Bill Gates on the TRS-80 Model 100

The Model 100 was the last machine that Bill Gates
himself actually worked on the code for. Here's what
he had to say about it in an interview a few years ago:

Q: One of the most interesting machines that came out of
this area was the TRS-80 Model 100. Do you want to say
a few words about Microsoft's role with that machine?

Bill Gates: Yes. This is in a sense my favorite machine,
I mean by today's standards it is kind of a pathetic machine.
But what happened was Kazuhiko Nishi, my friend from Japan,
came over and said that we could have an 8-line LCD with
40 characters. And up to then all we had was four lines
by 20 characters. I didn't think using 4 by 20 you could do
much that was interesting. But, when he said we could go
8 by 40, then I got to be pretty fascinated with the idea
of a portable machine. It wasn't just taking your desktop
machine and trying to shrink it down, because battery life
would be a problem, and ease of use would be a problem.
But just taking the things you want as you move around and
making it pretty inexpensive. So, this machine came out
for $500. Jey Suzuki, from Japan, and I, wrote the ROM
in this machine. It is a 32K ROM. 

Part of my nostalgia about this machine is this was the last
machine where I wrote a very high percentage of the code in
the product. I did all the design and debugging along with Jey.
And it is a cool user interface, because although most of the
code is a BASIC Interpreter, we did this little file system
where you never had to think about saving anything. You just
had this menu where you pointed to things. It was a great
little editor and scheduler. We crammed it all into a 32K ROM.
And really designed it in an easy to use way around these
special keys up here. This machine was incredibly popular with
journalists. Even though it came out over 11 years ago now, it
was out by 1982. You still see some journalists using this,
although the technology has gone way beyond it. 

We had some great things here like we had a way that you could
add a bar code reader to this. We thought maybe people would
distribute software on bar codes. In fact, Byte Magazine got
into that for a while. We had a lot of ways you could extend
this by putting a new ROM in the bottom. And it was sold not
only in the U.S. by Radio Shack, but NEC sold it in Japan, and
Olivetti sold it in Europe. And the company who made it, Kyocera,
became a good partner of ours for lots of future projects.

Q: You may actually want to turn it on so that we can show it.

Bill Gates: Let's make sure that this machine is still running.
My God, it's a machine that works! I don't know how LCDs work in
a camera. What you had here is just your files. And you would just
move the cursor to the one that you wanted and hit the Enter key.
And then you'd be back editing that file. So, if we go into text,
you can type in the name of the program and it would know that's
what you wanted. It is a nice screen editor. You can just move
the cursor around. The only real problem with this product is
that the keyboard was noisy enough that if you sat in a meeting
with it, it was still considered anti-social because you'd just
be tapping away during the meeting. So actually we did a version,
just a slight modification, soon after it came out that had a very
silent keyboard so that people could sit in meetings and use it.
It is really a nice machine. A great, great way that we use these
function keys. 

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