VCF-80 Model 100

My 'modern' take on the Tandy TRS-80 Model 100.

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I keep seeing all these gutted or "inspired by Model 100" builds, so I decided to start designing an 'updated' TRS-80 Model 100. Introducing the VCF-80, Model 100

VCF-80 Model 100
A modern revision of the Tandy TRS-80

It is a popular trend among makers to re-purpose old electronics as housings for modern single-board computers. Many call them “cyberdecks,” based on William Gibson’s concept of a portable computer from his 1984 book, Neuromancer. I have wanted to undertake a similar project for some time using a Raspberry Pi to develop a portable and functional development platform for programming microcontrollers and other projects with Python. I recently acquired an original Tandy TRS-80 Model 100 with the intention of converting it for that purpose. The unit, listed as “for-parts and not functioning,” arrived at my house last week. I opened it and discovered a very clean, well-cared for, unit which seemed odd. So, I opened it and got to work with my multimeter. With minimal troubleshooting, I found and replaced a few damaged components on the main board. Next thing you know, I had the computer booting into its pre-loaded operating system, TRSDOS (Tandy Radio Shack Disk Operating System).

Now, these computers are considered by many to be one of the first versions of the modern-day laptop and have become somewhat of a collector’s item. The Model 100 was even considered one of Bill Gates’s favorite machines to write code for while he was on the development team at Microsoft. These computers have a rich history, and I just can’t bring myself to destroy a perfectly functional (if not ungodly slow and quirky) unit. SO… I decided to revise the original model and make a “modern” version of the TRS-80. A project I named the VCF-80 Model 100 (VladCraftForge). 

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  • Keyboard Wired and first prototype build!

    Evan Scheel12/06/2023 at 06:14 0 comments

    Got my custom aluminum keyboard plate over the weekend and I was able to get my switch matrix built and wired up. I finally had the opportunity to put the screen, keyboard, Pi, and power supply together and do my first semi-functional prototype!
    Will be finalizing the firmware over the next few weeks and designing plates for i/o and switches while also relocating the retroCart so I can breakout the gpio pins on the Pi.

  • Fitting the new display

    Evan Scheel11/20/2023 at 19:41 3 comments

    My new display arrived over the weekend and I took some time to take measurements and get proper fitment on my model.
    I haven't decided exactly how I want to do the screen design quite yet. I have been able to flush mount the screen to the face of the model and it looks sleek as hell, but I would like it if I could still keep the lifted "bezel" that the Model 100 has.
    I have mocked up both, however, the latter requires a lot more detail work as the bezel needs to be printed separately and fused to the completed shell without any gaps. I'll need to play around with it a bit more, but either way, I think it looks awesome!

    Just found out my custom keyboard plate was shipped from Xometry! Once that is up and built, I should be able to do my first functional prototype.

  • Finalizing the keyboard design

    Evan Scheel11/18/2023 at 07:08 0 comments

    When I started this project I knew that the keyboard would be one the most important and time-consuming components to design and build.
    My first version was a modified 60 layout that I was really excited about using. But after looking for keycaps and printing a few test plates I realized finding a keycap set that would fit the odd key sizes would be a nightmare for me and anyone who builds one of these in the future.

    After playing around with this layout, I realized I wanted something a bit more 'standard' that would allow me to use any style of keycap without concerns.
    I'm actually very happy about how the final design came out. The design takes inspiration from the Nuphy keyboards and will include 12 function keys integrated above the keyboard like the original Model 100.

  • Adding a RetroCART slot

    Evan Scheel11/18/2023 at 07:00 1 comment

    As soon as I saw this project by Tom Nardi I knew I should add it to my design. I started by trying to integrate his design into my shell but didn't like how much space it took up. So I went about designing a more compact version that I could easily install in my final build.
    The next step is fitting the LCD screen while I wait for my custom keyboard plate to get cut and delivered!

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Nik wrote 11/28/2023 at 19:49 point

I want to follow this closely. While I have never gotten my hands on the fabled Model 100. They always fascinated me. A modern take on it and also one that might be able to be a modern replacement of my aging AlphaSmart Pro word processor would be great. I'm interested in what work you'll be doing and if assistance can be offered.

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Ted Russ wrote 11/27/2023 at 12:47 point

I had a Model 100 that I swapped for some other device in 1991, used it for twenty years as my note-taker and general ideas cacther. I found an extra memory module for it but never a modem (Australian model 100 modem not fitted) - and it would still be in use today but while moving across Australia in 2012 it was in a removal carton that got left out in the rain without me knowing about it, for six weeks... I'll stay tuned to this project for the nostalgia, thank yoy for sharing.

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Justin wrote 11/23/2023 at 16:45 point

Great project! I have a 100 and a 102 and I’m also glad you saved the one you got. They are fun, historic little machines that are pretty interesting to program “on the metal” as well. 

Particularly impressive that you’re tackling the keyboard, too. 

For your project, it could indeed be fun to simulate the original character display, but open up the full capabilities of the display for graphics programming, for a best of both worlds. 

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Ricardo Bánffy wrote 11/22/2023 at 21:38 point

Do you plan to use a PCB for the keyboard or do point-to-point soldering? A PCB would be more complex, but could be used to mount and run power to the display, the Pico and the main computer board.

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Evan Scheel wrote 11/22/2023 at 21:47 point

I might design a PCB for everything... eventually.
For now, It's all pretty experimental, so I'm going to hand-wire a matrix to a Pi Pico along with the trackball so I can move it between prototypes. I'm trying to keep the GPIO pins on the Pi as clear as I can since I want to break them out as part of the case design. So it just made more sense to do everything HID standalone with the Pico at this point.

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Cees Meijer wrote 11/19/2023 at 21:44 point

Great project. Something like this has been on my list as well. But I found the main issue to be the selection of an appropriate LCD screen. I'm curious to see what you come up with.

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Evan Scheel wrote 11/21/2023 at 18:49 point

Hey Cees!
I'm implementing an 8.8-inch ultrawide display with a capacitive touchscreen. I did my first mock-up last night and it seems to be a good alternative to the smaller screens I've seen others use in Model 100 conversions.
I'm not sure if I've settled on a final mounting solution, but I should have better ideas when I have a chance to print and build my first functional prototype!

Thanks for checking out my project!

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Cees Meijer wrote 11/21/2023 at 20:10 point

Ah, yes, that's an option too. I was always looking for 'real' multiline LCD character displays, but on a display like this you can probably show a realistic simulation of such.

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Boxerbomb wrote 11/17/2023 at 14:12 point

Thanks for taking this on. The TRS-80 Model 100 is one of my favorite retro-computers.

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Liam Proven wrote 11/17/2023 at 12:29 point

What @Dan Maloney said!

I have been wanting something like this for a long long time, as I said in print a dozen years ago:

I've moved country twice since I wrote that, but the Z88 I bought while researching that article is sitting by my desk right now...

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Dan Maloney wrote 11/15/2023 at 18:19 point

Let me be the first to congratulate you on NOT sacrificing that Model 100 for this project. I love that you're starting this from scratch, looking forward to updates. Thanks for posting!

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Evan Scheel wrote 11/16/2023 at 17:41 point

Thanks Dan! 

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