A non-sportswriter weeps for an old friend too

February 11, 2015

A sportswriter weeps for old friend Radio Shack

I was never a sportswriter (as I’m sure you’ve all guessed) but I think I still have three or so Model 100/110/200’s in the basement. I disremember the exact models, and one might be an Olivetti clone one, but I loved those little critters. I think they still fire up, though we decided to send Nathan to school with an AlphaSmart because the M100 has distractions like BASIC on it, and weighs a lot more.

There was one time at my first real job that we had to pull data off a crazy old computer… the critter was wire-wrap inside, and had a little brass placard explaining that it was “Custom Manufactured For [client] By My Lee” (or some similar spelling, which I never have been able to Google history of). Anyway, the thing did not have any recognizable means of output. Backups, if it even had any, were some proprietary tape system or something, I don’t remember. I could get it to dump the database to greenbar, and the company was looking at hiring temps to hand-enter the stuff into the computer my company was selling them. But wait, sez I, that’s a conventional parallel port it’s using, and our computer can hook up serial terminals.

One custom parallel-cable later, and a little bit of BASIC coding on the M100 (to, if memory serves, convert EBCDIC to ASCII), and the My Lee[sic] was “printing” to the M100 was “typing” to the MAI/Basic Four. The old and new beasts were sufficiently far apart that M100 was suspended between the two of them, partly supported by a tall stool swiped from the warehouse packing bench, and there they cranked away for the better part of a day, as I recall. I have converted between some obscure softwares and hardwares but I don’t think I have ever really topped that achievement.

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