palette of 4096, smooth scrolling, lowercase, up to 60 character rows by 40 or 80 columns, underlined characters, inverse characters, blinking characters, double height characters, double width characters, different colored characters, and a 6883/6847 chip set emulation mode, too.

New rumors have evolved since the demise of the Deluxe that Tandy is moving up production of another machine. Already dubbed the "09" machine, it will be Tandy's answer to why they came out with 0S-9 in the first place. As a follower of Radio Shack computers for the last seven years, all l can say is the only time to believe is when Radio Shack says it is so.

By the time this newsletter is in your hands, we may even have the answer! (end)