Belsamber's Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 Update Is a Portable, High-Res Cyberdeck for Terminal Users

Capable of running two full-width terminals side by side, this six-hour-runtime portable is an ode to a bygone era.

Gareth Halfacree
3 years agoRetro Tech

Pseudonymous maker "belsamber" has brought a classic portable computer, the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100, bang up-to-date with a Pine A64 single-board computer, batteries good for six-plus hours of run time, and an ultra-wide full-color display.

"I’ve always had a bit of a thing for retro tech, and also for buying old tech that I wanted when I was a kid but couldn’t buy at the time," belsamber writes by way of introduction to the project. "I bought a [Nintendo] N64 in 2013 and loved it. I bought a Nissan 300ZX around the same time (not exactly tech, but still something I loved as a kid) when it was an ageing turbocharged sports car. Not my most effective use of money ever. But then neither was building a motorised couch."

"I was considering treating the TRS-80 simply as a serial console, but I think the device in that case would mostly sit on my shelf unused. So I started poking around at hardware that could be replaced to make it more useful. I came across the 'HSD088IPW1-B00' 8.8" LCD screen (1920×480 resolution – nice) on AliExpress, which is only slightly larger in each dimension than the the current Model 100 screen. That certainly made me think."

The finished build ended up centring around a Pine A64 LTS single-board computer, a low-cost device based on the Allwinner R18 quad-core Arm Cortex-A53 processor with 2GB of LPDDR3 memory. This was connected to a charging system with four 18650 cells running in parallel, good for six or more hours of active use despite the high-resolution but admittedly small display. The original clicky Alps keyboard, meanwhile, was retained intact.

The resulting device ends up looking remarkably similar to ClockworkPi's recently-announced DevTerm, due to launch this April, though lacks the gaming-centric control buttons and rollerball — games and mouse control not really being a thing around the time the original text-based TRS-80 Model 100 was designed. The display in belsamber's build is also considerably wider and higher resolution, at 1920x480 rather than the 1280x480 of ClockworkPi's reimagining.

"With tmux and two terminals side by side, this is incredibly functional for me," belsamber notes. "I spend a lot of time on the CLI of various network devices. I still need to add a couple of characters to the keyboard script so this is 100% usable, but otherwise the feel is great and there’s no distractions. Great battery life also."

The full write-up is spread across belsamber's blog in the Terminals category.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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