Friday, June 10, 2011

First Laptops



Today's picture shows one of the first "portable" computers, and it could be considered the first "laptop". The computer is the Osborne 1, and it came out in 1981. The computer cost $1,800, weighed 25 pounds, and had a 5 inch screen.

I have enjoyed this week in pictures and have appreciated the chance to read your memories of technology firsts.

14 comments:

  1. My first computer was a Kaypro 4. Very similar layout to the Osbourne, but a bigger screen. It was around 30 pounds and the case was sheet steel. At the time, these were known as "luggables". My Kaypro ran CP/M, and had a suite of software featuring the first versions of Wordstar and Calcstar. I thought I was in tall cotton with that thing. My smartphone today probably has a thousand times the horsepower.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Small screen, anemic everything else. Seems hardly worth the cost or effort to utilize. I didn't get my first office computer until the mid-late 80's. Black screen w/orange characters. Hard to read and all those DOS commands that had to be memorized... what a pain. Also used a noisy dot matrix printer. My big obsession back then was tracking the price of VCRs. Waiting for the moment they dropped under $1200!!!

    John

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, I have been enjoying this weeks pictures. Love the trip down RAM lane.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I remember that if you owned a luggable back then you were "The Man!" (or Woman!). Same with that big bulky cell phone with the case. In the mid to late 80's we had to devote an entire room to our fax machine at work. It was about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide and deep. Gigantic roll of special paper. Over time the print on the fax paper would degrade and slowly disapear. Those were good days though, I felt like I was on the ground floor of cutting edge technology. This was a throughly enjoyable week of pictures. Someone suggested a week devoted to old radio, I second the motion. Maybe include old TV too. Have a nice weekend all. Dave

    ReplyDelete
  5. I had one of these at work, and later bought one for my personal use. It took effort to use, but I felt drunk with power. The alternatives were slide rules and roll-top Marchant calculators. I didn't have access to the company computer and I didn't know FORTRAN. One program I wrote did a complete material balance for a wet process phosphoric acid plant based on lab results from one day's operation. It was written in BASIC, and solved a 10X10 set of simultaneous linear equations by Gaussean elimination.

    Good times.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I looked up the story about Adam Osborne and the "Osborne Effect". They were selling 1000 computers a month and then it is said that Adam Osborne bragged about advancements his company was making on 2 new computers and many orders for the Osborne 1 were cancelled causing an inventory glut and bankruptcy. "The Osborne effect" is said to be a preannouncement of a new product. I'm sure competition from IBM, Compaq and Apple didn't help.

    ReplyDelete
  7. And to think when I was small you picked up the phone to make a call and a lady answered "Central. What number do you wish to call?" What's really telling is, in the town where I lived you gave her a three digit response, meaning there were a max of 999 phones on the system.

    Of course, my mother was born the year the Wright brothers flew and lived to see live pictures of Americans on the moon.

    I must be getting old. Few of the developments seem like real progress, just additional complications.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Bruce, I get exactly what you mean. There have been many "refinements" but very few breakthroughs. Think how long the following have been around and still viable... Boeing type commercial liners, aspirin, penicillin, Colt 45 ACP 1911, telephone wires on poles, transistor radios, cars with internal combustion engines. I can't think of anything brand new except for Gore-tex and dental implants. Even the implants aren't a new idea. It was the shift to titanium in the 1980's that made them successful.

    John

    ReplyDelete
  9. My first "portable" was the Compaq Suitcase http://goo.gl/U1ZuS I recall having to bring in a set of luggage wheels to take it home from work on public transit (BART) in 1985. Cost was around $2500 and it weighed about 30# and also required you to carry a box of 5-1/4" discs to swap in to load your applications (Supercalc and VolksWriter were both 2 disk apps)

    You used one drive for the app, the other for your data and were constantly prompted to "Insert disk 2 in Drive A:"

    3 years later, when the company bought some WYSE 286 laptops http://goo.gl/0URIA at around $1600 and a 10# weigh-in, we were offered the opportunity to buy the Compaqs... and yes, I still have it and the DOS1.1 discs and the applications!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I used one of these at work to write technical documents. While they seem ridiculous now, you have to remember that the alternative at that time for writers was a typewriter. The ability to edit a document in an instant was revolutionary.

    ReplyDelete
  11. oh no, such a small screen...thank God to innovation! =)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Owned an Osborne Executive back in '82 or '83. Took it to college and wrote all my papers with it. Had a 5" screen.

    The topper was that I just left it in the library when I had a class. It was never stolen or bother with and after class I just went back to the library and started up the machine and went back to work.

    It was a heavy machine, over 20 lbs I think, but I had to carry it only twice a day to and from the library.

    Wouldn't have gotten the good grades I did without that computer.

    After college I sold it to a collector for $200. It cost me only $300. I think it was from a company that was selling the assets of Osborne after it's bankruptcy.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I enjoyed the week also. Unfortunately I remember all of it.

    Worked at HqSAC in the early '80s and dealt with National Labs in weapons development. I was on the logistics side and remember well the resistance of management to leave the old card system of munitions inventory. They just didn't think that the 'new' electronics were secure. Took a while, but in the end I think that it was Sandia that forced the issue as they needed better stockpile control.

    That was my first run in with computers and have been on them ever since. Useful machines, but they can easily take over your life.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh my word! These comments are hysterical! These "luggables" were invented about the same time I was born. iPads are the same size as the screen on this computer and weight 90+% less. HEHEHE!

    I do remember having a later similar model of the one shown. I think my tech-hungry uncle gave it to us for my mom to do her school papers on. I thought it was so cool that I could play games on it. I would set everything up on our rickety kitchen table. I kept hoping the computer wouldn't break the table...

    ReplyDelete