They may only be from 1981, but this piece of kit and the amazing adverts that try to sell it show just how quickly things move in the technology world. The hardware is the Osborne 1, widely acknowledged as the first laptop computer – and a machine very different from today’s laptops and iPads (which was first introduced in 2010)
It boasts a five inch screen, dual 5.25 inch floppy drives, all crammed into a case that weighed a back-breaking 24lbs – all for just over £1300. The machine was given a series of glossy adverts as Osborne and its founder Adam Osborne tried to revolutionise the computer industry.
It was introduced in 1981 at the West Coast Computer Fair. It had 64 Kb of memory, a 5inch display screen and had two floppy disk drives and a full sized keyboard.
However, it was rather more bulky than today’s laptop, weighing 24 pounds. It came with a suite of software using a now obsolete operating system called CP/M operating system.
It sold for $1,795 which included Micropro’s Wordstar software.The machine proved extremely popular, and in 1982, more than 125,000 Osborne computers were sold.
However, as the computer world moved over to creating IBM compatible machines, Osborne struggled to produce a followup, despite attempts to make a machine called ‘Vixen’.
It was beaten to the market by a Compaq machine which stole their sales, and as sales of the Osborne 1 dropped off as people waited for its replacement, the firm went into bankruptcy in 1983.
Osborne 1 Specifications
Dual 5.25″ floppy disk drives
Built-in 5″ black and white monitor
Zilog Z80A CPU
64K bytes RAM
4K bytes ROM
Adam Osborne, the man behind the Osborne 1, was born to a British father and Polish mother in Thailand
He moved to the U.K. at the age of 11 and in 1961 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Birmingham University.
He then moved to California, and worked for Shell, but soon set up a successful firm publishing technical books which he eventually sold to McGraw Hill. He then set about creating a portable computer, with bundled software.
Osborne was a member of the Homebrew computing Club, where Apple founder Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak first showed off their Apple 1 computer.