I recently discovered treasure at a Goodwill store. I saw it on a shelf – a complete TRS-80 Color Computer 2 with the box and manuals. It has never been my intention to collect retro computers – only video game systems. But when I saw that it had a cartridge slot on the side and it came with about seven game cartridges – I was able to convince myself that it really IS a video game system. It even came with a joystick. So I bought it and immediately took it home.
According to the manual, this powerhouse computer has a 6809E microprocessor running at a blazing 0.895 mHz. That almost a whole megahertz! Top it off with a whopping 16K of RAM and I’ll have hours of programming fun. It actually comes with a handy booklet that teaches how to program in color BASIC. I can write programs in COLOR!!! I can take over the world! That is, as long as I never turn off the computer, because I don’t have a cassette tape recorder to save or load programs.
Maybe, I’ll come back to programming later. For now, I want to play some games. I have a whole stack of them. Like I said earlier, these cartridges are proof positive that the CoCo2 (I recently learned that is a nickname for the computer) was designed for games. To come across such a stack of games and all in good condition is a real find for a retro game collector like me. The joystick is something of a disappointment. It is proprietary to the Radio Shack computer family and it is an analog stick with no centering. Analog is good for precision, but not having it auto center when you let go of the stick can be a problem.
But before I worry about the joystick, I have to solve the problem of video. There is a composite plug on the back of the computer, and there is a Radio Frequency adapter in the box. However, most modern televisions don’t have the antenna attachments that were on older tv sets. Radio Shack to the rescue. I went to the local store and asked the sales person for some support with my TRS-80 Color Computer. She had a confused look on her face until I told her I was only joking. (She had not actually been born yet when this computer came out) She helped me find what I was looking for, an adapter that has a female RCA jack and converts it to a coaxial cable plug. So I bought it, took it home, and screwed in the adapter to the cable/antenna on the back of my TV. I plugged in the computer, turned it on, and set the television to channel four. The BASIC screen came right up. The adapter was less than $5 and it works great. Now I could play some games. These games were around the same time as the Atari 2600, the Mattell Intellivision, and the Colecovision.
The first game I tried was called Downland. It is a 2D side scrolling adventure game that almost had the feel of a Super Mario Bros. game. My character was trapped in a dripping cave filled with treasures and keys.
He jumps and climbs to get around. Sometimes when he gets a key a new door is revealed. I know this information about the game only from watching someone play it on Youtube. Unfortunately, my joystick only let him move to the left – although the jump button seemed to work fine. I didn’t feel like figuring out why, so I turned off the computer, removed the cartridge, and inserted Color Baseball. This game was exactly what it claimed to be – baseball in color. The baseball players looked like little stick people but they looked good enough. For some reason the joystick worked fine on this game.
I was able to pitch and play defense. It took no time at all to get use to controlling the defenders, a quick button push in the direction of third base would activate the third baseman. I eventually got three outs and was able to take a turn at bat. It was surprisingly challenging to get a hit but I got the hang of it. This game would have been a lot of fun back in 1983. However, my favorite game so far has been Demon Attack. It is pretty much the same game as you may have played on other systems. It worked only with the keyboard, which was fine with me. I played this game for quite a while. The game is in the space invader genre, but with more level variety and a boss level. Graphics were fluid and the game looked great on the system. However, it was about this time that I noticed I was not hearing sound for any of these games, so perhaps I’m doing something wrong with my setup. I think the sound is supposed to come from the TV just like it did for the Atari.
I’ll try out some more games and post them in a future article. Plus, I want to figure out why I’m not getting sound. Thanks for joining me today for this retro gaming blast from the past.