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Technology: In the 1980s, My First Computers

Osborne Computer Corporation. “The OSBORNE 1 at a Glance.” Print advertisement for Osborne 1, ca. 1981.

New York, N.Y. The Osborne 1 was the first commercially successful portable computer, released on April 3, 1981, by Osborne Computer Corporation. It weighed 25 pounds and cost $1,795 which in 2024 would be about $5,850.

Later model Osborne 1 with the redesigned case

After graduating from the College of Wooster in 1982, I bought it in New York to take back to Japan with me. The company sold over 11,000 units in the first eight months of sales. The Osborne 1 had a tiny 5-inch display screen and used single-sided floppy disk drives that could only store 90 kB per disk. The Osborne 1 was described as “a cross between a World War II field radio and a shrunken instrument panel of a DC-3.”

Humorously now but not at the time, my landlord was tremendously concerned that I had a “kon-pyuu-ta” in the apartment that would use “so much” electricity. I explained it used no more than a light bulb, but my defense fell on deaf ears. I was summarily hit with a rent increase.

Adam Osborne developed the Osborne computer. An author of computer books, Osborne decided that he wanted to break the price of computers. It was designed to be portable, with a rugged ABS plastic case and a handle.

The Osborne 1 was about the size and weight of a sewing machine and was advertised as the only computer that would fit underneath an airline seat. This was the big attraction for me. It is now classified as a “luggable” computer when compared to later “laptop” designs.

New, Improved Osborne as well as IBM Completion Led to Bankruptcy

Osborne then introduced its new and improved model, the Executive. The Executive was only produced in limited numbers compared to the predecessor Osborne 1, before the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The financial problems of the Osborne company were aggravated by the early announcement of the Executive, which cut into sales of the Osborne 1.

This so-called Osborne effect has become proverbial as a mistake that can be made by companies trading in high-technology products.

In 1981, IBM released the IBM PC, which was significantly more powerful and expandable. Following the release of the IBM-compatible Compaq Portable in 1983, the market for CP/M computers shrank, and Osborne was unable to compete.

Debuted during the Super Bowl on January 22, 1984, Apple’s iconic ad announced the Macintosh.

The First Mac

In 1986, I used my personal American Express card to purchase five new Mac computers for our office, Fundamentalists Anonymous. I had just left working at the Japanese bank on Wall Street and was flush with cash. The Macintosh, later rebranded Macintosh 128K, was the original Macintosh personal computer from Apple.

The Mac was the first successful mass-market all-in-one desktop personal computer with a graphical user interface, built-in screen, and mouse. It was pivotal in establishing desktop publishing as a general office function.

The motherboard, a 9-inch monochrome monitor, and a floppy drive are in a beige case with an integrated carrying handle; it had a keyboard and single-button mouse.

The Macintosh was introduced by a television commercial titled “1984” during Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984. I can still remember being so shocked by that groundbreaking commercial. Sales were strong at its initial release on January 24, 1984, at $2,495 (equivalent to $7,400 in 2024). The company sold almost 250,000 units by the end of their first year, 1984.

Today, I am Married to My MacBook Pro

Today I cannot live without my iPhone and MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro is a line of Mac laptop computers developed and manufactured by Apple. Introduced in January 2006, it is the higher-end lineup in the MacBook family, sitting above the less expensive MacBook Air, sold with 14-inch and 16-inch screens, all using Apple silicon M-series chips.

Before Apple silicon, the MacBook Pro used Intel chips and was the first laptop made by Apple to do so, replacing the earlier PowerBook. It was also the first Apple laptop to carry the MacBook moniker.

My 16-inch MacBook Pro was released in October 2021. I have come a long way. In fact, my computer today is literally millions of times more powerful in terms of CPU performance and memory capacity compared to the Osborne 1. The advancements in technology over the past four decades have led to exponential improvements in computing power, efficiency, and capabilities.more powerful. With an external hard drive and time machine, I am able to do the work I believe needs to be done.

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Tags: technology, computers, portable computers, Osborne 1, Adam Osborne, IBM PC, CP/M computers, Macintosh, Apple, MacBook Pro, computer history, retro tech, vintage computing, early tech, tech innovation, technological evolution

Technology: In the 1980s, My First Computers (May 28, 2024)

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Jim Luce
Jim Luce
Raising, Supporting & Educating Young Global Leaders through Orphans International Worldwide (, the J. Luce Foundation (, and The Stewardship Report ( Jim is also founder and president of the New York Global Leaders Lions Club.


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