Osborne 1 computer open
Osborne 1
This image is courtesy of Rick Deckardt

Osborne 1 Computer - The First Laptop?

Firstly, the videos on this page feature an interesting demonstration of software on the Osborne 1. Portable computers have come on in leaps and bounds since the 1980's, and within the last few years even laptops have begun to look dated as tablet computers gain popularity at a frightening pace. 

What is widely regarded as the first truly portable computer was made available to the general public for $1795 in 1981. The Osborne 1 featured built-in single-sided floppy disk drives, 64kb of memory, a built-in software bundle (inc. Supercalc spreadsheet, WordStar word processor and two Basic programming languages) and a 4.5 inch monitor - can you imagine trying to use a word processor using such a tiny screen, talk about eye strain! 

Unfortunately, whilst relatively easy to carry around, (23.5 pounds was light in those days!) it didn't come with a battery and you had to find an electrical socket to plug it in. So, while you could fold the keyboard into the computer and carry it around with you, you couldn't really use it anywhere without a socket, and it was still way too bulky to be classed as a laptop. More of a tabletop, really!

Nevertheless, this was a good attempt at producing a portable computer and it proved to be pretty popular. An optional battery pack was eventually made available which could run the machine about 1 hour.

In 1982, computer designer Adam Osborne announced that that the forthcoming replacement for the Osborne 1 (called the Executive) would wipe the floor with the current model, and made a further announcement in 1983 about another model called the Osborne Vixen. Unfortunately, sales of the original model plummeted, whilst Osborne spent too much time and money on developing the newer models. The company became bankrupt on 13th September 1983 before the Vixen was ever released, and the Executive model (which fixed many of the flaws seen in the Osborne 1) never really had the opportunity to become commercially successful, and sold in very limited numbers (between 1982 and 1983) before the company went bankrupt.

After the bankruptcy of the Osborne Corporation, a new version of The Vixen (also known as the Osborne 4) was developed and released for $1298 in 1984. However, due to a shortage of cash, technical problems and the release of MS-Dos IBM PC's, the computer never took off. The earlier Vixen system was never released.

 
Here are some interesting facts for you. The osborne 1 appears briefly in the 1984 movie The Philadelphia Experiment. At a computer fair in San Francisco in 1981, Adam Osborne told Apple employees to "go and tell Steve Jobs that the Osborne 1 is going to outsell the Apple II and Macintosh combined!". Apparently, Steve Jobs rang Osborne, but had to make do with his secretary who asked him to leave a message. Jobs replied "Here's my message. Tell Adam he's an A***hole."
Wordstar screenshot
This is a screenshot of the Wordstar Word Processor software in DOS.
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Space Invaders on an Osborne 1
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Adam Osborne

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