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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Osborne Executive

Osborne Executive


Osborne Computer Corporation Ltd (US)


Osborne Executive

Date Launched

Early 1983


Approx. £1500

Microprocessor type

Zilog Z80A @ 4 MHz

ROM size

8 kilobytes

Standard RAM

124 kilobytes
Used bank switching to bypass the 64 KB limit of the Z80A.

Maximum RAM

384 kilobytes

Keyboard type

Typewriter style with separate numeric pad. Reported to have a poor action.

Supplied language

Microsoft MBASIC 5.22 and Compiler Systems CBASIC 2 (both loaded from disc).

Text resolution

24 lines of 80 characters on built-in display

Graphics resolution

No graphics except character symbols

Colours available

Monochrome (amber)
Characters could be displayed at normal brightness, half brightness, reversed or flashing.



Cassette load speed

Not applicable (built-in disc drives).

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

500 x 500 x 220 (closed)

Special features

A complete computer with:

  • two 5¼ inch disc drives storing 185K each
  • a 7 inch amber monitor
  • a detachable keyboard
  • a modem
in a single portable unit.
Ran off 110 or 220 volts.
An external monitor could be connected to make text more readable.

Good points

A genuinely portable and fully specified desktop computer.
It was supplied with a suite of software including the CP/M Plus operating system, Wordstar 3.3 word processor and Supercalc 1.12 spreadsheet.
The software package would have cost close to £1000 if bought separately so the Executive was not as expensive as it appeared.

Bad points

Weighing 28 pounds it was a bit heavy to be 'portable'.
The screen was still quite small.
It needed mains power or an optional external battery pack.

How successful?

The Osborne Executive seems to have been reasonably popular as a successor to the Osborne 1 initially.
However by the time it went on sale the IBM PC was beginning to be seen as the way forward for business computers and so Adam Osborne announced that the company was developing a much better IBM-compatible portable, based on the Intel 8086 family of microprocessors, to be called the Osborne PC.
Unsurprisingly customers then held off buying the Executive and waited for the PC instead. Unfortunately this left Osborne with insufficient cashflow to keep going and the company went bankrupt in September 1983, the Osborne PC never being launched.


The Executive was an evolutionary update of the successful Osborne 1 portable computer, with more memory, a larger screen and better facilities to act as a remote terminal for mainframe computers.
The flap which can be seen sticking out above the back of the computer covered the outlet for the cooling fan and had to be opened before use. The Osborne 1 had been prone to overheating.
There was a slot under the two disk drives (on the left hand side) to hold spare disks.

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