The eighties were a great time for computer innovation. It seemed like every electronics company was getting into the act, and it was a fun time. The Timex computer was one of those efforts where I have personal experience.
I had always been fascinated by computers, but they were far too expensive for my banking salary back in those days. Enter the Timex.
The computer was $99.95. I added a 16K Ram pack for another $49.95. That is 16K, not 16 Meg or 16 Gig! Programs were stored on a regular cassette recorder, and the computer attached to your TV as a monitor. The computer had a small membrane keyboard and a version of BASIC built in.
Software could be purchased separately on cassettes. They were expensive and took 20 minutes or so to load! But that built in BASIC did allow me my first taste of programming and I was hooked.
Computers and software could be purchased almost anywhere. I bought my Timex at K-Mart! Department stores and toy stores were the best sources for computers and software and I visited them often to see what was new.
The Timex was a joint venture between Timex and Sinclair Research, a pioneering British electronics company. It was launched in 1982 with a $99.95 price tag.
I read that Timex sold 600,000 of the units in 1983, advertising it as the first computer you could buy for under $100. (Wikipdia) It was even more popular in the UK and Europe.
The machine was later eclipsed by more powerful computers from Commodore and others. ( My next machine was a Commodore 64.)
The Timex Computer was a simple machine, with a Z80 processor running at 3.25 MHz and 4K of RAM. It produced a black and white display on your TV. The built in BASIC allowed many people (myself included) to try their hand at simple programming. Equally simple games took forever to load from cassette tapes.
The display was 24 lines by 22 columns. Limited geometric shapes were accessible via the membrane keyboard. The low amount of memory severely limited what you could do, but a 16K expansion cartridge that sold for $49.95 helped. The keyboard was awkward and tiny, but what could you expect for under $100!
The Timex will always hold a place in my heart as my first real computer. Looking online I can see you can still buy supposedly working units for about $100. It is tempting, just for nostalgia’s sake!
Image by MarcoTangerino, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons