Osborne 1June 4, 2017
In April 1981, the ancestor of modern portable computers appeared – the first portable computer with autonomous power supply, and it was not an IBM PC. This computer was called Osborne 1, and unfortunately it failed to repeat the phenomenal success of his contemporary. Although there were all the prerequisites for this – at first the computer was in great demand. Now it’s hard for us to understand the enthusiasm of its first users – a box, as big as a massive suitcase, weighed over 10 kg and had a tiny 5-inch screen that contained 24 lines of 52 characters.
Nevertheless, its author, American engineer Adam Osborn, correctly guessed the users’ needs and appeared on the market with his product on time.
The computer operated under the CP/M operating system, standard for that time, and had a WordStar text editor, a SuperCalc spreadsheet, a dBase II DBMS and two software tools, CBASIC and MBASIC, as part of the software. This set cost only $ 1795. It was such a computer that was missing in the market – Adam Osborn’s young company did not have time to fulfill orders. Later this phenomenon would be called “hyper-growth”. However, in September 1983 the company went bankrupt. It seems that engineer Osborn was failed by his unsuccessful marketing policy – while considerable debt funds had been invested in the production of Osborne 1, the company announced two new models with improved performance. Demand for the first model fell as suddenly as it appeared, and the company had to declare itself bankrupt.
Portable computers of other manufacturers in many respects repeated Adam Osborn’s successful design – portable models Kaypro, Compaq and even IBM were very similar to Osborne 1.
Dual 5¼-inch, single-sided 40 track floppy disk drives (“dual density” upgrade available)
4 MHz Z80 CPU
64 kilobytes main memory
Fold-down 69 key detachable keyboard doubling as the computer case’s lid
5-inch, 52 character × 24 line monochrome CRT display, mapped as a window on 128 × 32 character display memory
IEEE-488 port configurable as a Parallel printer port
RS-232 compatible 1200 or 300 baud Serial port for use with external modems or serial printers
The Osborne 1 was powered by a wall plug with a switched-mode power supply, and had no internal battery, although an aftermarket battery pack offering 1-hour run-time was available. Early models (tan case) were wired for 120 V or 240 V only Later models (blue case, shipping after May 1982) could be switched by the user to run on either 120 V or 230 V, 50 or 60 H
While the Osborne 1 was a good deal at $1,795, it also came bundled with about $1,500 of free software:
CP/M Operating System
SuperCalc spreadsheet application
WordStar word processing application with MailMerge
Microsoft MBASIC programming language (interpreted)
Digital Research CBASIC programming language (compiled)