I don’t really intentionally collect old computers, I really don’t. However, when Bill Wahl called me up and said “Someone left an old computer here because they didn’t want to throw it away, and I thought you might want it. It says Osborne 1 on the side. Come and get it out of here.” Well, then I kind of had to make room, didn’t I?
The Osborne 1 is an interesting machine, and the story of its creator and the machine’s meteoric rise and just as equally meteoric fall between 1981 and 1983 is a really fascinating read:
Long story short, The Osborne 1 was the first truly commercially successful “portable” computer. In a year that featured computers you had to be a skilled hobbyist to assemble and use, where your buying decision was a series of pricing the “main unit”, a monitor, disk drives and interface card, memory options and software sold separately, the Osborne 1 was a simple all-in-one system with a software package included that was worth the cost of the machine at retail. The Osborne 1 introduced the concept of bundled software and between 1981 and 1982 Osborne were rewarded with skyrocketing sales. Then, due to a series of historic blunders and the fast-fading popularity of the CP/M operating system in the face of the IBM/MS-DOS combination, the company cratered and filed for bankruptcy protection in 1983. Osborne then limped along, releasing poorly-selling new models until 1985, when they folded.
It’s a good thing there are two copies of the CP/M system disk, because one of them was warped, and didn’t work:
This particular Osborne 1 has been upgraded with the 1982-era video output port for the external screen. I’m guessing they updated the ROM image to the 1982 version at that time. The Wordstar Help mentions in several places using the <DEL> key to backspace over mistakes, but the machine itself has no <DEL> key. I’m wondering if that was a later improvement that the earliest machines lacked.