Personal Computer Museum, Canada's Videogame Museum

Osborne 1

Osborne 1

Speed4 MHz
Memory64 KB

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Release Date: 4/1/1981
Manufacturer: Osborne
Original Retail Price:
Adjusted Inflation Price:
$1,795.00
$4,715.14*
 
Donated By: Lou Anderson
 
The Osborne 1 was the first commercially available portable "all-in-one" microcomputer, released in April, 1981 by Osborne Computer Corporation. It weighed 23.5 pounds (12 kg) and ran the then-popular CP/M 2.2 operating system. Its principal deficiencies were a tiny 5 inch (13 cm) display screen and single sided, single density floppy disk drives whose disks could not contain sufficient data for practical business applications (although a double density drive was available as well). Its design owed much to that of the Xerox NoteTaker, a prototype developed at Xerox PARC in 1976. At the peak of popularity, Osborne was shipping over 10,000 units a month. Osborne Computer Corporation was a victim of its own success. They announced two new models that virtually halted the sales of the current unit, resulting in an inventory issue--helping spiral the company into bankruptcy. This has comes to be known as the 'Osborne Effect'.

A complete sales brochure is available (450K PDF).

Osborne 1 Sales Brochure

 

This computer is currently interactive in the Museum.
 

User Comments
Jennifer Grimes on Monday, January 08, 2018
I developed this sys. Still have it. ProgrMed & 'distrubuted' the first & Most powerful programs Earth will Ever see.She's been 'In Charge' ALL the while. Has a protective glitch' element, and , now, b/c of s & morality, u r all in trouble.
Jennifer Grimes on Monday, January 08, 2018
I developed this sys. Still have it. ProgrMed & 'distrubuted' the first & Most powerful programs Earth will Ever see.She's been 'In Charge' ALL the while. Has a protective glitch' element, and , now, b/c of s & morality, u r all in trouble.
John C on Friday, September 04, 2015
That is actually an Osborne 1A. It was the second release.
Blair M. Groves on Thursday, October 03, 2013
CP/M's BDOS required that the floppy be initialized before it could be accessed, which was apparently a nuisance when running with the diminutive capacity of the Osborne. I recall the same issue when I got my first computer, a TeleVideo TPC-I, which also ran CP/M 2.2, but had two DSDD 360K floppies and a 9" screen . The popular utility called "Uniform", written by MicroSolutions, allowed many CP/M machines to read other CP/M brand formats as well as the DSDD IBM PC format. There was a version of Uniform for the IBM PC, and MicroSolutions even sold 8 inch floppy drive interface cards that could go in an IBM PC expansion slot. I still have most of my TeleVideo (800, 800A, 801, 802(H), 803(H), 804, 806, 816, TPC-I, 1603 and 1605), Xerox 820-II, and Epson QX-10 equipment, user manuals, boot disks, service manuals, parts, parts, more parts, etc... if anyone is looking for something I'd be happy to help. blair@blairgroves.com
Blair M. Groves on Thursday, October 03, 2013
CP/M's BDOS required that the floppy be initialized before it could be accessed, which was apparently a nuisance when running with the diminutive capacity of the Osborne. I recall the same issue when I got my first computer, a TeleVideo TPC-I, which also ran CP/M 2.2, but had two DSDD 360K floppies and a 9" screen . The popular utility called "Uniform", written by MicroSolutions, allowed many CP/M machines to read other CP/M brand formats as well as the DSDD IBM PC format. There was a version of Uniform for the IBM PC, and MicroSolutions even sold 8 inch floppy drive interface cards that could go in an IBM PC expansion slot. I still have most of my TeleVideo (800, 800A, 801, 802(H), 803(H), 804, 806, 816, TPC-I, 1603 and 1605), Xerox 820-II, and Epson QX-10 equipment, user manuals, boot disks, service manuals, parts, parts, more parts, etc... if anyone is looking for something I'd be happy to help.
Ivan Shepperd on Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Xoobee asked about an Osborne in a blue case. You may be thinking of the Kaypro which looks similar to and came out about the same time as an Osborne. It came in a blue case.
ernie Roberts on Wednesday, April 03, 2013
A friend of mine gave me a Osbourne computer, complete with 420 extra floppy disc and all the manuals & cassete tapes that come with the manual. It still works. Maybe I will hang on to it , just because it was the first portable computer that was made.
Peter Reissner on Monday, April 23, 2012
I have an Osborne computer that I have not used in a long time. I'm considering finding a good home for it. Lou's comments bring back a lot of memories. I had a Microline 80 printer for the Osborne that remained quite a workhorse for many years after moving to a PC. The printer offered TRS80 style 2x3 dots per character for graphics, with 132 characters across gave 264 dots across a page. A memorable accomplishment was overcoming the memory restriction of the computer for graphics by developing the images as it was printed. I was able to go back to lines already printed by creating a loop of pages by taping 6 fanfold pages together and cycling the paper forward to the previously printed line. It did this over and over until the image was complete.
Xoobee on Monday, January 03, 2011
Was there ever one made with a blue case? This is the closest thing I've found to one I saw in a thrift store once. I couldn't buy it then and now it drives me crazy cuz I don't know what it was. :(
Luc Vandewalle - Belgium on Saturday, September 25, 2010
Is there a way to get contact with Lou Anderson about the exchanging files between the OSBORNE 1 and IBM-machines. I also have such an Osborne 1 with double density, and does not have such a utility? Thanks in advance, luc.vandewalle5@telenet.be
Lou Anderson on Friday, April 06, 2007
I purchased my Osborne in February, 1982 - it cost $2595.00 (Canadian) - and the single density single sided floppies (capacity 90K) it used ran $5 each. An Epson MX-80 dot-matrix printer I picked up at the same time was around $900.00. How times have changed.

The machine had the maximum possible 64K of RAM when most machines had 16K or 32K. It also came with Wordstar, SuperCalc, MBASIC, and CBASIC - all this and its “portability” were key reasons for my choice.

In later promotional packages the machine came with DBASE II as well. This was the one piece of ultra software at the time and I yearned for it. I finally got it with one of the used machines - but as it turned out I used it very little.

I used the Osborne as my main computer until late 1986 - and continued to use it as a “portable” until 1988; I used it after that but not regularly. I acquired two additional used Osbornes over the years. I endured considerable ribbing about the size of the screen - but I never found it a problem. The Osborne was my introduction to computing and taught me a lot - and I retain fond memories of it. In the following paragraphs I am noting a few of the quirks that I remember.

At the time the machine was considered portable - but at 26 pounds it was really “transportable”. Nevertheless I lugged it to a lot of locations.

Connecting up that printer to the Osborne was a major problem; the printer had the standard Centronics input - the Osborne had only an IEEE-488 connector as an output. Maybe there were cables for this around, but I had to make mine - and it took me a lot of figuring and trial and error before I finally made one that worked.

The chief problem I recall was that the floppy drives gave me trouble after a while and had to be occasionally replaced. The first machine had SSSD floppies that could hold 90K; normally you had to have a program disk in drive A and your data disk in drive B.

The Wordstar word processor automatically created a .BAK file which meant that for practical purposes you were limited to creating a maximum file size of 45K.

Another quirk that mainly affected the Wordstar word processing was that you could only write to a disk that had already been “logged on”. Opening a drive door cancelled the logon. So if you wrote a lot of text and then found you didn’t have enough room on the disk you were in a “Catch-22". You couldn’t save what you had in memory and you couldn’t log on to a new disk without losing the memory. Some hero devised a utility that would let you recover - I believe it was called MAGE (no idea of the significance of this name). You exited from Wordstar (the material was still in memory) and then called up this utility which looked at and saved the Wordstar memory area. Some touch-up was needed but it saved me quite a few times.

I also used the MBASIC supplied with the machine considerably. I probably tried the CBASIC but never really used it. Around 1984 I got Turbo Pascal from Borland and it became my main programming language. Another Osborne quirk: Turbo had an interactive editor/compiler - but it wouldn’t work with a single density Osborne (don’t ask me why). When I picked up an Osborne with double density drives everything in Turbo worked fine. I used the SuperCalc that came with the Osborne considerably - but don’t remember any quirks here.

After I acquired an IBM clone in 1986 I used the Osbornes primarily as portables. The clone couldn’t read Osborne disks but I got a utility that let me write to IBM-formatted diskettes (single sided) in the Osborne so I could transfer data files back and forth.

Another point with disks some may remember: in the pre-IBM days each computer manufacturer had his own disk format. In general you had a great deal of difficulty transferring information from one machine to another since an Osborne wouldn’t read TRS-80 or NorthStar disks (for example) - there were conversion programs around


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* Inflation data courtesy of www.inflationdata.com. Values are approximate using our own calculations.