Doesn't Not Compute

My log of experiences with GNU/Linux and computers in general.

Chuck’s Tandy 102 – A Retro Case Modding Experience

Today, I was looking for examples of how to paint laptops. So I went looking for information on paints that wouldn’t rub off, and while researching vinyl dye I came across this article. It wasn’t really what I was looking for, but it
opens up some interesting ideas for me. Possibly involving getting a Tandy 102 or similar machine myself. 🙂

Chuck Miller's Tandy 102 before cleaning and case mod

The article is the story of the makeover of a Tandy 102, a member of the TRS-80 Model 100 laptop series released in 1983. It’s so old that in some ways it’s better than modern laptops — because its operating system loaded from ROM the moment you turned the machine on and could run for HOURS on cheap batteries. It had a full-size QWERTY keyboard, and had programs such as an address book, to-do list organizer, simple text editor, a terminal program, and a programming “language” (Microsoft BASIC).

It has the disadvantages of having only a 300 byte/sec dial-up modem, a 2.4 MHz processor, and a VERY small screen, but it only weighs about 3 lbs (~1.4 kg) and measures about 12″x8.5″x2″ (30cm by 21.5 cm by 5 cm). As for other advantages, I’ll just quote Chuck Miller:

. . . some people are probably asking, “Chuck, why in blue blazes are you working off a dinosaur computer like this one, instead of plunking down some serious coin and getting a modern laptop?”

Actually, there are plenty of personal reasons why I’m going this route. My 102 is bare bones and ready for work. There are no internal DVD programs or computer games to distract me from my work. If the power starts to run down, I can add another four AA batteries and I’m back at work (you can get about 20-25 hours of uninterrupted battery life from
four alkaline AA batteries). And it’s virtually theft-proof – as in, “Who the hell would steal THAT thing?”

Granted, it’s durable – but I wanted to see if there were some cosmetic customization techniques I could apply to it. I never heard of “case modding” before, but it’s the same spirit that turned a Lincoln Continental into the Batmobile – a little modification here and there, the right paint job and some extra gizmos, and voila.

So basically, this is the 1980’s version of a netbook — low-power and extremely portable. It cost US$1100 in 1983 though — which is US$2300-2400 adjusted for inflation to 2009 — so perhaps it was just a wee bit pricier than the modern netbook. :mrgreen:

Here’s the before and after pictures. Chuck asked not to load them to my blog, so these are links directly to the images on his server.

Tandy 102 after case mod

Chuck Miller's Tandy 102 after case mod

One word describes how much better it looks: “WOW.” Alternatively, “amazing” may be substituted. 😀

Go to to read the whole process.

❗ There are a lot of images, but they’re not very big.

The above images and quoted text are from Chuck Miller, at Used with permission — thanks Chuck!


One response to “Chuck’s Tandy 102 – A Retro Case Modding Experience

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Chuck’s Tandy 102 – A Retro Case Modding Experience « Doesn't Not Compute --

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