I teach 109

I'm Luke, I teach CMPT-109 at Montclair State University and this is my blog.

Osborne 1 - The First Laptop


I present to you Osborne 1 - world’s first laptop. Or rather, the first “luggable” computer (as per it’s advertising) since it was a little bit to heavy to be placed on your lap. This 24 lb monstrosity was created by Adam Osborne in early 80’s, based on the design of Alan Key of Xerox PARC. Yes, the same company who failed to capitalize on their invention of a mouse driven GUI also came up (and failed to capitalize on) the idea for a laptop. Their Xerox NoteTaker never went into production, and the design was instead adopted by Osborne.

Osborne 1 Laptop

The computer was designed to be about the size and weight of a standard sewing machine. The marketing materials at the time bragged it was the only computer in existence that can easily fit under an airline seat. It was portable, in the sense that you could fold it up into a suitcase like shape, and lug it around, though it was not easy.

By today’s standards, the technical specs seem laughable:

  • 4 MHz CPU
  • 64 Kb of RAM
  • 5-inch, 52 character x 24 line monochrome CRT display

For comparison, an iPhone 4, which fits in your pocket is few hundred times faster:

  • 1 GHz CPU
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 640x960 pixel full color HD display

However the hardware was not that impressive at the time either. The display was punitively small, and incapable of displaying pixel based graphics which were slowly becoming very important in computing. It also had too little memory, and poor storage options for practical office use. Despite the poor specs and design flaws, at the peak of it’s popularity Osborne 1 sales were over 10,000 units per month making it a huge commercial success.