Wellington Osborne 1a- Insert disk in Drive A and press Enter (You idiot!)


One of my few remaining tasks post-Wellington haul was to fix the donated Osborne 1a. This unit was a beautiful specimen in almost museum-like condition. I wanted it as my showpiece Ozzy.

Showpiece Ozzy

Figure 1. The Osborne 1a awaiting repair

I'd given this unit a quick check as I was assessing all newly-acquired "Wellington" computers and had noticed the drives seemed to be completely dead. Pressing Reset did absolutely nothing! I had laid the Osborne aside for repair after I'd gotten everything else out of the way.

That time had now come.

Pre-repair check

Taking an Osborne apart is not trivial, especially if you want to get to the drives. I figured this would be a big job, and it might take me a few nights. Hopefully it was just a cable that had slipped its tether but who knows what the problem might be?

You have to psych yourselves up to these tasks. The challenge awaited. The workdesk was prepared. I was ready.

First thing to check was if the symptom I'd noticed on the first assessment was still there. I opened up the Osborne, plugged in and switched on. The screen lit up, nice, bright and steady. I pressed the Reset button. Nothing. Ok, so no change.

Hang on a minute...

But wait....what did the screen say..."Insert disk in Drive A and press Enter". Hmm...I put a disk in drive A and pressed Enter. The drive A light went on...drive A spun...CP/M loaded. Huh???

A living, breathing Osborne 1a

Figure 2. A living, breathing Osborne 1a

DUH!! Ok, so I'm an idiot! Inserting a disk in Drive A and pressing Enter is EXACTLY HOW you boot an Osborne 1. How stupid of me! I'd become so used to the concept that Reset=Boot-from-disk in all my other computers (Kaypro II, System 80 etc.) I forgotten that in the Osborne, pressing Reset does NOT load the Operating System. It just sends you to the boot message. Pressing Enter is also needed! The unit wasn't broken after all. It was behaving exactly as it should!

It was an error on my part but I didn't spend too long beating myself up about it. In fact, I was elated! I gave the machine a good workout, copying disks and doing a whole lot of other tasks. It never skipped a beat. Everything went as it should. The machine works perfectly!

Wait, there is more. This Osborne has a video adaptor. I tried it. That works too!!

Osborne with the screen expander

Figure 3. Whoo hoo! External screen functionality!


So...It's funny how conventions (i.e. Reset usually means a disk-boot) can trip us up when the odd model does things slightly differently. What I expected would be a few nights of hard slog did not eventuate. Instead, I'm the proud owner of a very clean, very stable and fully-working Osborne 1a with extras!

This new Osborne is in better condition than my old one. I'll use it as my showpiece model. I might sell my old faithful now-dethroned original Osborne I to another collector. Osbornes are classics, and it's still good enough to make a nice pet for someone!

25th November, 2010

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