Tandy Model 2000; speed, style, and support. (evaluation) Russ Lockwood.
Tandy presents a small business computer with sleek styling, advanced technology, and excellent graphics.
When we unpacked the Tandy Model 2000, we were pleasantly surprised by its sleek dimensions. After years of seeing boxy TRS-80 models swathed in battleship gray, the sleek white exterior of the Model 2000 really caught our eye. And lest you think beauty is only skin deep, we hasten to add that the Model 2000 incorporates several advanced features that make it a serious contender in the business marketplace.
Unlike its Radio Shack predecessors, the Model 2000 consists of three components: a display, detachable keyboard, and system unit. System Unit
Tandy seems to have designed the Model 2000 with convenience in mind. Set into the front of the system unit are the power and reset switches, both recessed to avoid accidental pressing. This is certainly a pleasant change from switches that require you to reach around the back of a system unit to turn the machine on and off.
Furthermore, most other computers force you to remove the cover to install expansion boards. Not so the Model 2000. At the rear of the system unit, four metal plates held on by plastic clips cover the four expansion slots. Installing an expansion board entails pulling off a plate and inserting the board horizontally (not vertically) into the machine. It is fast and simple.
What is not so simple, and certainly inconvenient, is getting the graphics expansion board ready for installation. The monochrome graphics board comes ready to install, but the color graphics board requires extensive preparation before you plug it into the rear expansion slot.
Actually, the monochrome and color graphics boards are the same board. If you add the Color Graphics Option Kit to the monochrome graphics board, you get a color graphics board. This means you must plug 16 chips into the appropriate sockets on the board, all the while double checking that the pins line up and the chips are oriented correctly. You see, according to the manual, "if you insert the chips incorrectly, you will destroy the board."
Even worse, you must cut a trace (wire) on the board with an X-acto knife. In addition, our graphics board had six hand-wired modifications, that is, a wire stretched between two chips and soldered into place. The word that comes to mind is "kludge."
The entire procedure is not difficult, but why should the user have to worry about building and possibly frying a board? Note that Tandy recommends that you have the Color Graphics Option Kit installed by a qualified technician. Also note that you will pay extra for the installation. The choice is up to you.
Our unit also came with a 128K RAM board, which does not fit into an expansion slot. The manual notes that the board "requires Radio Shack installation." Well, not quite. You must remove the cover, being careful that the electronic innards do not spill all over the floor, but the board inserts easily into the machine. DE Fault in Default
The system unit houses two floppy disk drives, stacked vertically, which store a whopping 720K each. The drives use a two-piece door to lock a disk in place. You push the disk in and pull down the top part of the door. When you want the disk out, you press the bottom part of the door inward, which releases the top part and trips a spring that ejects the disk. Frankly, a rotating knob would have been good enough.
Unlike other computers, Tandy uses the lower drive as the default drive. Unfortunately, it is not labeled as such on the machine. If you try to boot the system from the top drive, absolutely nothing happens. No error message. No disk drive light. No keyboard response. Absolutely nothing. We thought we were in the Twilight Zone.
Once you do patch everything together, the Model 2000 runs like a charm. The 16-bit 80186 microprocessor, a development of the 8086, operates at 8 MHz and reformats text and recalculates spreadsheets with amazing speed. The Model 2000 completed Ahl's Simple Benchmark Test in seven seconds, with an accuracy rating of 0.005859375 and a random number rating of 7.2.
The system unit also contains built-in parallel and serial ports and a monochrome monitor interface. The system performs as reassuring self-test upon power up.
Tandy includes a clever touch in the system unit. The unit sits practically flush with the table as do most other desktop computers. However, a portion in the front of the system unit is slightly raised, leaving a storage space big enough to tuck half the keyboard out of the way. Keyboard
The Model 2000 keyboard is connected to the system unit by a three-foot coiled cord. Tandy placed the connector underneath the raised portion of the system unit on the back wall of this storage space. You must lift the unit to plug in or unplug the keyboard--a bit awkward, but if the computer usually stays on one desk, this presents no problem at all.
On the plus side, this means the keyboard connects to the front of the system unit, which is much more convenient than looping the cord around from the rear.
The keyboard is as sleek as the system unit and extremely light. The alphanumeric section of the keyboard uses standard Selectric layout, although we prefer larger Shift keys. The numeric keypad only partially doubles for cursor control with Page Up, Page Down, and End. The other keys on the keypad are the tilde, accent mark, backslash, and vertical em dash.
The keypad includes a separate Enter key and a raised bump on the 5 key for fast data entry. however, conspicuous by their absence from the keypad are the addition and subtraction keys, an omission which may slow down data entry. The Insert, Delete, and Break keys are above the numeric keypad.
The rest of the cursor control keys are crammed between the alphanumeric keys and the numeric keypad. Three of the four keys are arranged in logical diamond formation, with the down arrow placed in between the left and right arrows.
Twelve function keys stretch across the top of the alphanumeric section of the keyboard. Above the function keys, slight depression hold plastic cards that remind you what the function keys stand for. Tandy provides the plastic cards, but any cardstock will do.
Overall, the keys have a good feel, although they tend to have a soft touch. Aural feedback is fair, sounding a subdued click with each keystroke. Display
Our evaluation unit came with a 14" RGB color monitor. Tandy calls it the CM-1 High Resolution Color Display monitor. We call it dynamite.
Character resolution of the CM-1 is 24 lines of 80 characters. The character set is the same as on an IBM PC, including 96 ASCII letters, numbers, and symbols, with an additional 140 foreign, mathematical, and graphics characters.
The display has a sharp graphics resolution of 640 by 400 pixels in eight colors from a 15-color palette using the high resolution graphics option. you may also hook up the Model 2000 to an color television set and use a medium graphics resolution of 320 by 200 pixels in four colors. The high resolution monochrome option (with VM-1 monitor) displays either 640 by 400 pixels or 640 by 200.
All the expected graphics statements and commands are implemented in Microsoft GW Basic, which is a refinement of Microsoft Basic for MS-DOS operating systems and includes special graphics and sound capabilities.
The CM-1 monitor has an adjustable three-position steel bar to tilt the monitor five or ten degrees for viewing comfort. The contrast, brightness, and horizontal centering knobs are concealed behind a panel on the front of the monitor. There is also separate power switch, located on the front of the monitor. Operating System
The Model 2000 uses the popular MS-DOS from Microsoft, which is used on the IBM PC and virtually all other Microsoft GW Basic and a rudimentary maillist program (written in Basic) on the MS-DOS disk. Software
Although Tandy compares the Model 2000 with the IBM PC, if you are looking for complete PC compatibility, you may want to look elsewhere. Just about every off-the-shelf PC software package we tried on the Model 2000--business, education, and entertainment--failed to run.
Tandy posts a list of 42 PC programs that are supposed to run on the Model 2000 without modification, including Peachtree accounting packages, IUS accounting packages, and Open Systems accounting packages. There is also a list of 49 package that do not run on the Model 2000--a lift to which we can certainly add.
The main source of Model 2000 software is Tandy left, which the machine included Lotus 1-2-3, MultiMate, Multiplan, and MAI Inventory; all four packages worked perfectly the first time around. However, the Model 200 version of MultiMate does not include a spelling checker at this time, although Tandy says that a new version is under development.
Other software packages available that we did not get a chance to try are the pfs series, Microsoft Word, dBase II, Infocom Planetfall and Witness, and Microsoft Pascal compiler and Fortran.
The speed difference between the 80186 microprocessor and the 8088 saves you time and makes you appreciate the Model 2000 even more. Documentation and Support
The introductory booklet that comes with the Model 2000 is adequate, although it leaves us hungry for more information about the computer. The booklet provides a quick overview of using MS-DOS commands, running the maillist program, and troubleshooting problems. Tandy also includes a quick reference booklet for MS-DOS commands.
The Basic, MS-DOS, and software specific manuals contain more extensive and detailed information. The applications manuals seem to be the standard guides issued by the manufacturers, re-worked slightly to take into account differences that take advantage of the features of the Model 2000.
As for accessibility of support, you have only to ask yourself "how close is my local Tandy Computer Center?" Easy access to support and guaranteed compatibility and availability of peripherals and software have long been among the strongest selling points of Tandy/Radio Shack computers. Pricing
The Tandy Model 2000 carries a competitive price of $2750 for a base system with 128K RAM, two 5.25", 720K floppy disk drives, one serial port, and one parallel port. The base system with a 10Mb hard disk in place of one floppy drive carries a suggested retail price of $4250.
The high resolution monochrome graphics board carries a suggested retail price of $449, and the color graphics kit sells for $199 more. An additional 128K RAM for internal installation is $299, and a 128K RAM expansion board (fits in an expansion slot) costs $499.
The VM-1 monochrome monitor costs $249, while the CM-1 RGB color monitor sells for $799. A tilt and swivel monitor pedestal for the VM-1 is $89.95. A mouse controller board and clock calendar cost $119.95, and the mouse itself costs $99.95. Decisions, Decisions
As you can tell, we like the Tandy Model 2000, especially the excellent graphics capability for a business computer. We found it inconvenient at first to remember that the bottom disk drive was the default drive, and we think that the graphics board should come assembled, but we did get used to the drives, and tinkering with the board presented no major problems.
We are certainly impressed with the speed of the Model 2000. This is a real benefit when reformatting text, recalculating spreadsheets, and sorting databases. As with any new machine, the scarcity of software can be a problem. However, Tandy has already converted enough successful and realible business programs to satisfy the needs of most users.
We caustion you not to consider the Model 2000 an IBM PC compatible. It is not and was never meant to be. Look to the Tandy Models 1000 and 1200 for PC compatibility, but not the Model 2000.
All in all, we commend Tandy for making an advanced machine. It is fast, offers many features, and sports a competitive price. Business people and professionals looking for an office computer backed by the legendary support of Tandy should consider the Model 2000.
Products: Tandy Model 2000 (computer)