RadioShack’s 14-Foot Laptop: The Technologizer Review

By  |  Friday, August 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm

The Shack's LaptopEarlier this week, I was worried about RadioShack’s apparent plan to rebrand itself as THE SHACK but intrigued by its announcement of Netogether, an event that involved giant laptops in New York and Times Square broadcasting live video between each other. I headed to San Francisco’s E mbarcadero today to check out the proceedings–and particular, to evaluate the humongous notebook computer. After the jump, everything you ever wanted to know about it–or at least as much as I could figure out–in handy FAQ form.

Q.What’s Netogether?

Concerts, comedy, and other entertainment, beamed between San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza and New York City’s Times Square and displayed on the two ginormous notebooks. During the forty minutes or so I spent at the event, there was minimal live entertainment on the west coast, so we mostly watched a singer I didn’t recognize croon in Times Square. It kind of reminded me of Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve, except without Dick Clark, and in the summer.

Q. Did it draw a big crowd?

The feed from New York seemed to show a busy event–hey, it’s Times Square!–but there were very few people at the San Francisco version when I was there.

The Shack Crowd

Q. You intentionally cropped that photo to make the place look empty.

A. Um, that isn’t a question. Anyhow, here’s another shot.

The Shack Throngs

Q. Any theories on why there weren’t more people?

A. I visited during working hours, during a period without much live onstage activity. It was an uncommonly gorgeous day out–if you were playing hooky, Netogether had a lot of competition. Also, I’m not sure if the average San Franciscan knows where Justin Herman Plaza is, and even Google Maps is flummoxed. (I know it as “that little open area behind the Grand Hyatt across the Embarcadero from the Ferry Building.”)

Oh, and there was a little street fair going on next to Netogether, and it was teeming with folks…


Q. I want to judge the crowds for myself.

A. Okay, okay–THE SHACK has a live feed you can check out. Looking at it now, more San Franciscans have found their way to the event.

The Shack Live Feed

Q. Did Netogether help you figure out whether RadioShack is changing its name to THE SHACK (it’s said that its new branding “is not about changing our name,” but hasn’t said whether it is changing its name.)

A. Sort of. Most of the banners simply referred to THE SHACK, but some mentioned RadioShack, and the SF- and NYC-based hosts occasionally called the event’s sponsor RadioShack. I gather that the chain will still answer to RadioShack if called that, but would prefer to be known as THE SHACK–sort of like a middle-aged man named Richard who suddenly wants to be known as Rick RICK.

The Shack Banner

Q. Enough about Netogether. Just how big is this notebook?

A. Well, that’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. The Shack’s press release says that the models on both coasts are “17-foot laptop computers.” But signage at the event says they’re 14 feet. I didn’t have a tape measure with me, so I’m going to err on the side of caution and assume that what I saw was a 14-foot laptop, and further assume that THE SHACK used the standard approach of using that terminology to indicate that the screen is 14 feet diagonally. Fair enough? Anyhow, here it is. That’s the Ferry Building in the background.

The Shack Laptop

Q. How much does the notebook weigh?

A. THE SHACK doesn’t seem to be saying, but we can estimate, right? I’m not great at math, but has a 14-inch Toshiba laptop that weighs 5.8 pounds. A 14-foot laptop would be twelve times the size of a 14-foot one, so it would presumably weigh about twelve times as much. That means that the giant laptop weighed slightly under seventy pounds. Not exactly featherweight, but pretty impressive for a computer the size of a ranch house.

Q. What brand and/or model is it? THE SHACK sells HP, Toshiba, Acers, and Lenovos, and once upon a time, it sold the first popular laptop under its own name.

I saw no logo. Some normal-sized computers being used by the AV crew appeared to be Dells, but my instinct is to believe that the giant one must surely bear the proud name that was once carried by all Radio Shack computers. Let’s call it the Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK Tandy TRS-80 Model 14000, shall we?

Q. What’s the story on specs?

The Radio Shack RadioShack THE SHACK Tandy TRS-80 Model 14000 sat behind barriers, but I was able to check out many of the key features rom a distance. It has a more-than-full-size keyboard with a roomy touchpad (and oddly squarish touchpad buttons)…

The Shack Laptop Keyboard

Video out (with a nonstandard Monstro-VGA connector), and something that’s either a Kensington lock slot (not in use) or a somewhat oddly-placed USB port, and a couple of audio jacks–one of which is oddly inaccessible…

The Shack VGA

A convenient modem jack…

The Shack Modem

…and an oddly-placed Webcam that sits below the screen.

Shack Webcam

Q. Anything else?

Yes, Bluetooth–one of the function keys appears let you turn it off and on (a nice touch). I saw no signs of FireWire (either 400 or 800), Ethernet, a memory card reader, or optical storage.  Oh, but there was a mysterious port of some sort on the back, hidden under black cloth.

The Shack Laptop

Q. Did they let anyone tap dance on the keyboard to tap out messages, kind of like Tom Hanks in Big?

A. Not while I was there, but wouldn’t that be cool?




7 Comments For This Post

  1. Steven Fisher Says:

    If it’s 12x taller, it’s also 12x wider and 12x deeper. So I’d guess you 70lbs weight is way off.

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    Yeah, I told you my math isn’t so hot…


  3. thehumanyawn Says:

    I think that the laptop is supposed to be an Acer Aspire Timeline. Note the distinct keyboard.

  4. no Says:


  5. tom b Says:

    How do you even get a crowd that small on the Embarcadero? Do you pull a Bill Gates and tell everyone you are releasing malaria-infected mosquitos?

  6. darkgilbert Says:

    Harry… you can do better than this. I found this article pretty crappy.

  7. Andrew Says:

    I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s actually a Hackintosh! It may look like a PC on the outside, but when the system crashed and they had to restart the live feed, you could clearly see iChat and other iIcons, indicating that it is actually running Mac OS.

    I was actually at the event in NYC (I’m the “crazy” Andrew that stayed for a total of 31 hours). A lot of the crewmembers that were using computers were using Macbooks, though I never did see the control room, so I don’t know for sure that that’s all they used.

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