35 Years Ago: DrHGuy’s Household Goes Digital With Kaypro II

 

Setting up my new laptop, the latest in a long line of computers I’ve owned, called to mind the first of that series: a Kaypro II1 I purchased for Julie in the early 1980s.2

Among its innovative features (i.e., improvements on its main competition, the Osborne 1) were two 5.25″ drives for floppy disks, each capable of holding 191K of data. This was twice the capacity provided by the Osborne. (I also recall, only a few years later, Jule asking if she should opt for the largest hard drive then available on a Dell computer – a “full gig.”  I told her to go ahead “because we might, after years of use, need that much storage.”)

It also offered a large screen (9″ green phosphor), rugged construction, reliability, and a Zilog Z80, 2.5 MHz CPU.

And it was portable.  Sure, it weighed 26 pounds, but it had a handle. The accepted term in the contemporary literature was “luggable.”

Osborne I

Introduced in 1982, the Kaypro II had a list price of $1595. It was named Kaypro II even though it was the first in the series (i.e. there was no Kaypro I) to compete with the Apple II, one of the most popular microcomputers at the time.

The software included with our Kaypro included WordStar, a word processor, \MailMerge for personalised mass mailings (form letters), the SuperCalc spreadsheet, a Microsoft BASIC interpreter, and a few games.

The Kaypro II Impact

And it was a phenomenal tool. Julie’s statistics-heavy position at the time was running a section of Marketing at Sears – back when Sears was the world’s largest retailer. After garnering a special dispensation to use her computer (at the time Sears prohibited executives from using a keyboard, arguing that secretaries could perform typing more efficiently), Julie was able to produce reports and tabulations without waiting for her allotted time on the corporate mainframe computers.

We were so taken with the power of word processing, spreadsheets, and other programs as a result of our Kaypro experience, we soon bought an upgraded computer for Julie. I inherited the Kaypro, using it for my administrative functions as Medical Director of a psychiatric hospital, including rewriting the Medical Staff bylaws and creating a Quality Control system.

Julie Showalter

Julie Showalter was the fiercely intelligent, sexy, and loving woman with whom I had a outrageously wonderful marriage that ended with her death in late 1999 from cancer diagnosed the week of our wedding nearly 20 years earlier. She was also a brilliant scholar, the mother of our two sons, and a prize-winning author. Many posts on this blog are about her and still others consist of her writings. Julie’s Story is the account of our unlikely romance, Information can be found at Julie Showalter FAQ.

Credit Due Department: Kaypro photo By Autopilot – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia Commons. Osborne I photo by Tomislav Medak from Flickr / Editing: Bill Bertram (Pixel8) – , CC BY-SA 3.0,  Wikipedia Commons.  Floppy disk photo by Martin Abegglen

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  1. Kaypro began as Non-Linear Systems, a maker of electronic test equipment, founded in 1952 by Andrew Kay, the inventor of the digital voltmeter. []
  2. We actually owned an Atari computer earlier, but never used it for anything other than games and a fancy typewriter. []

One thought on “35 Years Ago: DrHGuy’s Household Goes Digital With Kaypro II

  1. WordStar!!! Turn on that bold, turn off that bold. Interesting, that coding is the same used for html and thus, I was quickly able to learn how to build websites. Every piece of technology has it’s own PTSD quality. With that dial up modem, that tinny horn followed by zitttttt as you prayed for a decent connection. With those first computers, it was that black screen and that blinking green underline in the upper left corner. Please let me type in something that will make this thing work! Good times.

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