Former Tandy CEO and PC innovator John Roach dead at 83

Roach led the push to bring the Tandy TRS-80 into American homes.

Ann E. Yow-Dyson via Getty Images

John Roach — the former chief of RadioShack parent company Tandy who later became one of the lead proponents of the personal computer — has died at 83, reported The New York Times. The Fort Worth native died in the city where he was raised, and no cause of death was given by his wife. As an employee of Tandy in the 70s, Roach convinced RadioShack executives to sell the TRS-80, a desktop microcomputer that retailed for just under $600, in its stores nationwide. This was at a time when few complete, pre-assembled computers were on the market. The TRS-80 first hit RadioShack stores in 1977, and by 1981 became the largest-selling computer of all time, beating out Apple’s early offerings.

"It is obvious that the microcomputer is at the center of a communications and information revolution. I believe that within 20 years most Americans will be computer users and will benefit from the attendant mental advantage,” Roach told Creative Computing in 1984.

Roach was born on November 22, 1938 in Stamford, Texas. He started his career at Tandy Corporation as a data processing manager in 1967. Once a top-seller of CB radios through its RadioShack stores, the Tandy Corporation was then in a sales slump due to a decline in demand. The TRS-80, which sold exclusively at RadioShack stores, helped revive the company. By the time Roach became chief operating officer of Tandy in 1980, the company had close to 40 percent of the personal computer market.

The very first TRS-80 came equipped with a Zilog 80 processor, 4 KB DRAM, 64-character per line video monitor and Level I BASIC language interpreter. Its keyboard could only type uppercase letters. But the units sold like wildfire, and became a favorite among computer hobbyists and business professionals. By the early ‘90s, the TRS-80’s market share took a nosedive, overtaken by offerings from Apple and IBM. Roach retired as chief executive of Tandy in 1998.

“I was saddened to hear of John’s passing. John’s vision and his ability to get early computers, like the TRS-80, into people’s hands through RadioShack made him one of the true pioneers of this industry,” Bill Gates said in a statement to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He helped create a market that so many people and companies benefited from as the personal computing industry took shape.”

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