Harry McCracken of Time takes a look back at one of the heavyweights in the earliest days of personal computers. I got my start learning BASIC on a TRS-80 Model III, so the silver-and-black box has a special place in my heart. This also spawned the Model 100, arguably the real forerunner of the iPad (via The Loop):
At first, Radio Shack envisioned the TRS-80 as a solder-it-yourself kit which it wanted to sell for $199. Leininger convinced the company to build a fully-assembled, plug-and-play computer. It ended up starting at an economical-sounding $399.95, but that assumed that you supplied your own monitor, a configuration I don’t recall ever seeing in the wild. $599.95 got you a system with Radio Shack’s 12″ black-and-white display, 4KB of memory and a cassette-tape deck which let you save and load programs (albeit very slowly and very unreliably).