Radio Shack's 1986 electronic book

Here's a 1986 ad for Radio Shack's "Electronic Book," which connected to your computer's joystick port, and the interacted with software supplied on a cassette or disk. The peripheral cost $24.95, and new titles were $19.95 to $24.95 -- so the hardware prices have increased tenfold (unadjusted for inflation) in 25 years, while media costs have actually decreased.

Radio Shack 1986


  1. Yeah, but when you add in the cost of the PC, which is now no longer necessary, is the cost all that much different? So factor in inflation and increased functionality….

  2. Inflation, sure, but what about pixelation? the price per pixel has dropped dramatically!

      1. You joke, but I was ridiculously excited the day I got that floppy with the cartridge adapter for the CoCo. I was no longer limited to cartridges or (gasp) cassette tape games like “Pyramid” (which was awesome btw). It was a huge deal.

        1. I’m now wondering if we’re thinking of the same game, I don’t know. I found “Pyramid of Doom” by Scott Adams and it did not involve an ant eater. I believe the game I’m thinking of was just called “Pyramid” and may have been a magazine bundle or other such less mainstream distribution. It was still a text adventure. I may be wrong on the name – after all, I was seven years old.

  3. Two thoughts:

    1) Radio Shack really knew their target audience! (Referring of course to the nerd in the picture. Nerd here being a term of affection from a member of the group.)

    2) Since a modern eReader doesn’t need a computer, you really should include the cost of the computer in the Radio Shack version. A CoCo was around $300, so even without the floppy drive or monitor, the hardware has gotten cheaper when accounting for inflation. [ed. note: yes, I realize this all makes no sense, I’m just enjoying it.]

    1. I don’t exactly get the point of this, Cory. The cost of the hardware, in performance terms, has become far cheaper. I doubt you could even find a manufacturer for the level of hardware in a CoCo. Hell, I’ve thrown away dozens of computers far more powerful than a CoCo (yeah, among other trashings, I cleaned my 20 year collection of computers out in 2001; they filled a commercial dumpster to overflowing.)

      On the other hand, if I interpret you correctly, the physical media costs were far higher back then – hell, they give away 2GB mini-SDs when you buy parts from someplace like newegg or amazon, and I doubt the comparison of a CD to vinyl would prove me wrong.

      What is the relativity of cost between then and now, concerning the content, which is the really important thing, IMO?

      /asked Dad for an Apple II+ back in 81. He gave me two TRaSh-80 Model Is (with one 16K expansion add on and two floppies) that he made some sort of funky deal for $1
      //school sold 360K 5 1/4″ Verbatims for $7 each

  4. Ahhh, good times. I had both the CoCo and the giant brick of a floppy that is in the pic.

  5. I’m confused, how is the hardware ten time as expensive? Things that plug into “joystick” ports dont’ cost much at all, what am i missing here?

  6. 3 ring binder + 12 switches + wires + serial plug + assembly << $10.00 bulk $24 retail sounds like margins haven't changed much. you can replicate the experience by cutting out pieces of your favourite books and pasting them onto your iphone, handy for when you're low on battery.

    1. I can’t believe the ad even said 3fps right out. That’s crazy.

      @SKR: “Pyramid” was awesome! Carry the bananas around and that monkey would follow you. Set the anteater down to get rid of the ants. Oh, such good times. I’m not sure I ever finished it, though, I was a little young. (played it on the TI99/4a, was maybe around 7 when we got the thing.)

  7. More of Radio Shack’s geek-boy sales pitch (he’s at the end of the commercial):

  8. A unique and fun way for kids to learn – not to buy Radio Shack. I think someone saw the way most computer users learned to use a computer – with a book spread open over the keyboard – and thought hmmm, there’s a game in that!

    Oh but for the days of playing Dancing Demon on a Trash-80.

    Who am I kidding :D

  9. I bet there would have been a couple of kids who would have enjoyed that; they’d have been the same kids typing BASIC games out of a magazine.

    I used to get Compute! off the newsstand, and by the time I finally subscribed they ditched all the code.

  10. I still have one of those.

    I don’t know why – I’ve thrown out the Coco & everything else, but I still have that e-book.

    Perhaps I’ll sell it on eBay as a Kindle (Rev 1) ?

  11. Sell it on eBay as Kindle: The Prequel.

    And in 25 years we will think our little electronic toys (and their advertisements)were quaint and cute.

  12. the coco 2 and a vertical 180k floppy disc drive

    those were the days

    in the cartridge port of the coco you can clearly see the floppy drive cartridge, its not a cassette player at all standing next to the coco as someone mentioned earlier

    you could upgrade this particular drive to be a double sided 360k, but tandy / radio shack wanted to keep the price down

    the coco in its day was a mighty fine machine and easily adapted to the real world thats to analogue inputs on the joystick ports and a 8 bit wide parallel port/cartridge port on the right side

    the electronic book you see in this picture however didnt sell many units compared to many other hardware options you could buy for the coco at the time

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