Tandy PC-7 Pocket Computer

The PC-7 pocket computer was the first pocket computer I owned. In fact, it was the first computer I had at home. At the time I had the PC-7, my experience with computers was limited to what we had been exposed to in school, which were Apple computers.

I was familiar with BASIC and when I got the PC-7, I spent a lot of time writing programs, most of them involving random number based games and screen effects. Of course the screen size was only 12 characters and was not pixel addressable like the Apple ][ machines were, and the PC-7 had no buzzer or sound capability like the PC-2 had.

In fact, this is the only pocket computer Radio Shack sold which had absolutely no ability for memory expansion nor peripherals. I had wanted the PC-8, but was unable to get one, as they were always out of stock.

The PC-7 had quite a few icon characters allowing for interesting games to be programmed. It even had a full set of poker/playing card characters that could be used.

Radio Shack Pocket Computer Releases

I searched through RadioShackCatalogs.com from 1980 through 1993 to compile a timeline of pocket computer releases and catalog years when each pocket computer model was available. 

  • 1981 – PC-1 (new)
  • 1982 – PC-1
  • 1983 – PC-1, PC-2 (new)
  • 1984 – PC-2, PC-3 (new), PC-4 (new)
  • 1985 – PC-3a, PC-4
  • 1986 – PC-3a, PC-4b, PC-5 (new)
  • 1987 – PC-6 (new), PC-7 (new)
  • 1988 – PC-6, PC-7, PC-8 (new)
  • 1989 – PC-6, PC-7
  • 1990 – PC-6
  • 1991 – PC-6
  • 1992 – PC-6

The PC-7 was introduced in catalog year 1987 and sold through catalog year 1989. The PC-6 was released the same year (for significantly more money) but continued being sold through 1992, the longest running model in the entire line.

PC-7 in 1987 Catalog, from RadioShackCatalogs.com

The PC-7 was a rebadged Casio FX-5200, which had only 512 bytes of memory. The PC-7 had the 1k memory expansion built in, giving it 1,568 bytes of program memory after a reset. This reminds me of the PC-4 which had also been released with such a small amount of program memory built in. However, the PC-4 did have a memory expansion module available and it also had peripherals, a cassette interface and printer as available options.

PC-7 After Reset

Unique Design

The PC-7 had a folding design, with the alpha keys on the flexible membrane side. Back then, I did not have any issues with this unfortunate design, but over time, the flexible membrane that connects to the main PCB wears. Even mine shows signs of keys sometimes not working on the first try.

It’s interesting that Radio Shack released both the PC-6 and PC-7 foldable models in the same catalog year.

Tandy PC-6

The PC-7 had to be used on a flat surface – holding it was a bit unwieldy. Folding the keyboard membrane all the way back around the calculator was a bad idea.

Tandy PC-7 and PC-8 Comparison

When comparing the PC-7 and PC-8, the size is the same. The PC-8 has a hard cover, while the PC-7 might not survive long when kept in a pocket. The PC-8 on the other hand would easily survive.

Further, the PC-8 managed to pack all numeric and alpha keys on the face (like almost all other pocket computers of the era) without a folding design.

Final Thoughts

Although this is my least favourite of the Radio Shack line of pocket computers, it is the most nostalgic for me, as it is the only one I actually owned back when these were sold.

With no peripheral options, the folding design, limited memory, the PC-7 was unique across the line of pocket computers radio shack sold.

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