Emulate the TRS-80 home computer with Linux

Last Updated on April 22, 2022

Emulation is the practice of using a program (called an emulator) on a PC to mimic the behaviour of a home computer or a video game console, in order to play (usually retro) games on a computer.

Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single non-technical user.

Back in the 1980s, home computers came to the forefront of teenagers’ minds. Specifically, the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and Atari ST were extremely popular. They were hugely popular home computers targeted heavily towards games, but they also ran other types of software.

The TRS-80 Micro Computer System (renamed the Model I) is a desktop microcomputer launched in 1977 and sold by Tandy Corporation. It is one of the earliest mass-produced and mass-marketed retail home computers. It spawned a whole series of later models that used the TRS-80 name even though they were unrelated.

The TRS-80 has a full-stroke QWERTY keyboard, the Zilog Z80 processor, 4 KB DRAM standard memory, small size and desk footprint, floating-point Level I BASIC language interpreter in ROM, and 64-character per line video monitor.

TRS-80 Emulators

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trs80gp is a well-featured emulator. It emulates the “gray” line of TRS-80 computers made by Tandy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This includes the  TRS-80 Model I, II, III, 4 and 16 Microcomputers, and others. There’s also support for the TRS-80-DT-1 and Videotex terminals. The emulator provides ROMS for the Model I, III, 4, and 4P.

The emulator supports DSK, DMG, IMG and HFE disk formats. It can run at full PC speed, supports Model III high speed cassettes, and has a built-in Z80 debugger.

trs80grp has a good range of features.

We are also admirers of the SDLTRS project although it’s not as full-featured as trs80grp.

TRS-80 Software

By 1979, the TRS-80 had the largest selection of software in the microcomputer market. Until 1982, the TRS-80 was the best-selling PC line.

Besides BASIC, programs to drive modems, and early spreadsheet and word processing programs (such as the groundbreaking Electric Pencil program), a hugely popular series of games for the TRS-80 were Scott Adams’ Adventure series, plain-text adventure games.

Notable sites that offer archives of TRS-80 programs include Ira Goldklang’s TRS-80 Revived Site.

Home Computers
AmigaFamily of personal computers introduced by Commodore in 1985
Amstrad CPCCombined the computer, keyboard and data storage in a single unit
Atari STA popular line of personal computers from Atari Corporation
BBC MicroSeries of computers designed and built by Acorn
Commodore 64Hugely popular home computer
DragonBuilt around the Motorola MC6809E processor running at 0.89 MHz
ElectronA microcomputer sported a Synterek SY6502A CPU clocked at 2MHz
MSXA popular range particularly in Japan
OricThe underrated Oric-1 and Oric Atmos
QLBased on a Motorola 68008 CPU clocked at 7.5 MHz with 128KB of RAM
TRS-80Very early mass-produced and mass-marketed retail home computers
VIC-208-bit home computer that was released in 1980/1
ZX80Predecessor to the ZX81; ignited the UK's home computer market
ZX81Low-cost introduction to home computing notorious for its RAM pack wobble
ZX SpectrumOne of the biggest selling home computers
Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.

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