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EEVblog tears down world's first portable computer

The Osborne 1, released in 1981, was the world's first portable microcomputer. (Source:
The Osborne 1, released in 1981, was the world's first portable microcomputer. (Source:
Ever wonder what made the world's first "luggable" computer tick? EEVblog has released a video teardown of the groundbreaking device.

 It's easy to take for granted how amazingly fast our modern day computers have become, but it can be fun and enlightening to take a look back at how far we’ve come. That’s exactly what YouTuber EEVblog has done in a video teardown of the world’s first portable computer, the Osborne 1.

Released in June of 1981, the Osborne 1 was the must have piece of tech at the time. It featured all the required components of a full-fledged microcomputer in a “portable” package, including two floppy drives, a detachable keyboard, and a built-in screen. By today’s standards, the 91 KB floppy drives and 5-inch CRT display are woefully outdated, but they pushed the limits of what a computer could be at the time.

The Osborne 1 should really be considered a “luggable” computer as there was no battery; the machine had to be plugged into a wall outlet to power on. It also wasn’t easily portable. Weighing in at 24.5 pounds (~ 11 Kg), it definitely wasn’t something people carried in backpacks or briefcases. In comparison, Apple’s 12-inch Macbook weighs in at a paltry 2.04 lbs (0.93 Kg). The small screen could only display 52 characters (not words) per line of text, was only available in monochrome, and was no bigger than most smartphone displays, although at a much lower resolution.

The Osborne 1 was available for $1,750 US at the time of release, or about $4,773.42 US in today’s dollars. That’s actually not far off from a fully specced out 15-inch Macbook Pro (which retails for $4,300 US). The Osborne 1 also included about $1,500 US worth of software as well (about $4,000 US today), making it a real steal. Modern PC manufacturers might do well to follow the Osborne’s example and throw in some free goodies with new laptops.

EEVblog’s teardown is an entertaining and interesting look at a groundbreaking piece of hardware. If it weren’t for the Osborne, the notebook computers we use today may have never been built.


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Sam Medley, 2016-12-14 (Update: 2016-12-14)