Disk Utility Program for Osborne Executive

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CP/M doesn’t care about disk formats and each computer needs its own formatting utility. Therefore, the disks are usually not compatible between different CP/M computers (even if the floppy drive hardware is the same).

The issue was present on CP/M platform even after PC-compatibles took the lead. The life with DOS/PC-compatible computers was somehow much easier.

Osborne Executive (1983)

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Portable devices of early 80s were intended only for strong people because carrying a 12-kg computer was definitely not for everyone. This “luggable” was equipped with 4-MHz Zilog Z80, ~120kB of RAM and two 5.25” floppy disk drives which made it a standard CP/M machine. It was cleverly designed with a sturdy case where all ports and vents were covered (this was not typical for its competitors). There were also cool features like an easy way to load a different character set and a fast video circuit with dedicated video RAM.

Although Osborne Executive can display 80 characters per row the CRT screen is so small that longer work is not very comfortable. I don’t like the screen much not only because of letters with size of few millimeters but also because I see heavy flickering. This is definitely not a long persistence screen. Fortunately, you can attach an external screen using (monochrome) composite video output which can work with both standards (software selectable) – PAL 50Hz and NTSC 60Hz (NTSC looks better because of higher refresh rate).

The keyboard provides good tactile feedback and with an external screen attached you have no-compromise CP/M compatible computer. I don’t see this very portable but there were different standards back then. It was nice to have a way to transport a computer in a single package.

Infoworld resources: Osborne Executive ad, “When Your Micro Becomes an Orphan”

In Front of Osbornes

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This is me*… five years ago in front of Osborne Executive.

*) the one wearing the Space Invader T-shirt

Kids and Old Computers

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There is a way to see many old computers running in one room in Czech Republic. It’s called Bytefest and it is probably the biggest public retrocomputing event in the country. I took about twenty computers in my car with me this year in order to show the evolution of portable computers.

There were a lot of people walking around and some of them brought their kids. It is somehow nice to see little kids trying to do something with computers that are few decades older than they are. When they grow up there is a high chance that these computers will not work anymore.