With Radio Shack going into bankruptcy, Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recalls a time when their computers were the lifeblood for traveling sportswriters.
Radio Shack gave it up this week as a corporate entity and declared bankruptcy. A share of its stores will be rescued and operate in some form, but the way I see it, sportswriters who were traveling from the mid-‘80s to the arrival of the Internet age in the mid-‘90s have lost an old friend.
The fact that it’s an old friend – not a place visited regularly in the past 20 years – is a good reason that Radio Shack has gone into bankruptcy, of course.
Yes, it is hard to imagine we used to write and send stories on those computers. The sportswriter equivalent of walking five miles to school in three feet of snow, with no shoes.
The Silent Writer was an awful thing for a sportswriter on deadline, for several reasons:
One, there was a laborious correction process that required you to go to the empty space above a line of type, and go backwards to make a correction and then retype the entire line.
Two, there was a set of couplers, sort of a rubber brassiere, attached to the top of the machine. The connection between the couplers and the telephone was iffy, often causing repeated attempts to send copy to the main computer in the office.
Three, it needed electricity. There was always a scramble to secure an outlet in the press box. I was covering my first World Series in Yankee Stadium in 1981. Somehow, I managed to get my TI plugged into an outlet that had a connection with the scoreboard. When a new message was put up on the scoreboard, my computer would start spewing out letters aimlessly, and then I’d have to go through the correction process.
And Reusse concludes:
I had three or four Models 200s in my basement for a few years. Occasionally, when my laptop was balking, I would break one out and take it on a road trip.
The Tandy Radio Shack-80 Model 200 was the greatest machine in the history of the press box. I weep for all those Radio Shack outlets that were such friends to sportswriters, where you could get AA batteries in bulk at a good price and new cables when you accidentally left the last set in a press box in Atlanta.
Thank you, Radio Shack.