At 20.5 inches wide, 14.5 inches deep, 8.5 inches tall (all with the case closed) and weighing just over 26 pounds, the Osborne 1 was the first “portable” computer. Portability was obviously a different concept in 1981, when the Osborne 1 was release, than it is today. But the attractive design, self-contained nature of the machine and its relative affordability made the Osborne 1 the first commercially successful computer in the new portable class. Because of its weight and girth, this class would later become known as “luggable” computers.
With its keyboard becoming the lid, the Osborne 1 folded up into a suitcase that held virtually everything an executive could want or need in a computer: two disk drives (one for the application disk and one on which to save data), a keyboard and a monitor. The Osborne 1 came with a built-in CRT monitor that was all of 5 inches, apparently a design concession so the unit could also include two 5 ¼ inch disk drives. The computer ran off the CP/M operating system, which had to run off one of the diskettes. The Osborne 1 also came standard with bundled software, akin to buying a laptop today with an office suite. Most units came standard with Wordstar (the leading word processor from MicroPro), Supercalc (the leading spreadsheet software from Sorcim) and CBasic/MBasic (a programming language from Microsoft). The retail price for this software would come to roughly $1500 if sold separately, making the $1795 computer plus software bundle a very good deal.
Back in its day, the Osborne 1 became practically an overnight success, with the Osborne Computer Company shipping as many as 10,000 a month. However, competition from computers like the Kaypro II, which worked exactly like the Osborne using the same CP/M operating system and associated software, but came standard with double density disk drives and a much larger built-in monitor, began eating into the Osborne 1’s market share. Soon enough, the business world started to “standardize” on IBM-based computers and a new operating system called DOS from an emerging software company called Microsoft. By 1983 the Osborne Computer Company had filed for bankruptcy. But its legacy is the era of portable computing led by its innovative Osborne 1.
The MuMoH physical collection includes an Osborne 1 “B” computer, serial number 118781.
SIZE measured with case closed
- 20.5 inches wide
- 14.5 inches deep
- 8.5 inches high
- 26.2 lbs (shipping weight 34 lbs)
MAIN PC BOARD
- Processor – Z80A, 4 MHz CPU click
- Memory size – 64K bytes programmable (RAM)
- 4K read-only memory bank-switched
- 60K of programmable memory available for software
- Video monitor size – 3.55” horizontal, 2.63” vertical
- 24 lines of 52 characters visible
- 32 lines of 128 characters video memory over which window may be moved
- 5.25 inch diskettes, single sided, soft sectored (92K per diskette)