The Rainbow was a monthly magazine for the TRS-80 Color Computer by the Tandy Corporation (now RadioShack). It was started by Lawrence C. Falk (commonly known as Lonnie Falk) and was published from July 1981 to May 1993 by Falk's company, Falsoft, which was based in Prospect, Kentucky.
The CoCo Chronicles tell about The Rainbow's first issues:
- The Rainbow's first issue was all of two pages in length (both sides, of course) and you could tell immediately by the typeset (LP VII), that no expense was spared in putting together this latest collection of Color Computer information. The debut issue was photocopied at the corner drug store and after the first 25 copies sold out ($1.00 each), another trip to the drugstore was needed for an additional 10 copies.
- Containing the usual assortment of Color Computer articles, comments, tips, and program listings, the Rainbow became "legit" by the third issue with its first ads from The Micro Works and from Jarb Software.
- Thanks Lonnie!
Jarb Software was a contributor of many software and hardware articles in early issues of The Rainbow. Starting with the first anniversary issue, the magazine was professionally typeset and had full color covers. The December 1982 issue was the first with a square binding.
The magazine featured articles, columns, reviews, tutorials, letters from readers, and advertisements. Many articles presented BASIC or assembly language program listings. Readers had to type these programs in by hand, unless they ordered a cassette or diskette containing these programs, through the Rainbow on Tape or Rainbow on Disk service. The BASIC programs were printed in a fixed font with 32 characters per line so that they would show up just as they did on the CoCo's standard 32×16 text screen.
The magazine provided a small program called Rainbow Check Plus which helped users type in the listings accurately. The program would count the number and values of characters which the user typed in. A small box accompanying a program listing would serve as a checksum system. It was a two-column table that specified what checksum value was expected for a few chosen lines in the program. For example, after line 140, the checksum was expected to be 149, then after line 290, it was expected to be 21, etc. This system required the user to type the listing exactly as it appeared, including all spaces and possible typographical errors. Some users preferred to edit and improve the program as they typed it, at the risk of making hard-to-find mistakes.
The publication's style was informal. It was mostly geared towards beginners and hobbyists. Articles were often accompanied by colorful illustrations, and so was each month's cover. There was also a comic strip whose main character was called the CoCo Cat.
Among the columnists were:
- William Barden, Jr. (Barden's Buffer): technical articles often involing low-level assembly language programming;
- Tony DiStefano (Turn of the Screw): hardware projects;
- Joseph Kolar (BASIC Training): tutorials on BASIC language programming;
- Cray Augsburg (Delphi Bureau): coverage of the CoCo community on the Delphi online service;
- Fred B. Scerbo (Wishing Well): BASIC programs based on ideas submitted by readers;
- Dale L. Puckett (KISSable OS-9): coverage of the OS-9 multitasking operating system;
- Steve Blyn (Education Notes): coverage of educational software;
- Marty Goodman (CoCo Consultations), Richard E. Esposito (Doctor ASCII), Dan Downard (Downloads): answers to technical questions from the readers;
- Dennis Lewandowski (The Assembly Corner): assembly language programming.
- Charles J. Roslund (Charlie's Machine)
Lonnie Falk wrote a monthly editorial titled Print#-2, (with a comma at the end of the title, because it was part of the syntax of the CoCo BASIC's PRINT command when targeting the printer.
The advertisements came from some large companies like Tandy but mostly from small software and hardware vendors. While Tandy would have full-page color ads, the small vendors' ads would be smaller and much more modest in style. This reflected the fact that it was relatively easier at the time to start a business in the computer field. The barrier to entry in today's computer industry is arguably higher.
Software and hardware reviews would appear in each issue. The Rainbow Certification Seal was attributed to a product to certify that it had been seen by the Rainbow staff and that it did exist. It was not however a guarantee of satisfaction since it did not say anything about the quality of the product. The reviews were supposed to fill that role. The certification program started in The Rainbow's second year.
In 1983, The Rainbow started a series of CoCo conventions under the name Rainbowfest.
The magazine had a department called the Rainbow Scorecard which registered high scores achieved by readers playing CoCo video games.
Each issue of the magazine had a theme that was typically associated with the calendar month. The December issue was the Holiday issue, while the January issue was the Beginners issue and was meant as an introduction to the CoCo world for readers who had received a Color Computer for Christmas. August was the Games issue, September was Education, November was Telecommunications, and July was the Anniversary issue.
Lonnie Falk was elected mayor of Prospect in November 1993 and was still in office as of April 2005. Some back issues of the magazine can be purchased on The Rainbow's On-Line Store, a Web site owned by Falsoft Ink, Inc.