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CED in the History of Media Technology


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Osborne Computer

1981: Osborne Portable Computer

The Osborne Computer was the brainchild of Adam Osborne, a well-known publisher of technical books in the early days of the personal computer. He wanted a computer with a built-in screen that could fit under an airplane seat, and the Osborne just met those criteria in 1981, albeit via a rather small 5-inch CRT. The screen displayed 52 characters, but could be shifted left/right to display longer lines of text. The Osborne was introduced at the West Coast Computer Faire in April 1981, and was also notable for being the first machine to come bundled with a suite of software that included BASIC, WordStar, and SuperCalc. The unit retailed for $1795 and had brisk sales of about 10,000 machines a month.

Other companies, most notably Compaq, jumped into the portable computer business, prompting Osborne to release the Osborne Executive model in 1983 (at which time the original was named Osborne 1). This unit had a 7-inch CRT and the same Z80 processor as the original, but an optional 8088 CPU card allowed it to run the MS-DOS operating system. But Osborne Computer Corp. was unable to manage itself effectively in its rapidly changing market from 1981 to 1983, and OCC declared bankruptcy on September 13, 1983.


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