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The 30th Anniversary of Osborne Computer

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the not-the-reality-tv-star-no dept.

Portables 81

harrymcc writes "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."

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81 comments

Wow... thirty years ago... (1)

SwedishChef (69313) | about 3 years ago | (#35692090)

What's really scary is that I remember it!

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (2, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | about 3 years ago | (#35692114)

What's really scary is that I remember it!

No, that's just mildly depressing. Scary is when you have an old receipt for one but you don't remember it.

Re:Wow... 146 years ago... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692146)

146 years ago. The 146 anniversary of American slavery of niggers. At least when they were picking cotton they weren't acting like street thugs.

Keep darkie down.

Re:Wow... 146 years ago... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692170)

Fuck off and die, racist pig.

Re:Wow... 146 years ago... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692232)

I think you may have mixed up your history. It's okay, it happens to the best of us. First of all, slavery actually ended in the United States about 146 years ago with the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment. So it's actually 146 years of American non-slavery. Second, the anniversary of the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment isn't actually April 1st, it's December 6th [wikipedia.org].

(Don't whoosh me, I was just recalling this article [slashdot.org].)

Re:Wow... 146 years ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35693518)

The sign at the entrance clearly states "Do Not Feed The Trolls".

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#35692710)

I actually had one of those. Amazing machine, for the time. Of course it weighed a ton.

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (1)

delta98 (619010) | about 3 years ago | (#35692746)

Neat. I dont recall ever seeing one but I do remember some old portables. They did have some weight.

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (1)

freddieb (537771) | about 3 years ago | (#35692996)

I always wanted one too. I never actually had an Osborne however, I finally got a taste of CPM..I see why it died now!

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#35695858)

died? First version in 1974, to version 3.1 in 1982, then it evolved into DOS PLUS in 1985 and then DR-DOS (1988 - 2005)

31 years is a pretty good run

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (1)

st0rmshad0w (412661) | about 3 years ago | (#35693636)

Remember it? I still OWN one, unfortunately the software was damaged a while back and I haven't been able to replace it.

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35695820)

Remember it? I still OWN one, unfortunately the software was damaged a while back and I haven't been able to replace it.

http://bitsavers.org/bits/Osborne/Osborne1/

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (1)

wowen (695189) | about 3 years ago | (#35703458)

I still have mine, too. When they were announced, they wanted people to re-sell them. It was a great deal for me. I saved my pennies, got my reseller's paperwork from the city, signed up with Osborne and got my discounted computer (40% discount, as I recall). It was great, the best computer I have ever owned (up to that point). However, I never managed to sell a single unit. Nobody was interested at that point.

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (1)

Phoghat (1288088) | about 3 years ago | (#35698544)

In 1984 opened a pharmacy servicing mostly welfare recipients and needed a computer to efficiently bill the State for claims, Looked at the Osborne saw it was a dead end and bought a Compaq Portable [wikipedia.org] istead. I thought because it was portable I'd be able to take it home to play around with and maybe teach the kids a little coding.. The Compaq was basically the same hardware as an IBM PC but in a luggable case, and I do mean luggable, as John Cleese once compared it to a fish [flixxy.com] with the Compaq weighing i at 28 pounds. At 28 pounds I didn't bring it home a lot.

Re:Wow... thirty years ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35699496)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCEm96kA5hY

Very funny spoof of the BBCs Tomorrows World! :)

What's even scarier is that I almost bought one! (2)

glitch! (57276) | about 3 years ago | (#35692138)

Back in 1981, I was programming for a company with a 64K CPM computer with a Hazeltine monitor. Life was great.

And this book writer Adam Osborne, whose motto was "Just good enough", started selling his barely luggable CPM computer with two 5.25 floppy drives and a five inch monitor for something less than two thousand dollars.

I actually though about buying one of these. Shudder!

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 3 years ago | (#35692208)

My uncle had an Osborne that he plugged a TTL monitor into so as to use WordStar in a functional manner. He loved it...

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 3 years ago | (#35692344)

Back in 1981, I was programming for a company with a 64K CPM computer with a Hazeltine monitor. Life was great.

64K in 1981? Holy crap, that was the hotness!

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (4, Informative)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#35692424)

Back in 1981, I was programming for a company with a 64K CPM computer with a Hazeltine monitor. Life was great.

64K in 1981? Holy crap, that was the hotness!

Not especially. The basic model IBM PC, launched that year, had 64k expandable to 256. The Apple IIe had launched 2 years earlier with 48k. 64k was probably about average at the time for a proper micro (i.e. not a "home" computer).

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692812)

the iie was launched on 1983

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (2)

bylo (1211278) | about 3 years ago | (#35692910)

>The basic model IBM PC, launched that year, had 64k expandable to 256

Nope. The first version of the IBM PC had a motherboard that came with 16k expandable to 64k. See e,g. http://computermuseum.usask.ca/articles/IBM-5150-Specifications.pdf [usask.ca]

A revised motherboard used denser chips that allowed for 64k base, expandable to 256k. You could also get adapter boards that would take you to 512k and even 640k (which at the time was all you'd ever need according to a certain visionary of the era.)

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (1)

kamochan (883582) | about 3 years ago | (#35698054)

When we moved last summer, I found from a random box a memory expansion card that you plugged into the ISA bus. Holy latencies, Batman!

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (1)

nobaloney (1012719) | about 3 years ago | (#35701076)

The TRS-80 Model III had only 48k when introduced in '81, according to oldcomputers.net. It was an all-in-one, as opposed to the TRS-80 Model I, introduced in 1977, which was a keyboard/processor unit. With an expansion interface, it went all the way to 48k. They only ran TRS-DOS and various TRS-DOS workalikes.

The Lobo Max-80, introduced a year later, went all the way to 128k, which was a lot in those days. Physically it was a lot like the TRS-80 Model 1, but didn't need an expansion interface.It ran either L-DOS, in which case it looked a lot like a TRS-80 Model I, but with a lot more power, and also CP/M 2.x. When CPM 3 came out for The Max 80 it could bank switch 4 32K banks, which made it the best implementation of CPM 3 (also known as CPM Plus) according to Gary Kildall.

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35693200)

64K was the shits at the time. A lot of people still did not trust dynamic ram because of refresh issues. The Z-80 was the first CPU to have hardware to deal with it.

The apple II was expandable to 48 k, it did not launch with 48k, more like 4k with a built in integer basic. Very few people had 48K because the 48k worth of ram at the time cost $1000 dollars.

The Osborne 1 sucked, the 5 inch green monitor was useless and the thing weighed a ton.

I had both an Osborne and an Applle II with 48k ram, the rams even had an apple logo on them. I had to add a transistor to the apple to kill the chroma signal when in text mode.

Osborne use to slam all the hardware makers in his articles, then made the very same mistakes when he started building stuff.

A few factual errors (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | about 3 years ago | (#35694280)

The Apple IIe had launched 2 years earlier with 48k.

Apple IIe was launched in 1983 with 64k (expandable to 128k) after Epic Fail of the Apple III. Apple II+ was launched with 4k (expandable to 64k) in 1979.
According to The Register what doomed Osborne is because of a RETARDED VP decided to throw good money after bad. [theregister.co.uk]

Re:A few factual errors (1)

nobaloney (1012719) | about 3 years ago | (#35701154)

I'm having a bit of a problem with this quote of John Dvorak, from the article (this is about NorthStar BASIC):

you got their OS and their BASIC, which by all accounts was superiror to Microsoft BASIC since it did BCD math which engineers needed.

Engineers actually it wasn't the engineers who needed the BCD math; engineers understood and generally preferred floating point math. It was accountants who needed BCD math, because it didn't have rounding errors.

CBasic, from the same people who sold CP/M, used BCD math as well.

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (1)

rhalstead (1864536) | about 3 years ago | (#35701552)

Considering the IBM ran about 4 grand the Osborn wasn't such a bad deal. I was going to purchase one of the IBMs but the price with a little monitor (12" was big in those days), some expansion memory, and some basic programs was way over $4,000. Closer to $5,000 IIRC. My OSI C2-8P was 4 Grand and I still had to come up with a monitor and keyboard. .. But it did have dual 8" single sided floppies. (160 or 180K I think). Basic ran something like $400 while Fortran and Pascal compilers were $900 each.

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (1)

cthulhu11 (842924) | about 3 years ago | (#35697562)

On a term'nal
On a twenty
I sit, waiting for a line
And my tty (not too pretty)
Is a crufty Hazeltine
Oh, my crufty
Oh, my crufty
Oh, my crufty Hazeltine
You have lost my job forever
You're pathetic, Hazeltine
Hacking MIDAS
(Don't deny this!)
When the load hits forty-nine
Nothing happens for an hour
On my crufty Hazeltine
Oh, my crufty
Oh, my crufty
Oh, my crufty Hazeltine
You do not help my endeavor
You're a sad sight, Hazeltine
To get help
When hacking EMACS
Type control-shift-underline
But you must go control-shift-O
If you're on a Hazeltine
Oh, my crufty
Oh, my crufty
Oh, my crufty Hazeltine
You were never very clever
You're outdated, Hazeltine

Re:What's even scarier is that I almost bought one (1)

rhalstead (1864536) | about 3 years ago | (#35701460)

I had the use of one. (Company I worked for had one) and thought it was a good rig for what was available at the time.

I had one for a few years... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 3 years ago | (#35692186)

It was a deader, and I finally solved a power supply problem just to find out it was more than that. I never got it running.

But it was a lot of fun to leave around for people to ask about. Then I snagged a Kaypro that actually worked. That was nice.

Alas, I've pretty much gotten rid of the collection.

Re:I had one for a few years... (2)

Nutria (679911) | about 3 years ago | (#35692216)

The 9" screen on the KayPro was a dream to use. Really sharp and easy on the eyes. Much better than the Hercules on PCs, and compared to it, CGA was worse than bush league.

ot: tech press (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692220)

I made the mistake of trying to rtfa. But the very first thing:

Notebooks. Netbooks. Smartphones. Tablets. In 2011, the default state of personal computing is mobile–traditional desktop PCs are still with us, but they’ve become the outliers.

No. Just no. Most people in the western nations who have laptops, smartphones, or tablets also have desktops.

Where did the tech press come up with this idea? Are they repeating this mantra because they wish it were so?

Re:ot: tech press (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 3 years ago | (#35692330)

I have owned many desktops (currently own 2, one of which is a Gentoo Linux box) and have never owned a laptop or tablet or netbook.

Still have mine (1)

DuctTape (101304) | about 3 years ago | (#35692234)

I still have mine sitting in an extra bedroom. Turn it on once every 5 years or so just to make sure that it's still running.

Ran WordStar and SuperCalc, and managed to get DBase II for it. Program disk in the left, data disk in the right. When it hit 10 years old it started munching diskette directories on writes infrequently, rendering them unusable. Have the 300 baud modem, too, which I used to connect to the university mainframe during undergrad. Uploading programs sometimes took a half-hour or more (and couldn't do anything else on it in the meantime). Was envious of my Kaypro-lugging buddies with their bigger screens until I got the 80-column mod which would output to a separate monochrome monitor.

Was totally adequate at the time, but started pining for that newfangled Apple Macintosh thingy when that came out.

Why I keep it, I have no idea.

DT

Re:Still have mine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35693026)

DBase II actually came with it. It shipped with WordStar, SuperCalc, DBase II, MBasic, & CBasic. When it first came out the Kaypro didn't exist...the Compaq didn't exist either. I was working in a ComputerLand store at the time selling them.

Re:Still have mine (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 3 years ago | (#35693148)

Was totally adequate at the time, but started pining for that newfangled Apple Macintosh thingy when that came out.

For getting real work done at the time you were way better off with an Osborne or a Kaypro [wikipedia.org], or one of the many competitors. The typical software bundles shipped with CP/M machines at the time (word processor, database, spreadsheet, programming language, etc.), relatively easy telecommunications, wide choice of printers, and typical 2 disk drive configuration made them far more useful than the typical Macintosh configuration (unless you were doing graphics). The two advantages of the Macintosh were doing graphics, and general ease of use for the much more limited software that it had.

The Mac was certainly the way of the future, but the future took a long time to arrive with many bumps along the way. (But Steve doesn't want the Macintosh to be expandable [folklore.org]!. MacBasic [wikipedia.org] - Killed as sacrifice to Microsoft [folklore.org]! And I won't bring up Apple losing the Hypercard source, of the one-floppy disk swap hell of the origunal Mac.)

I own one (4, Interesting)

NiceGeek (126629) | about 3 years ago | (#35692238)

Well, to be precise, I own the 2nd model - the "Osborne Executive" with the slightly larger, amber monitor.
The old girl still fires up, I found the system software years before I came across the computer itself. Totally impractical and useless but I still enjoy firing up Zork on it to impress my fellow geeks.

Re:I own one (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692316)

Most genuine comment here.

Yes you have us fellow geeks also...

cheers

Re:I own one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35694976)

I still have my original highly accessorized Osborne 1, and an Osborne Executive and a Kaypro 2(?) that I bought when they became bargains near EOL. Accessorized for example, with the massive 256K "Drive C" RAM disk that made it scream, AKA we had and knew about SSD drives 30 years ago but ours weren't non-volatile. I remember that the upgrade from the 92K drives to to the 192K (unformatted) double density (not double SIDED, yet) floppy drives was like $500.

I think I can fire them up if the FSM is kind enough to make the floppies still readable. I tried showing the O-1 once a few years back and forgot that once you install the jumper plug and video port it only drives the external monitor. It's things that that will burn me until I remember the common knowledge I had 30 years ago.

It was doing useful work on those and learning that lead to me working in IT. The $2500 or so I blew on hardware was cheap tuition.

Re:I own one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35723226)

rofl ..... and now you are making me nostalgic... I still remember playing Zork :)

Adam Osborne.... fascinating? No. (2, Interesting)

gavron (1300111) | about 3 years ago | (#35692240)

Look it's great to be nostalgic.

Adam Osborne named the company and the computer after himself.

It barely ran, weighed lots, and had no capacity to do anything useful. A TRS-80 Model II was more powerful. Kaypro (mentioned by a previous poster) also was good. Sadly it was a big heavy suitcase that barely fit "under the seat in front of you". Oh, and it sucked.

I'm sorry Adam Osborne had a great idea that was not technologically feasible for another 10 years. In today's era he'd have patented the concept and a NPE would be holding the rights to it and suing the likes of Dell, Acer, and every other dog with a portable. "Method by which the computer can be operated without mains(sic) power." lol. But he didn't. He did nothing fascinating. He is not a fascinating guy. He's a guy who had an idea (that lots of us have) and the tech wasn't there to perform as he expected.

Revisionism is cute... but deifying someone who accomplished nothing extraordinary and somehow making it like there's some "fascination" with the guy... that's going a bit far.

I find shiny object and helicopters fascinating. I don't expect a tell-all book anytime soon.

Mods, mod something else.

E

Re:Adam Osborne.... fascinating? No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692376)

Well I guess you did not have an especially fun time with your Osborne, if you had one. I did, but I mostly used it for WordStar and Calc. I also had a suite of programs for plane and spherical geometry calculations that came in very handy. My Osborne I was reliable and more than powerful enough what I used it for. That included some simple arcade games, and It beat me at chess about 1/2 of the time IIRC.

I'm not sure what metric you used to determine that the Osborne I "sucked," but compared to the Trash 80 you apparently found superior, it was 1) portable, 2) extensible, and 3) durable. Frankly, I don't believe you ever used one.

Re:Adam Osborne.... fascinating? No. (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 3 years ago | (#35692414)

You forgot to mention the complete lack of shielding. One guy with an Osborne could prevent a whole Ramada Inn full of people from watching TV. Literally.

Re:Adam Osborne.... fascinating? No. (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 3 years ago | (#35693644)

Barely ran? It ran great. The thing was incredibly reliable. WordStar was a great word processor, including the ability to edit documents bigger than RAM. What you saw was what you got, at least as long as you printed it that old workhorse Epson MX-80. Plus, it came with the computer, along with SuperCalc, a perfectly passable spreadsheet. I was able to manage local-scale databases (address lists, that sort of thing). It was "luggable" rather than "portable", but I did take it places and it was a hell of a lot easier than hauling around separate keyboard, tower, and monitor. The floppy drives could hold a basic business or school document.

Its graphics were practically nonexistent, though somebody did one hell of a job cobbling out Space Invaders and Pac Man games with nothing more than the ANSI graphics. The hilariously tiny monitor was a challenge, and I had an external monitor when I used it at home, but it was five and a quarter inches and we LIKED it.

It was early days, and the 3 pound computer I'm running right now could probably simulate 1,000 Osborne Is without breaking a sweat. But it was a hell of a computer at the time. I wouldn't be here without it.

Re:Adam Osborne.... fascinating? No. (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 3 years ago | (#35693914)

But it was a hell of a computer at the time. I wouldn't be here without it.

Hmm... I suppose it was heavy enough that you could have used it as a weapon to save your life from an attacker.

Re:Adam Osborne.... fascinating? No. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 years ago | (#35694612)

It was a very popular computer for a while. The software that came with it was great and at the time there really where no laptops yet. To put it in perspective it would be as if someone offered a good i5 laptop today with Windows 7 ultimate and Office Professional for $600. When Kaypro came out with there systems they offered the an equally as good software bundle.

Re:Adam Osborne.... fascinating? No. (1)

mspohr (589790) | about 3 years ago | (#35694184)

Actually, this was a "state of the art" computer at the time and was quite functional. It was much better than the TRS-80 (aka Trash 80) which I purchased before the Osborne. (I also had an Apple II and Apple /// - which really was trash - along with many other early computers - Commodore PET anyone?). The Osborne was the first one which was not a toy. I purchased an Osborne and started programming a complex electronic medical record and medical billing program (with the included dBase) which later turned into a profitable company (after shifting to FoxBase for multi-user functionality.)

It was about the size a weight of a portable sewing machine (luggable) so I could easily take it with me and program during my long slow "on call" shifts in the emergency room. It had a great keyboard, hard drive and came with office and database software.

Also, it was very reliable. It even survived a fall from the back of a moving car (don't ask). I used it as a "portable" computer for several years.

Actually, (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692254)

The hardware wasn't anything special. It was okay, and just barely managed to pull off a 'first', and was quickly superseded by better computers in that fast-moving time.

What was really interesting about the first Ossy was you got nearly all the big CP/M apps bundled with the computer -- for what was really a fair price for the computer OR those apps. It was a 2 for 1 deal, and I think that was probably the swiftest maneuver Adam Osborne did.

Disclaimer: I've got an Ossy in the closet, with an equal weight of manuals and floppies. It's also the only computer I've ever bought that came with complete wiring diagrams. Fun kit.

Re:Actually, (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | about 3 years ago | (#35694634)

What was really interesting about the first Ossy was ...

So, seriously - they named the computer the Ossy Osborne??

Why Osborne failed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692400)

A couple of months later (August 12, 1981), IBM launched model 5150, a.k.a. the PC - next birthday to celebrate and to discuss if it advanced or held back evolution.

I have never seen an Osborne, even if I went at great lengths to see each and every computer on display in those days - I guess Osborne's marketing outside of US was nearly non-existent.

Re:Why Osborne failed? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 3 years ago | (#35692572)

A couple of months later (August 12, 1981), IBM launched model 5150, a.k.a. the PC - next birthday to celebrate and to discuss if it advanced or held back evolution.

I guess it held things back. It was a primitive, limited, user-unfriendly machine that somehow kept outselling newer, better systems -- Amiga, Atari ST, Macintosh, RiscPC...

It could have been much better, mind you. At a point, the PC team thought about basing it on the 801. [wikipedia.org] Their own hardware and operating system, all the way. It clearly would have been a far more advanced machine in every aspect. Also, a "PC-compatible" market would not have happened -- a good thing, from IBM's point of view.

But one must also consider why they went "off the shelf": to have the machine in the market quickly and cheaply. Otherwise it would have taken much longer, and it'd end up costing much more. So, we have this alternative universe in which the IBM PC did not suck shit and did not sell shit. Hypothetical irony.

Re:Why Osborne failed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692684)

At a point, the PC team thought about basing it on the 801. Their own hardware and operating system, all the way. It clearly would have been a far more advanced machine in every aspect

Well, that did eventually happen, it was the IBM 6150 RT, a.k.a. PC-RT [wikipedia.org] in 1986.

Re:Why Osborne failed? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 3 years ago | (#35695728)

True, but it cost $20,000. Clearly not aimed at the home market. What if the Boca Raton team had insisted on a 801-based PC... could IBM sell a similar machine for 1/10th of that price back then?

Re:Why Osborne failed? (2)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 3 years ago | (#35692842)

Wasn't the 68000 also considered for the CPU? Then, it may not have sucked shit (then again, the rest of the system architecture sucked shit), and it probably would've sold shit, too.

Re:Why Osborne failed? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | about 3 years ago | (#35695846)

Interesting, I hadn't heard of that; but I found two explanations. The official explanation [ibm.com] is that the choice was a matter of a licensing deal between IBM and Intel, as well as availability of components. However, it is also rumored [netwhatever.com] that they couldn't make the original PC too good - it had rival other makers' machines, yet not eclipse another line of personal machines that IBM planned to introduce later; also, the 8080 made porting Z80-based software easier.

Re:Why Osborne failed? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 3 years ago | (#35696424)

The 8088 had an 8 bit data bus, the 68000 had 16 bit, which would have been more expensive. The 68008 didn't come out until it was too late.

Re:Why Osborne failed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35696594)

In 1981, the same year as the Osborne I, there was the truly portable GRiD Compass 1101 [oldcomputers.net] with a 8088 CPU for $8150 - it originally came with GRiD-OS, but MS-DOS became available later on. In 1983, there were the Sharp PC5000 [vintage-computer.com] and the Gavilan SC [wikipedia.org], both with MS-DOS.

Missing the point (1)

chriscozi (1686002) | about 3 years ago | (#35692730)

Hey it wasn't about Adam Osborne. It was about the geek revolution you bozos. This was the first -FIRST- computer designed by and for geeks. Adam Osborne was the sales guy. Had standardized ports, parts, etc. and as a previous poster mentioned it came with a wiring diagram. You could hook it up to anything else that existed in the day. Couldn't do that w/IBM, Apple, OR KAYPRO. Lots of jokes about Osbornes but I knew several engineers that brought them on site to the field and then lugged them back to the office. Nothing else could interface to the range of existing devices. Heck, I knew two profs who wrote serial port routines themselves to get data into it. Garage industries were born on these things. You think Microsoft or the other boys came up with the idea to 'build your own'? They saw what happened with the Osborne. They saw people hungry to build it and adapt it. So the next time you are yanking around inside a pc case thank Adam Osborne.

Re:Missing the point (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 3 years ago | (#35692872)

Huh?

The I/O on the Osborne 1 was an RS-232C port and a (proprietary pinout) parallel port that had IEEE-488 and I believe Centronics capability.

Kaypro had the same I/O capabilities, IBM had the same I/O capabilities with an add-on card for RS-232C and Centronics parallel (and, we're talking about the IBM PC here, EVERYTHING was available as an add-on card, the IBM PC was the "industry standard" in ISA (Industry Standard Architecture)), and the Apple II could do it with three add-on cards - a Super Serial Card for RS-232C, one of the many parallel printer cards for Centronics (and Apple had their own parallel printer card at launch), and there were also IEEE-488 interfaces.

Also, the Osborne wasn't even CLOSE to the first computer designed by and for geeks - it wasn't even designed for geeks, it was designed for businessmen. The first computer designed by and for geeks, well, depends on your definition of computer, but if you want to restrict it to things that have a microprocessor, it'll probably be the Scelbi-8H or something like that.

Re:Missing the point (1)

chriscozi (1686002) | about 3 years ago | (#35692966)

You answered for me. The IBM and Apple were all add ons - and not portable. Yes it was a Centronics/488 port on the Osborne. The difference with the Kaypro was the OS - much easier on the Osborne - documented and software to accomplish it. I suppose I should say instead 'The first COMPLETE (software and hardware out of the box) geekbuilt computer. Read the history of it - the thing was designed and built by garage geeks. They famously couldn't build them fast enough at launch. Every other manufacturer had costly upgrades and add ons. I think their biggest error was choosing CP/M as the OS. It was being phased out even then.

Re:Missing the point (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#35695898)

The "first computer designed by and for geeks" would be in the 1970s. We could argue about which one that was, I'd go with the MITS Altair 8800

Used with solar panels for field work in Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35692840)

These were used by Jeanne and Stuart Altmanns' field team in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, precisely because of the small screen and its lower power needs. They were able to run the computers in the field using solar panels. A history of the scientific project (the Amboseli Baboon Project) can be found at http://www.princeton.edu/~baboon/history.html.

Compaq (1)

p51d007 (656414) | about 3 years ago | (#35692958)

Ah, the good ole days! My first computer was a Compaq portable with a V20 chip, external memory card, 2 floppy drives and a whopping 2 megabyte RLL hard drive, external 2400 baud modem!

Got me through college. (2)

C R Johnson (141) | about 3 years ago | (#35692964)

My dad had one of these, and when I went off to MSU in 1983, it became mine. With Wordstar, huge electric typewriter with a centronics interface that was the printer, and a 9 inch external monochrome monitor and I was hooked up.

My girlfriend wrote a paper on it, forgot to or didn't know to save to the second floppy and lost it. She might have been the among the first college students in the world to suffer this fate.

Re:Got me through college. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35693130)

I also had one of these my senior year in, 1982-83. I lived off-campus, and the schlep to the computer center was a 20 minute walk away. (In the New England winter, uphill both ways, yadda yadda)

Sure, by today's (or even 1985's) standards, this thing wasn't much. I think the built-in monitor was 40 characters wide and scrolled sideways as you typed beyond that. But with an external (composite) monitor, dot-matrix printer, and modem, it allowed me to write and print papers, connect to the computer center and figure out how much my apartment-mates owed on the phone bill (thanks, visicalc). There was even a fair selection of games (mostly strategy and text-based adventure) for it.

I can't remember why I chose the Osborne over the Apple II - maybe because I wanted something I could bring home more easily on the weekends - but it did the job and got me through my senior year.

Computer came with manual... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35693004)

By browsing the Wikipedia page on the Osborne 1 something struck me that, although I was aware of it, I haven't really up until now grasped its implications: Back in the ol' days, computers came with manuals. From the Wiki page: "The 500+ page Osborne 1 user manual contained instructions on the hardware, WordStar, Supercalc, BASIC software and the CP/M operating system and utilities." I also remember my first computer to come with two dossiers: one on Windows 3.0 and one on DOS. What do you get now? A graph(!) that tells you to plug in the machine and press the power button (duh!). My freakin' vacuum cleaner came with more instructions than these. No wonder that most people cannot use a computer. If adding a 500-page manual in the box is not enough to teach people the basics, then the size of the manual itself should be enough to scare most of the buyers away from trying to use one.

Re:Computer came with manual... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 3 years ago | (#35693218)

Well, to be fair, computers came with 500 page manuals back when computers were damned expensive and replacing it with electronically-readable documentation would have been far less practical than it is nowadays.

Would we actually want a thick manual with every computer nowadays anyway? It'd probably add to the cost, be redundant for people who already knew the OS moderately well, take up space on a shelf, and since most modern computers are variations on a standard theme, it'd probably make more sense to buy a separate, well-written book appropriate to your own level of knowledge. Or not bother at all if you weren't bothered.

Bottom line is that printed manuals supplied with the computer were probably more appropriate back when there were many different types of computer, the margins were such that this wasn't an undue expense (and PDFs weren't really an alternative) and computers in general weren't such a commodity. People are cheapskates anyway, and if having the manual made a £5 (or whatever) difference in the cost of the machine- ditto two or three times for other "nice to have" things- they'd go for the cheaper model.

I still have one (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 3 years ago | (#35693094)

I had one. Still have it. Somewhere. And an Exidy Sorcerer, Mac128K, MacPlus, MacSE and even a PDP11 mini. Oh, and an HP-71B and a sliderule that are hanging on my wall right here. Incase of power outages. :)

Great User Groups (1)

TooLazyToLogon (248807) | about 3 years ago | (#35693126)

One of the best things about the Osborne was the User Groups. The enthusiasm was amazing. I haven't seen anything close since.

I remember (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | about 3 years ago | (#35693286)

Actually, I still have a Kaypro II from that era. It lights up, but I've long since lost the boot disk. I also have a SORD M5. This still works like new. I remembered how much I wanted an Osborne 1. I has a Morrow Designs S-100 CP/M system and was just amazed you could make a portable.

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