Inspired by the IBM 5100 and Xerox's Notetaker -- a 48-pound machine with a keyboard that folded over the display -- Osborne's eponymous computer was cobbled together from the cheapest parts he could find. The Osborne 1 hit the market at $1,795, with dual floppy drives and a 5-inch CRT. Flip the keyboard over the front, latch it on, and your 24.5-pound computer was ready to go wherever you needed it. Osborne had amazing success with the product, but it was fatally crushed by the birth of Compaq in 1983, which copied the Osborne carefully while adding one killer feature: IBM compatibility.
UPDATE: Stefan says: "I actually worked on an Osborne in the early '80s. The college SF club had one. We used it to lay out the schedule and generate individually numbered tickets for our SF convention. I recall using the included BASIC to create a program that would generate a Superbowl betting grid.
"One of the big selling points for the Osborne was the software. The company pioneered the concept of bundling. In addition to the CP/M operating system, you got WordStar, a spreadsheet, a flat-file database program and so on. It even had a nice app for reading and writing PC-format disks.
"The computer itself was, frankly, a piece of shit. The monitor was 52 columns wide; when your typing reached the end of a line the display shifted left. It was terribly susceptible to static shock. You learned to save your work every few minutes in dry weather, because resets and lockups were a regular occurrence."
UPDATE: Our own David Pescovitz wrote an excellent piece about the Osborne for Salon back in 1999.
UPDATE: AHM says "As long as we're waxing nostalgic, it may be worth noting that the
Trenton Computer Fest is happening
on April 16-17, 2005. This year, TCF celebrates it's 30th year(!)
by moving back to The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State
College) and with a demonstration of a number of vintage computers,
courtesy of the members of MARCH (Mid-Atlantic Retro-Computing
Hobbyists). Who knows, you might even see a working Osborne there."
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