In this week’s Tech Time Warp, we’re going back to the early days of the Tandy Corporation. Tandy became a player in personal computers with the 1977 introduction of its TRS-80 at RadioShack stores—but that was far from Tandy’s only contribution to the PC marketplace.
On April 21, 1988, Tandy announced plans to introduce the Tandy 5000 MC, a clone of IBM’s second-generation PC, the PS/2. The Tandy 5000 MC was the first to take advantage of IBM’s decision to license key PC technology patents, which opened the door for PC clones to flood the marketplace and eventually outsell IBM.
A 37-minute Tandy 5000 MC corporate video produced for internal use is available on YouTube and features an interesting (albeit slanted) history of the 1980s PC market, complete with chess-themed graphics. During the press conference, Tandy Chairman John Roach said: “Not only is the Tandy 5000 MC the most powerful personal computer we’ve ever offered, but it is also a very unique product containing a combination of features never offered before in a compact desktop computer by a major manufacturer.” The machine featured two megabytes of RAM that could be expanded to 16 MB. The computer’s five expansion slots could accommodate memory transfers from IBM products.
The Tandy 5000 MC also featured a hefty price tag: $4,999, or more than $12,000 in today’s dollars. And that was for the base model! In 2014, the American Enterprise Institute analyzed the cost of the Tandy 5000 MC and determined an American working at the then-average hourly wage of $9.75 would have had to work 512 hours to purchase the machine sans necessary accessories, such as a monitor or mouse. Tandy also offered a $180 monthly leasing option, essentially adding another car payment to the family budget.
Thankfully, the PC clone wars heated up and drove prices down.
Photo: Valentina Petrov / Shutterstock
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