Curtis A. Ingraham (former Osborne's employee) reports:
Adam Osborne, formerly a chemical engineer in the
petroleum industry and later a consultant in the new microprocessor/microcomputer
industry, conceived the Osborne 1 as a complete computer (CPU, keyboard,
monitor, diskette drives, and I/O ports) in a portable package bundled
with ready-to-run operating system and applications software, all for
a reasonable price. These features did not exist in the typical computer
of that time, let alone in combination in one product. Lee Felsenstein
designed the computer and brought it to production. The company grew from
just a few employees to over a thousand in a year or two.
The Osborne Executive, OCC's second product, was
another CP/M machine intended to overcome the limitations of the Osborne
1 by providing a larger screen with an 80-column width. Add-on memory
boards were an option.
Following the introduction of the Executive, OCC
was developing a PC-compatible portable (not the Encore) which looked
much like the Executive. This project was near production at the time
of the bankruptcy. I recall that the PC-compatible was to be called the
"Osborne PC". It is quite true that the PC announcement killed
the sales of the exsiting models. The company was preparing to offer an
upgrade plan to convert Executives to PCs in the hopes of sustaining Executive
sales, but the sales died anyway. I believe five copies of the PC were
built, and at least one of them was working. It looked much like the Executive.
The company was desperately trying to sell the design to other companies
just before the bankruptcy.
Martin Scott Goldberg says :
The Sol was not designed by Bob Marsh and the Osborne
was not made a reality by Adam Osborne. Both were designed and built by
Lee Felsenstein, who lived in Bob Marsh's garrage and was the actuall
electrical engineer of their stuff. He's also known for being the moderator
of the Home Brew Computer Club. The operating system was written by the
infamous Steve Dompier (the man who made the Altair play music at a Homebrew
The idea Les Solomon had put forth was for an intelligent
terminal, not an actuall full computer, and that's the way the Sol was
presented in Popular Electronics in 1976. Though it was actually a full
blown computer with a terminal built in.
When Proc Tech folded by 1980, Lee was then hired
that year by Adam Osborne to design and build a "portable" computer. This
of course turned out to be the Osborne 1.
Martin Greenwood reports :
In 1984 I was with a bunch of guys who had Osborne
1 s and later I bought (and still have) an Osborne Executive second hand.
The Floppy Disks were single sided, but enterprising souls got a small
hole punch and made holes in the jacket at just the right place so the
disk could be turned over and written both sides. This changed a Floppy
into a Flippy.
dBase II would run on Osbornes, and these guys developed
a wiring documentation package for a brewery control system (one of the
first really big PLC projects, certainly in this country) using their
Osbornes. The program was then run on an IBM PC that had been fitted with
a hard disk - before the XT was officially available in Australia. That
database eventually exceeded 1Meg in size. To print it out we set up the
IBM and a dot matrix printer at night with a new box of A3 width fanfold
paper and spent half an hour next morning sorting out the pile of paper
it had produced and spread over the floor. Crude, but it saved the project
From Dale Carpenter:
I was hired by Xerox in 1983 to do among other things fix Osborne's. I
have installed many screen-paks on Osborne 1's and 1A's, the screen size
was 52/80/104. This capability was an option that included the composite
video jack. We installed a piggyback board on standoffs and drilled a hole
in the front cover for the comp. video jack. Double density floppy drives
was another add-on option that was very popular. It too was an add-on
board between the floppy data cable and the motherboard.There is also a
major differnce between 1's and 1A's. The 1 is the brown/tan case as your
picture shows the 1A is a grey case that is much more squared off looking.
The executive used the 1A case with a fan built into the handle and a
different front facia.
Eric Peterson Osborne 1 experience:
I owned two Osborne 1s back in the day, one in the tan case and one in the
grey-blue. I had the most exotic of peripherals: a $1400
external 11 MB hard drive, about the size of a shoebox.
It was a bottomless pit into which you could endlessly pour data without
filling it up -- or at least, it seemed that way for a while. It
interfaced via a daughterboard: you pried
the Z80 out of the motherboard, inserted the drive controller board's
jumper into the processor socket, plugged the ÁP into the daughterboard,
and ran a ribbon cable out through the case near the power supply, thereby
deriving great pleasure and the envy of all your friends.
I also had the Official Osborne 80-Column Adapter (whee!)
that drove a composite monitor, a great relief. The only hitch was
that you couldn't unplug it with the power on, else it'd blow something in
the video circuits on the motherboard, not a Good Thing.
The 300-baud modem actually became useful towards the end of
the computer's life as CompuServe began to get interesting.
IIRC my gray/blue one came bundled with dBase II as well as
the usual WordStar, VisiCalc and such. Call me a
throwback, but I still set the cursor movement keys on my text editors
(e.g. Visual Studio) to the old WordStar configuration -- but I think I
have some justification, as I'm a far faster programming-sort-of-typist
than the latest crop who have to flail
around for the arrow keys or the mouse when they want to move the cursor
one space in any direction.
They were good machines, and I got an awful lot of work done with them. I
was also lucky that my first encounter with assembly programming was on
the Osborne's Z80; I'm completely happy doing stuff like bitfiddling
instruction pipes, these days, but if I had to learn that sort of thing
from the ground up, I'd just go shoot myself.