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Witness the glory of “Computer Masters of Metropolis!” in our gallery today. This free promotional comic book from Radio Shack perfectly captures the state of consumer computer tech in 1982. I know, because I was there. I got this book when it came out! Dad worked at Radio Shack back then, and he always brought home a copy of their comics for me. You might get a laugh now in 2013, but things like “a subscription to an information retrieval service” were a big deal in those thrilling days of yesteryear.

So, try to imagine a primitive world before people born during the Clinton administration were old enough to legally buy beer! In this world, you loaded computer programs and video games from a cassette player. It made a high-pitched tortured mechanical scream the whole time, and the low-fi games were all written in BASIC. Alec and Shanna — the Tandy Whiz Kids, named for Radio Shack’s Tandy computers and TandyVision video games — use this ancient tech to save the day. They look up newspaper articles about Lex Luthor to help save Superman! What nerds!

The scene which most chills my blood shows young Alec working in silence for an hour as the computer gives him problem after problem at speeds faster than he ever could have imagined. NNAYARGH! That precisely describes several really awful temp jobs I had in the mid-1990s!

Compuserve was a big deal when these comics came out, and it gets several mentions. Whatever happened to Compuserve? Hey, you can read all about them on the greatest “information retrieval service” to date: Wikipedia!

I haven’t reproduced the whole issue here, just some of the stunningly “old-school” technology. The part about Superman is cheese-eriffic, but Wonder Woman makes a good electronics teacher!

Collector’s Guide: From Superman Radio Shack Giveaway #2; DC Comics, 1982. The Whiz Kids also had their own title published by Archie in 1986. Whiz Kids afficionados can find it under Whiz Kids Radio Shack Giveaway. Story by Paul Kupperberg; Art by Curt Swan and Frank Chiaramonte.