Osborne 3
Announced:October 1984
Available:Spring 1985
Weight:9.5 pounds with 1 drive, no battery
CPU:Intel 80C86 @ 3.5MHz
Memory:128K-512K RAM
Display:monochrome LCD, black-on-white
 480x128 graphics, 80x16 lines text
Ports:serial, parallel
Storage:1 or 2 built-in DS-DD 360K floppy
OS:MS-DOS 2.11 on diskette
Power Supply:15vdc, center-positive

Osborne 3 - 1985
By Osborne Computer Corporation

The Osborne 3 portable computer was the last system ever released by the Osborne Computer Corporation.

Osborne had skyrocketed to fame back in 1981, by releasing one of the first portable computers, the Osborne 1, but financial problems (stiff competition and poor management) forced them into bankruptcy in late 1983.

Once with over 1,000 employees (700 factory workers used to assembled Osborne computers in the company warehouses), now they have less than 100 employees remaining, but they continued to sell the original Osborne 1 and Executive computer systems from existing stock.

By late 1984, the newly reorganized Osborne Computer Corporation was ready to re-enter the market with two new products - the Osborne Vixen and the Osborne 3 computer systems.

Determined to once again become relevant, Osborne turned away from their CP/M roots, and introduced their first, last, and only IBM-compatible computer - the Osborne 3. IBM-compatibility had become the new de facto standard in computers. This new system was not really manufactured or even designed by Osborne - it was licenced from Morrow Designs, and is almost identical to their own Morrow Pivot, although the Osborne 3 is more refined, with better IBM compatiblity, and it runs a later version (2.11) of the MS-DOS operating system.

The Osborne 3 was first sold overseas as the Osborne Encore, but they had to change the name for the US market due to copyright issues.

Price considerations fored them to install a smaller 16-line display instead of the usual 25-line display, and like all early non-backlit LCD screens, the Osborne screen has poor contrast, and is difficult to read without perfect lighting. John Tepper Marlin, The NYC Time Traveler, recalls wearing a miner's head flashlight in order to operate his Osborne 3 computer back in the day.

The Osborne 3 is truly portable, and can run for about five hours on a (not included) rechargable standard nicad video-camera battery. An external dial-up modem allows the Osborne 3 to connect with other computers over standard phone lines. There is room on the motherboard for a built-in modem, but the circuitry is not installed - see the motherboard picture below.

The keyboard has "hot keys" above the standard keyboard, they instantly bring up an on-screen calculator, terminal emulator, or world map with clock and calendar. Neither the screen or keyboard position is adjustable, though.

Osborne Computer emerged from Chapter 11 on January 18th, 1985, as a new, more efficient company (now only 35 employees remain). While no longer affiliated with their founder Adam Osborne, the new company is owned and operated by four executives from the old company. They continued to market the Vixen and "3" systems.

By September 1985, they dropped the price of Osborne 3 from $2,995 to $1,895 (with two floppy drives and 256K RAM).

Sadly, in early 1986, Osborne succumbs to market forces and creditors, and all remaining assets are sold to pay creditors - Osborne is no more.

Related Links

  • Adam Osborne tells his side of the story - InfoWorld - July 1984
  • Poirtable Companion magazine - November 1984
  • BYTE magazine - Sept 1985

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