Quick Video Look at the Osborne Executive's Audio-Visual Capabilities

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Chris Kennedy
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Joined: 08/31/2008
Nice

Very nice, Bill. Always fun to see this stuff.

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Mark Vergeer
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Amazing CP/M machine

Wow this is a fine example of a very well kitted out CP/M machine. Thanks for showing this Bill

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Shawn Delahunty
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Basking in the audio

Thanks for posting that Bill.

I never worked on a CP/M-based machine, though I do remember working with a friend on his PC-compatible "luggable". It was an unwieldy beast like this Osborne, but actually had a whopping 4-color CGA monitor built into the thing, instead of the orange-y plasma display.

What struck me the most about this clip was the sound. Not the beeps and boops of the demo program, but the sound of that lovely, heavy-duty, mechanical switch keyboard. I remember roomfuls of those things roaring away in college, for the lunchbox-Macs, rows of IBM-XT's, plus Sun and Dec UNIX workstations. AAAAHH! Music for the soul.

Over the years, I got sick of straight-line keyboards, and switched to the MS ergonomic series. (Actually, my carpal tunnels complained about it, after years of pounding on the straight keyboards, so I switched to avoid crippling myself.) The only problem is the sound + feel of the rubber membrane ones has always been "off". Plus, I've got terrible typing technique--I crush keys like on a mechanical typewriter--so I've basically "used up" 3 of the things in the past 15 years. (keys quit working, rubber membrane shot, contacts on mylar sheets broken, etc.)

Then early this year I was digging around, admiring various mechanical keyboards, wishing I could find an ergonomic one for less than the $700 Maltron sci-fi looking monstrosities. I found one; the Northgate Evolution. It isn't "curved" in the same way as the MS Natural series, and I do miss that a little bit, but I LOVE this thing. Amazingly, there's a fellow who put up a key-sound simulator on his website if you want to try it out:

Mr. Interface keyboard simulator

Just go there, type a bit, and bask in the sound of 2-Million+ keypress switches.

Regards,

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Yeah, the keyboard is

Yeah, the keyboard is excellent on the Osborne Executive.

I'm a fast touch typer and I've found my best times were indeed with the original IBM PC keyboard. I presently use wave/ergonomic keyboards whenever possible for wrist comfort (same reason I try to use a thumb trackball whenever possible), but have seriously considered getting one of the Northgate mechanical keyboards. The problem is is that these things tend to eschew things like wireless or ergonomic layouts, and if they don't, they tend to be prohibitively expensive.

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Shawn Delahunty
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possible option

Bill,

There's a buddy of mine (another engineer) whom I got hooked on ergonomic MS keyboards. When I bought the Northgate Evolution, I sent him the link, and he ended up getting one and loving it too. The following GeekHack review:

http://geekhack.org/showwiki.php?title=Island:4408

talks about the thing, and listed a site where they can be ordered. Mostly they have re-furb models (my friend's trackpad didn't work and couldn't be revived despite his long EE background), but they aren't HEINOUSLY expensive like the Maltrons. (About $90 I think.)

http://c-techsys.com/products.html

Look about 1/3 the way down the page. My friend bought it through them, and aside from the trackpad, said the thing is working great. (Plus, it's possible to replace faulty switches in the future--big plus.)

Cheers,

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Bill Loguidice
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Evolution keyboard

It looks like a tremendous keyboard, but I'd still need two things minimum. One, is it should be in black to match the rest of my stuff, and two, a USB interface. I'd also prefer a pure wireless option.

Right now I'm using a Logitech M570 wireless trackball and wireless Logitech Wave 2.4 keyboard on my main HP TouchSmart desktop. At some point soon I'm probably going to replace that whole thing and go with a low spec iBuyPower tower with two or three monitors, so I'd certainly be open to other scenarios, at least for the keyboard. The Logitech Wave is actually quite comfortable (nice wrist rest on the thing) and a bit noisy (in a good way), but certainly mechanical switches would make it even better.

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Shawn Delahunty
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Can be USB

Hi Bill,

I'm running the thing right now into a USB port. It comes with an AT-to-PS/2 adapter in the box (mine did anyway.) That's the easy part--it's just wiring in the adapter housing. The trickier bit is the active PS/2 to USB adaptation. I have found 2 different PS/2-to-USB adapters (got both at Frys Electronics for about $9 each) which work just fine with the thing, and there are a couple others. (I stress this because there are several I had laying about which did NOT work.) The Trackpoint pad just shows up as a generic mouse device with no problems.

As for black, the top-side housing is painted metal, aside from the little "rim" bezel around the ALPS Trackpoint pad which is plastic. Mask off the keys and trackpad with newspaper + tape, and you're one can of Krylon away from black. (The housing disassembles easily if you'd like to do a more professional job.)

EDIT: It is also possible to order black keycaps from various places which mount on the ALPS switch posts. I used to have a link for this, and can try to dig it up if you're interested.

Wireless? Well, that's a toughie. Not feasible without major surgery to the thing.

Cheers,

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Appreciate the info, Shawn. I

Appreciate the info, Shawn. I know I'm a picky SOB, but that's way too much trouble for me. The keyboard that I have is certainly adequate versus the effort to get the Northgate the way I'd like it, particularly since I can't make it wireless. It's a shame too, because while there is certainly a market for gaming keyboard, there appears to be no real market other than extreme niche for proper mechanical keyboards. While what these guys offer is promising, it's still missing that combination of ergonomics and wireless capability: http://steelseries.com/products/keyboards and http://www.daskeyboard.com/model-s-professional/

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Olivier (not verified)
Great computer

Hi Bill,

As a hobby, I started to learn CP/M programming a few months ago. (assembly language).

Do you know if the Osborne Executive has a 3.0 CP/M version ? or a 3.1 version (as Commodore128, AmstradCPC 6128, MSX 2, Spectrum+3).

It is not really important, but I do some search about different CP/M versions. I've written a program to identify exactly the version. :)

I've seen you also have a Kaypro II. I have found a "Space Invader" game (text-mode) for this computer. If you wish I can send you the link to download it.

Regards,

Olivier

Bill Loguidice
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I believe I have the

I believe I have the text-based Space Invaders for some of my other CP/M systems. When I have time, I'll definitely check the version number of the CP/M for the Executive. Thanks.

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