University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Electronic Artifacts Dug Up at the Museum

June 7, 2010

It’s only fitting that the technology used to do museum research and administer collections eventually becomes an artifact itself.  In the I.T. department we are reminded of this on a daily basis as our office constantly takes in broken and antiquated computers and either fixes or replaces them for museum staff.  We will occasionally see a computer which pre-dates the millennium but as long as I’ve been here I haven’t seen something as old and well preserved as what we uncovered last week.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, we are in the middle of some office migrations due to the upgrade of our Air Conditioning systems.  Last week the IT department received two large metal  storage cabinets from an office in the process of moving in which we discovered a very primitive portable computer.

Radio Shack TRS-80
Radio Shack TRS-80

The Radio Shack Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100 was released in 1983 at an introductory price of $1099 and was one of the first “notebook style” computers. It sported a 2.4mhz processor, 32k of RAM and ran on 4 AA batteries with a run time of up to 20 hours and up to 30 days of data retention in terms of memory. For those of you who do not speak geek a typical computer today is thousands of times more powerful than this computer.

80's Lady
80's Action Shot from the box.

At this point we haven’t been able to nail down who used the computer or what kind of work was done on it but we are certainly happy to add it to our collection of technological relic’s.

  • Beth

    Oh my gosh! My Dad had one of those!

  • Phil

    Take a look at for those who used these, and those who still do. I used one myself ’95-’02 for note taking in hs/college. No games or Internet to distract you in class

  • John Alderson

    The portable TRS-80 was widely used by newspaper reporters in the early to mid-1980s to cover stories on the road (I was one of those reporters). They were a pain in the butt because the modem was hard to use, the screen only showed a few lines at a time and the word processing was primative, but they revolutionized the business. Because of their problems (and because reporters are always complaining), the universal nickname for the the TRS-80 was the Trash 80.

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