Osborne Vixen

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Osborne Vixen
Osborne 'Vixen" Prototype.jpg
Developer Adam Osborne
Type portable computer
Release date 1984
Introductory price US$1,498
Operating system CP/M, CPM +
CPU Zilog Z80 @ 4.0MHZ
Memory 64KB
Osborne "Vixen" Enclosure Osborne "Vixen" Prototype.jpg
Osborne "Vixen" Enclosure

The Osborne Vixen was a "luggable" portable computer announced by the Osborne Computer Corporation in November 1984, as a follow up to their Osborne 1 and Osborne Executive system. [1]

Portable computer self-contained computer that is designed to be moved from one place to another

A portable computer was a computer designed to be easily moved from one place to another and included a display and keyboard. The first commercially sold portable was the 50 pound IBM 5100, introduced 1975. The next major portables were Osborne's 24 pound CP/M-based Osborne 1 (1981) and Compaq's 28 pound 100% IBM PC compatible Compaq Portable (1983). These "luggable" computers lacked the next technological development, not requiring an external power source; that feature was introduced by the laptop. Laptops were followed by lighter models, so that in the 2000s mobile devices and by 2007 smartphones made the term almost meaningless. The 2010s introduced wearable computers such as smartwatches.

Osborne Computer Corporation

The Osborne Computer Corporation (OCC) was a pioneering maker of portable computers. It was located in the Silicon Valley of the southern San Francisco Bay Area in California.

Osborne 1 portable microcomputer

The Osborne 1 is the first commercially successful portable microcomputer, released on April 3, 1981 by Osborne Computer Corporation. It weighs 10.7 kg (24.5 lb), cost US$1,795, and runs the CP/M 2.2 operating system. It is powered from a wall socket, as it has no on-board battery, but it is still classed as a portable device since it can be hand-carried when packed.


The Vixen had a 4 MHz Zilog Z80 microprocessor, with 64 KB dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). It had a 7-inch diagonal amber display that could show 24 lines by 80 columns of memory mapped video. It used two 400 KB disk drives, utilizing double-density double-sided 5.25" diskettes. As a luggable, it weighed about 18 pounds. Contemporary advertising pointed out that it could fit under the seat in an airplane, with dimensions of 1258 by 1614 by 614 inches (321 by 413 by 159 mm).

Zilog Z80 8-bit microprocessor

The Z80 CPU is an 8-bit based microprocessor. It was introduced by Zilog in 1976 as the startup company's first product. The Z80 was conceived by Federico Faggin in late 1974 and developed by him and his then-11 employees at Zilog from early 1975 until March 1976, when the first fully working samples were delivered. With the revenue from the Z80, the company built its own chip factories and grew to over a thousand employees over the following two years.

Dynamic random-access memory random-access memory that stores each bit of data in a separate capacitor within an integrated circuit

Dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) is a type of random access semiconductor memory that stores each bit of data in a separate tiny capacitor within an integrated circuit. The capacitor can either be charged or discharged; these two states are taken to represent the two values of a bit, conventionally called 0 and 1. The electric charge on the capacitors slowly leaks off, so without intervention the data on the chip would soon be lost. To prevent this, DRAM requires an external memory refresh circuit which periodically rewrites the data in the capacitors, restoring them to their original charge. This refresh process is the defining characteristic of dynamic random-access memory, in contrast to static random-access memory (SRAM) which does not require data to be refreshed. Unlike flash memory, DRAM is volatile memory, since it loses its data quickly when power is removed. However, DRAM does exhibit limited data remanence.

Double-sided disk

In computer science, a double-sided disk is a disk of which both sides are used to store data.

When it was released, the Vixen had a retail price of $1298. Customers also had the option of purchasing a 10 megabyte hard disk for $1498.

The Vixen used version 2.2 of the CP/M operating system. It was also bundled with a number of software packages: WordStar, the popular word processing package; SuperCalc, a spreadsheet; MBASIC, a programming language; Osboard, a graphics and drawing program; TurnKey, a system utility; MediaMaster, a data interchange program that allowed compatibility with over "200 other computers"; and Desolation, a game.

CP/M Discontinued family of computer operating systems

CP/M, originally standing for Control Program/Monitor and later Control Program for Microcomputers, is a mass-market operating system created in 1974 for Intel 8080/85-based microcomputers by Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc. Initially confined to single-tasking on 8-bit processors and no more than 64 kilobytes of memory, later versions of CP/M added multi-user variations and were migrated to 16-bit processors.

WordStar Word processor application

WordStar is a word processor application that had a dominant market share during the early- to mid-1980s. It was published by MicroPro International, and written for the CP/M operating system but later ported to MS-DOS. Although Seymour I. Rubinstein was the principal owner of the company, Rob Barnaby was the sole author of the early versions of the program. Starting with WordStar 4.0, the program was built on new code written principally by Peter Mierau.

SuperCalc spreadsheet software

SuperCalc is a CP/M-80 spreadsheet application published by Sorcim in 1981. VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program but its release for the CP/M operating system ran only on the HP-125, Sharp MZ80, and the Sony SMC-70. SuperCalc was created to fill that void and market opportunity. Alongside WordStar, it was one of the CP/M applications bundled with the Osborne 1 portable computer. It quickly became popular and was ported to MS-DOS in 1982.

The Vixen was also known as the Osborne 4. It was developed and released after the bankruptcy of the Osborne corporation. An earlier system also called "Vixen" was never released. [2] Due to technical problems with prototypes and the corporate bankruptcy, by the time the CP/M Vixen was introduced, it had already been made obsolete by MS-DOS IBM PC compatibles. [3] A last ditch effort to design and market a fully IBM PC compatible produced three prototypes, but too late to save the company from bankruptcy.

IBM PC compatible computers are computers similar to the original IBM PC, XT, and AT, able to use the same software and expansion cards. Such computers used to be referred to as PC clones, or IBM clones. They duplicate almost exactly all the significant features of the PC architecture, facilitated by IBM's choice of commodity hardware components and various manufacturers' ability to reverse engineer the BIOS firmware using a "clean room design" technique. Columbia Data Products built the first clone of the IBM personal computer by a clean room implementation of its BIOS.


Program Name Version Published by Program Type
Desolation Game
Osboard Software Graphics
Wordstar 3.3 MicroPro International Application
Supercalc 2 Sorcim Application
MBasic Microsoft Application

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  1. Peggy Watt, Osborne shows new computer Info World magazine, November 12, 1984, retrieved from Google Books December 16, 2009
  2. John Dvorak, Adam Osborne, Hypergrowth: the rise and fall of Osborne Computer Corporation ,Idthekkethan Pub. Co., 1984 ISBN   0-918347-00-9, page 70
  3. Robert J. Thierauf, A problem-finding approach to effective corporate planning, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987 ISBN   0-89930-262-9, pages 15–16