First Computer – How Did You Get Started?

In 1982, I decided to become adept at Morse Code. I can’t even remember why now. So I went to the local Heathkit Store (an old version of Radio Shack) in Berkeley, CA and invested in a Morse Code key kit. With a little soldering and wiring, I built a replica of a code key to tap out Morse Code.

While at the store I noticed a newfangled piece of equipment called a “Portable Computer”. The following week I returned to the store to really check out this new piece of equipment. I was both excited and mystified by the box that was the size of an old Singer sewing machine, had a 5″ built-in monitor (white on black) and two 32kb floppy drives and 64k of memory.

Oh yeah, it was portable – if you call lugging around 25 pounds portable.

Here was the ultimate in computer technology – THE OSBORNE COMPUTER – with it’s CPM operating system, 5 1/4 floppy drives(2), tiny monitor, tilt out keyboard and with an attached handle for carrying if you were strong enough. And it came bundled with ALL the software you could ever want or need:

WORDSTAR – Word processing software with Mail/Merge

SUPERCALC – Spreadsheet that could do math

DB – The ultimate Database

And all of the above software came with their corresponding 500 page manuals. WOW – what else could anyone need? Oh yeah, price in 1982 was a mere $1800 and believeme, that’s a lot of monthly payments.

Check this out – Start operating system(CPM) in A: drive – use B: drive for data

Swap out CPM floppy for Program in A: drive – switch B: floppy for data


After a month or so of exploring and reading the Osborne Magazine “The Portable Companion”, I bought and upgraded the floppy drives from 32kb to 64kb each and even bought a modem to chat online with other Osbornites.

Anyway, to wrap this up for now – I took the “portable” computer to work and entered the Companies customer list so we could sort by name, address, zip, etc and set up the first mailing list available on computer. The Company was so impressed they spent $650 for a dot matrix printer so they could do mailing labels.

It was definitely a miracle device for the times.

This was not entered on the Osborne Portable Computer – although I still have it on the worktable and it still functions as designed.

Source by Ted Kunchick

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