1981: Osborne: the first lap-top

‘The Osborne 1 was the first commercially successful portable microcomputer, released on April 3, 1981 by Osborne Computer Corporation.It weighed 10.7 kg and cost $1795. Its principal deficiencies were a tiny 5 inches display screen and use of floppy disk drives which could not contain sufficient data for practical business applications.

The company sold 11,000 Osborne 1s in the eight months following its July 1981 debut. Osborne had difficulty meeting demand, and the company grew from two employees, Adam Osborne and designed by Lee Felsenstein, to 3,000 people and $73 million in revenue in 12 months. The growth was so rapid that, in one case, an executive who returned from a one-week trade show had to search two buildings to find her relocated staff.

OCC declared bankruptcy on September 13, 1983′

- Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

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21 Responses

  1. Jodi

    Funny – “You can buy it in any color you want, as long as it’s blue”

  2. Jonathan

    I wonder why it has two floppy disk drives? If they were aiming for portability, I would have thought one would be an acceptable compromise!

  3. Karen

    One floppy drive was for the program; the other was to save your data.

  4. Robin Nixon

    And you know why the company went bust? Osborne said to reporters, “If you like this machine, wait till you see what’s coming in the next version.” And, of course, everyone did wait, sales of the Osborne 1 plummetted, and with its cash base wiped out so was the Osborne’s future – although Osborne’s name still lives on in the form of the McGraw-Hill Osborne book imprint.

  5. Paul

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Osborne when he came to town to speak to a software group. We had dinner at a Ceylonese restaurant, and he spoke to the wait staff in fluent Tamil….interesting man.

  6. Don

    The color comment is a reference back to Ford and his quote that you can get his Car “in any Color you want, as long as it’s Black.”

  7. Chris

    I have a collection of these old luggables (and early laptops), including an Osborne-1. It never ceases to amaze people what we used to consider “portable.”

  8. Gus

    The guy on the right is not too clever as he dopiest have any lunch packed …..

  9. Gus

    The guy on the right is not too clever as he doesn’t have any lunch packed …..

  10. Neal J. King

    Robin Nixon:

    Yes, Osborne “discovered” the First PC-Marketing Blunder: announce the features of Version 2 while trying to sell Version 1.

    John Sculley “discovered” the Second PC-Marketing Blunder: when you have a better hardware product, charge more for the hardware instead of taking the advantage in market share; thus dooming your platform to the margins in the software market.

    Whereas Bill Gates discovered the First PC-Marketing Insight: Customers will accept frustrating and unreliable interfaces if they can keep functionality they have learned to depend on.

  11. redjujube

    Another thing the 2 floppy drives was useful for was quickly duplicating a data disk to share data with someone else. Remember this was before the Internet, you couldn’t just email someone a file, you had to put it on a disk and physically give it to him. An alternative means of transferring data was to link 2 computers together with a cable between their serial or parallel ports. You then sent data across that link using x-modem, z-modem, y-modem or other protocols. IIRC the name of one very popular program for transferring data that way was named “gz”(?) and it was written by Chuck Foresburg? Wasn’t that long ago. We’ve come a long way.

    What was inside the Osborne 1? 8088? Z-80? 6809?

  12. Infrasoft

    This is funny! Perhaps in the next 10 years we will be laughting in the same way when we’ll see technology we use nowadays.

  13. MaggieL

    redjujube: It has a Z-80 and 64k of memory.

    Yes, two drives was a feature in those days, so you could copy files without disk swapping.

  14. Jinx

    And that hulking 5 inch display! Certainly in the LOVELY ubiquitous green type on black screen.

    Amazing. Would a Trash 80 have been just as portable, once you shipped or stored the droves?

  15. mikejaz2

    Actually used one of these, back in 82-83…it was heavy, but compared to the competition (remember hauling your card deck to DCL, anyone?), it ROCKED! I got really good at memos on Wordstar…

  16. Hairslave

    My Mother had one of these back in ’83 or ’84, she sold business software and had to lug it around with her. I remember her saying, “yes, it’s portable, but they tell me not to move it around too much because it’s not too sturdy!” We thought it was the coolest thing ever.

  17. Maggie

    I remember these. I never had one, but I remember the ads. I used Wordstar software with my Commodore 64 computer, which had two disk drives, one for the program and one to save data, as well.

  18. George

    I still have my O1, with bundled software— D-base II, SuperCalc, WordStar, M basic.
    Built in modem, 80 column screen, CPM operating system. It generated sales simply because customers were so enthused to see it work.
    It still works, but I have no idea why I’ve kept it but it paid for itself!
    The next generation was a machine called the VIXEN (still CPM) to be followed later by a machine with an 8086 processor using MS-DOS.


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