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The Retro Challenge is a one-month long excuse to do cool stuff with old computers and blog about it (vaguely wrapped up as a competition).
Last year I created the RetroMatic 2000 as my entry.
This year I have more modest aims. I have acquired a number of additional vintage computers over the last year, and have been nursing them back into life. The one that has eluded me so far though, is the Osborne 1.
I was always fascinated by the Osborne 1, which most people regard as the first truly portable computer. It was priced firmly in the business marketplace though, so there was no way I could afford one as a teenager. I have since always wanted to add one to my collection. They are fairly rare in the UK however.
In early 2018 I found the opportunity to buy one on eBay at a price I could afford (and close enough to collect). It had no boot disks though, so I hoped I might be able to download boot disks off the internet and get it working.
Sadly I have not yet been able to get it to boot :-(
But then another Osborne came available on eBay, this time with the boot disks. I will be picking it up in the second week of April.
So my goals for this Retro Challenge are:
- Refurbish the second Osborne 1 (re-cap the PSU, service the disk drives) and get it booting.
- Try to make new boot disks for the first Osborne 1 and get it booting. I can then hopefully pass it on to another collector.
- Find a way to get internet-downloaded software onto the Osborne (possibly using a USB floppy drive emulator, possibly using the serial port).
- Conclude by playing a classic CPM game on my portable computer! Preferably Colossal Cave Adventure or The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy :-)
[Edit: here are the links to the project updates:]
- Osborne Restoration part 1: acquiring my first Osborne
- Osborne Restoration part 2: a bit of investigative surgery
- Osborne Restoration part 3: servicing the PSU and disk drives
- Osborne Restoration part 4: floppy emulator first tests
- Osborne Restoration part 5: floppy emulator – more woes
- Osborne Restoration part 6: second computer acquired
- Osborne Restoration part 7: signs of life
- Osborne Restoration part 8: transferring files with an RS232 interface lead
- Osborne Restoration part 9: external video monitor
- Osborne Restoration part 10: keyboard repairs
- Osborne Restoration part 11: floppy controller debugging
- Osborne Restoration part 12: USB floppy emulator – Gotek/HxC
- Osborne Restoration part 13: USB floppy emulator – Gotek/FlashFloppy
- Osborne Restoration part 14: USB floppy emulator – a semi-permanent solution
- Osborne Restoration part 15: USB floppy emulator – finishing off
- Osborne Restoration part 16: transferring CPM software
- Osborne Restoration part 17: text adventure games!
- Osborne Restoration part 18: wrapping up
NB. parts 1 to 5 describe what I did prior to the start of the Retro Challenge (but were written-up as part of the Challenge). The remainder describe work done during the dates of the Retro Challenge.
The above 18 posts are also summarised in this 36 minute video:
I’m sure there will be more posts to come as I do more with my Osborne (and try to fix the broken one) but they’ll be much more occasional from now on!