The Osbourne PC was my introduction to computing


The Osbourne 1 PC
 

5 and 1/4 inch floppy disk


The Osbourne 1 portable PC was one of the first personal computers on the market and it was the first PC which I used. The Osbourne used CP/M for its operating system. CP/M was similar to PC/DOS which later replaced it. This PC had 64 kB of RAM, two slots for 5 and 1/4 inch floppy disks (they were indeed floppy as in flappy and floppable), and a tiny 5 inch monochrome screen (green) which only displayed text (no graphics). Its processor was a Zilog Z80 which ran at 4 mHz. It was built into a large, bulky attache case-like box and weighed some 11 kg.

My introduction to computing via the Osbourne included learning basic CP/M because it was needed to do file and system handling (WINDOWS came much later for me). I used the Osbourne to write my PhD thesis at the University of Western Australia. It was probably one of the first thesis there to be written using a PC and certainly the first to be submitted as a dot matrix (8-pin) printed document (I had to get approval of the University to submit at variance to what was the normal practice then of theses produced using typewriters). The program which I used to write my thesis was Wordstar. The remarkable thing about the months of writing was that while writing using this program on the Osbourne, the 5-inch monitor only displayed part of the width of each page. One had to scroll LEFT and RIGHT (not up and down as we do now to view more content) to see what was written. It was certainly a tedious thing to cope with but it was so much of an advance to be able to type one's own thesis and make the many edits to drafts during the writing. The then standard practice was to write something on paper many times over until one is happy with the version after which it is handed over to a typist who made a print which one then proof read. More typing was done as needed if editing was necessary.

That was in the mid 1980s. I got hold of my own PC for my post-doc project (a DOS machine) after that. Email first came in the form of a text program for me. Later, I used Eudora after I moved away from DOS and adopted Windows. I switched to WORD from Wordstar after I started using Windows. In the midst of all that, there was a short period (later mid-1980s) when I was an Apple Mackintosh user because the research group which I was with was Apple orientated. Desktop computing has moved on in great strides since those days and I now use this for my computing.