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Thread: Osborne 1

  1. #1

    Default Osborne 1

    In this thread, I will be documenting my adventures with the Osborne 1!

    I recently got this Osborne 1a off of eBay, and it arrived with some damage (wasn't packed very well of course), most of which I have been able to fix so far (not all of it though). The seller was very nice and worked with me to resolve the issue though, so I'm happy.

    One of the issues I haven't been able to fix so far is the hooks on the keyboard got bent a little (because the keyboard was violently knocked off of the machine in shipment), so the keyboard will fall of when you pick the machine up. For now I'm using a velcro strap I made to hold it on.

    The second issue is that A: drive doesn't even attempt to read a disk. I checked the speed with a strobe, and it was a little off, so I adjusted it, but that didn't help. I know it's also not a head alignment issue because it won't format a disk either. I've got a suspicion it might be the head amplifier chip, but I don't know for sure. So for now this machine will have to get by with one drive.

    Here's a pic of the machine:


    This one has a green monitor, and was made in January or February of 1983, making it a pretty late-model O1. I think the PSU and CRT analog circuitry may need recapping soon, because the image on the screen will wiggle sometimes. The brightness also changes as the machine warms up and has to be adjusted to compensate.

    As you can see, I also managed to find an "OSCOOL" fan for it! This REALLY helps with cooling; I have run it for more than an hour with it, and the case doesn't even get warm. How it works is, you take the cover off of the vent on the top (on the 1a only, this won't work on an original O1), put the OSCOOL in its place, plug the short cord on the OSCOOL into the back of the Osborne, and the you plug your main cord into the back of the OSCOOL. It also says in the paperwork to leave the switch on the back of the Osborne on, and use the switch on the OSCOOL as the main power switch, which is actually very convenient.

    I'm also going to get the cigarette lighter adapter for this (there's a person on eBay that has a bunch of NOS ones) and make a battery for it! I'll have to find an old vinyl bag that looks similar to the official Osborne one looked, put two 6V lead acids in there, a cigarette lighter plug on the side, and I'll have a fully-portable Osborne! Man I'd love to take all of that to Starbucks and see what kind of looks I get!

    I also decided to go ahead and get the next Osborne on my want list, which is an original O1. Found one that was way too expensive, but I managed to get them to come down considerably (since it was sold as "non-working" and has several value-hurting modifications).

    Here's a random pic of one off Google:


    You can clearly see it looks a good bit different. It's even more crude looking than the 1a is!

    As I said above the one I found has some modifications done to it, which I'll show you all once it arrives (hopefully in one piece!).

    The original O1's case is also considerably more flimsy than the 1a from what I've heard.

    Wonder how long it'll be before I have an Executive on the way? There's also some other Kaypros I want! These old CP/M portables are addicting! There is also the Vixen, but those are rare and quite valuable. The last one that was on eBay went for $532, and I'm just not a Vixen is worth *that* much to me. And while I like the look (and the name!) of the Vixen, I actually prefer the form-factor of the O1 and the Executive. The permanently attached keyboard of the Vixen also seems a teeny bit limiting, as I sometimes like to sit the keyboards in my lap.

    Another thing about the Vixen is that it's almost ten pounds lighter than the O1!

    That's all for now. I'll add more to this later.
    Last edited by compaqportableplus; May 28th, 2019 at 04:47 AM.

  2. #2


    I guess you canít hardly see the OSCOOL fan in that picture! Iíll get a better pic of it up in a minute.

    Edit: Here's a pic of it:


    Very nifty little accessory.
    Last edited by compaqportableplus; May 28th, 2019 at 05:05 AM.

  3. #3


    Here is one of the disk drives out of the Osborne (can't remember now if this was the A: or B: drive, but they are both identical). It's the Siemens variant, which seem to be less reliable than the other brand that was also used in Osborne 1s (don't remember the brand of the other).



    Anyone know what might be wrong with the A: drive? I've oiled it and cleaned the heads already. I also got the speed set correctly on it.

  4. #4


    Hmm..... I managed to find the Osborne disk drive testing utility, and it says the speed is out of tolerance on my A: drive, so I guess the strobe failed me. Will pull it back apart later and adjust it with the program and see if that fixes my problem.

    On a side note, my tan case O1 is arriving today, so I’m super excited about that! Will post pics once it arrives.

  5. #5


    The beast is here!






    So cool! This is one of the less common ones that just has the "O1" on the side instead of having "Osborne 1" fully spelled out like most of them do. This was a nice surprise, as I couldn't see the sides of the machine in the pics. It was packed really well too.

    Also, the pic of it on was taken about a minute or two before the filter cap in the PSU split open and smoked! The machine is fine though, I got too excited and put it back together without removing it, which was a mistake. It sounded kind of like sizzling bacon when it happened I will be fully replacing it soon, as it filters the ac power coming out of the machine. Don't want to cause any interference.

    Now for the modifications this machine has:



    Well, as you can see above already, the keyboard cable has been extended, but these others are a little more extreme.

    Someone added a connector on the side of the keyboard, which I have no clue as to the purpose of.

    And the most extreme mod is the fan! As you can see, someone actually did a really good job cutting the hole out. However the fan is mounted externally, which looks like crap, so I'm going to get a nice low-profile fan and mount it internally, and then install a grille on the outside. Then I'll have the only original O1 in existence that won't get too damn hot!

    The vacuum-molded case is pretty thin, but it seems more rubbery rather than brittle, so it doesn't feel particularly fragile to me. In other words, It'll kind of "bounce-back" when something hits it

    Also, the bezel around the keyboard is metal! That gives the keyboard a really good quality feel. The OAK Full Travel Membrane keyboard on these feels awesome.

    That's all for now. I'll post more about this machine later.

  6. #6


    Here's the cap that blew up:



    Made a nice smell and some smoke!

    I also went ahead and cleaned/lubricated the floppy drives. The loud "Grrrr, Grrrr" that these MPI drives make is actually NOT normal! It was making that sound at first, but after lubrication they are almost silent!

  7. #7


    yes if it has others re-place them as well they are rf caps and in all old gear tends to go.. they were paper in side i think..

  8. #8


    There is one or two more smaller ones. I’ll definitely make sure and replace those as well.

  9. #9


    This Osborne is has been working very well so far. I also went ahead and lubricated the disk drive latches, as they were VERY tight and squeaky. They feel very nice to operate now.

    Here's some pics:




    The last two are Catchum and Ladder, which are both super fun games. Catchum is based on Pac Man, and Ladder is based on Donkey Kong.

    This machine is serial number 04344, and was made in very early 1982 as far as I can tell. The disk drives are dated October of 1981! The chips on the motherboard are dated early '82 though. Another way you can tell it's an early one is that the power switch is red and the power cord is not detachable.

    I also got the keyboard cable pushed down inside of the keyboard some, which makes it a lot easier to deal with, and can always be pulled-out if more length is needed.

    Also, the leather handle is dry-rotted and has a crack in it. The metal reinforcement is also snapped in half, so the handle it basically useless. The way I fixed my 1a was just wrapped and tied some parachute cord around the original loops, which actually worked out great, but it looks silly, and a proper leather handle would look and fell much nicer. So I'm going to see what my options are for a leather handle of the right size.

  10. #10


    Okay, I managed to get the single-density Extended Utilities imaged with my Compaq DeskPro EN! The bad news is that the minute I put the disk in and tried to read it the machine died! It just went completely out; no funny sound or smell, it just went off as if I had turned the switch off!

    So I took the machine apart, checked the PSU, which was my first suspicion. I was pretty certain after doing some poking around that the PSU wasn't the issue, so I took the motherboard from my Osborne 1a, hooked it up, and it powered right up!

    I started looking at the original board and noticed some very large tantalum capacitors; almost 40-year-old tantalum capacitors mind you. I was suspicious, and my suspicion was right! The cap I outlined in the image there is the new one I installed, which used to be a very large blue tantalum:


    Here was the machine after I had just gotten it back together:


    Much better

    And, finally, here is the 80-column video in action!


    It's not as hard to read as I thought it'd be, so I set up a WordStar disk to run in 80-column standard by following the instructions in the Screen-Pac users manual.

    I really could not believe that the son-of-a-bitch died the minute I put the newly made disk in. So glad it turned out to be an easy fix. I guess the 38-watt PSU wasn't strong enough to blow the capacitor

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