Skip to comments.The 30th Anniversary of Osborne Computer
Posted on 04/02/2011 6:34:03 AM PDT by Clint Williams
"This Sunday is the thirtieth anniversary of the announcement of the Osborne 1 the first mass-produced mobile computer. For years, Osborne has been most famous for its failure, traditionally blamed on the company having preannounced new products before they were available. But that's not the whole story and Adam Osborne, its founder, was a fascinating figure who deserves to be remembered."
Dear lord I am getting old....
Fond memories. It still looks good.
I remember that complaints about the small screen were rejected with the retort that the type was no smaller than the Wall Street Journal.
I lusted after one of those. I never got it. It left me emotionally scarred, unable to get pleasure from any computer.
“I remember that complaints about the small screen were rejected with the retort that the type was no smaller than the Wall Street Journal.”
The bigger problem was its 4KB of memory: that’s right, 4 KILObytes. You had to insert a floppy disk to write stuff too. We had one of these and I’m amazed what documents and spreadsheets we produced on a machine with such limitations. Compared to what came later, they were ridiculously expensive and extremely primitive. Nevertheless, they were one of the first out of the gate and for that they deserve a lot of credit.
64kB worth of memory for $4300 US in real terms. What a bargin! ;)
I had one of the first Lisa Systems, forerunner of the MAC, from Apple.
It was a great machine that could do a lot of things. I think it had 4mb of memory that was later upgraded to 8mb.
It was expensive, $10,000 brand new.
My Dad had it in storage and gave it to me, I had all the orginal software and manuals. Ended up selling it on E-Bay to a collector. It still worked.
I got the first blue one at the local computer store. Added a Smith-Corona TP-1 daisywheel printer that took 2.5 minutes per double spaced page. A complete joke by today’s standards but at the time I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.
I’ve got an early Apple down in the basement ....
Started with 8086’s - And was happy to “move up” to a 286. Back when the “test” of compatibility was “Can it play Flight Simulator? Can it run Lotus 1-2-3?”
Damn, I remember it like yesterday.
Just think it was last century
My brother in-law had one, I remember being so envious. I wondered how he ever talked my sister into letting him buy it.
Ended up selling it on E-Bay to a collector.
I just checked Ebay and there’s a vintage Osborne now going for $199, “as is.” Apparently, it powers on, but seller who found it at a garage sale can’t guarantee it actually works. I think I’ll drag mine out of the attic and give it a go. I’m amazed what collectors are willing to pay for stuff. I don’t know what you got for your Lisa, but it probably wasn’t $10K! :-)
Al, I can always count on you to make me feel better - not!!!!!
Oh, man. Did I covet the Osborne. More than Farrah Fawcett.
The Osborne was an up grade from the Sinclair I was using.
|NAME||Visual Commuter Computer|
|TYPE||Luggable Business Computer|
|OPERATING SYSTEM||MS-DOS 2.11|
|TEXT MODES||16 or 15 line LCD display|
|GRAPHIC MODES||CGA Color Graphics, Composite video|
|I/O PORTS||(2) serial, parallel, IBM port|
|PRICE||$999.00, when bundled with monochrome (amber) CRT monitor and Silver-Reed daisywheel printer|
I used a Kaypro. Supported my customers remotely.
I think the BIOS was 4KB, not the main memory.
But even the Xerox NoteTaker (upon which it was based, and prototyped years earlier) had 128KB, IIRC.
“I think the BIOS was 4KB, not the main memory.”
You must be right: I didn’t read the full article until after my post and it said 64KB. I’m assuming the reporter’s fact-checking is far superior to my memory. What I do remember is the process of having to swap out disks and the sometimes painfully slow process of its writing to those old 5-1/4” floppies.
The Osborne was my first computer. Tied it to a Royal electronic typewriter with a custom-built RS-232 connection. I was an admin clerk in the USAF then. It was the first computer system at the squadron level that inspectors had ever seen. They would come to my office, watch me work and ask questions about it. I never stood a real inspection after I got that computer.
Yeah, but the Kaypro had a 9" screen, was hundreds of early 80s dollars cheaper, and had other capabilities that exceeded the Osborne I. The IBM lasted longer in competing against "clones," but that was with the business market that Osborne couldn't crack with things like single-sided, single-density drives and little RAM.
What an amazing achievement; what an amazing failure.
And they were SS/SD floppies, too!
But then again, I have to catch myself and remember that it was better than casette tape, paper tape, or cards. It almost seems like technology improvements have slowed down since then, as those were really huge advancements.
I still have my PCjr. with monitor and memory sidecard, along with games. Maybe I could get some $$$$ for it?
...and it still mumbles incoherently...
I still have an original 128K Macintosh. Every so often I boot it from a system disk and launch MacWrite. Its primitive by todays standards, but even after 27 years I still remember how cool it was in its day. It was such a thrill using that machine. I will never sell it.
HOLLY: I was in love once a Sinclair ZX-81. People said, No, Holly, shes not for you. She was cheap, she was stupid and she wouldnt load well, not for me, anyway.
LISTER: What are you trying to say, Hol?
HOLLY: What Im saying, Dave, is that its better to have loved and to have lost than to listen to an album by Olivia Newton-John.
CAT: Whys that?
HOLLY: Anythings better than listening to an album by Olivia Newton-John.
There;s a Sinclair in a box two feet from where I am sitting.
As I remember I got close to $900 for it and only that because I still had all the software and manuals that came with it.
The hard drive wasn’t working and I did not know why but the fellow I sold it to collected vintage computers and told me later in an e-mail that it did not take much for him to get the hard drive working fine.
So this guy got a Lisa in very good working order for a computer 25 plus years old.
If it exists, there is a Red Dwarf of it...
I remember thinking it was pretty neat, too. However, after using the CP/M mode on my Commodore 128, I was less than impressed. Farrah would've been much more entertaining.
“I got close to $900 for it”
That’s just under 10% of the purchase price, which is consistent with the Osborne originally priced at $1750 going for about $200 (although the auction isn’t over). The listing makes no mention of software or manuals and emphasizes the “as is” condition. So any purchaser is only guaranteed a machine that turns on and off—NOT a machine that definitely can be restored to working order. As I say, I’m amazed people pay such prices for attic clutter.
I was working for Computerland at the time and recall what a great hit the Osborne was, as was the Kaypro when it came along. I recall vividly when the IBM PC came out and we were the official provider for IBM employees. The flocked to the store and bought up every one we could get for several months.
My first computer was the Sol 32 from Processor Technology. It came only as a kit. That was, I think, 1978, or maybe late 1977. About the time Radio Shack came out with the TRS-80. Ah, those were the days!
In late 1979 I got my first multi-user, multi-tasking machine, the Alpha Micro. I used their products for the next 15 years or so.
I LOVED that catalog.
I remember DAK back in the day, they sold some cool stuff cheap. The early bubble-jet printer for only a couple-hundred dollars rocked!
Well there are people who collect all manner of things.
What amazes me about computers, cell phones, etc, is how far we have come in short period of time.
Still have fanfold paper tapes for booting up DG Nova 840 boxes.
Make me an offer!
Still remember coding (in assembler) parts of a hospital information system on an EMR 6135. Now there is a obscure computer for you aficionados.
Still remember punching Fortran IV & V programs into cards, compiling 'em, & feeding the object decks into a Control Data 6600 beast, prior to the advent of uninterruptible power supplies. When the power went down, the hydraulic lines used for coolant went down, too, taking out plumbing for the entire top-secret building. Also programmed a Univac 1108 there.
Still remember the assembly instruction for erasing all the memory of an IBM 1620 machine, with its archaic 4 sense switches on the front panel.
Still remember programming a Univac 1105 in Basic Assembly Language -- a massive machine with vacuum-tube memory that required an air-conditioned room & raised floor for all the thick cables. When I tell this to some punk kid, I just get back a blank stare: "uh . . ., is that like a vacuum cleaner?"
Never had an Osborne but I met Osborne a couple of times, after the hardware and when he was doing Paperback Software. Seemed an interesting fellow.
My first box was a North Star Horizon. The first hard drive available for that in the early 80s was $5500. 15 mb and weight too much for UPS to carry, came by truck. Took 3 minutes to warm up before read/write.