Now, this is a cool machine…

The Kaypro II was one of the world’s first portables. It came with a Z80 processor and a 9 inch green screen, all enclosed in a heavy gauge metal case. They called it a portable because A) the keyboard attaches like a cover over the disk drives and screen, and B) it has a handle on the back. Thank God for these clues to the Kaypro’s portability, because it’s 26 pound weight certainly won’t tip anyone off (but may tip someone over).

The Kaypro runs CP/M, a grand old operating system that is the basis for DOS. I can’t say I know too much about CP/M. I understand it is like DOS, but not nearly as user friendly. It was written by Gary Kildall of Digital Research. An interesting story goes that when IBM began looking for an operating system, they first went to Digital. Kildall felt that it was beneath him to even speak to IBM, so he made his wife do it. IBM was rather indignant about this, and so instead went to a very young and unknown Bill Gates. Now, Gates didn’t exactly have an operating system of his own at that particular time, but he told IBM he did. The next thing he did was to buy a system called DOS-86 (based on CP/M) from another company for next to nothing, and then sold it to IBM. The rest, as they say, is history.

I found this Kaypro II in the back of a used computer store, buried under old keyboards and oscilloscopes. I asked about it, and the store clerk told me it didn’t even power up. I made an offer on it anyway, and soon I was driving away with my new toy. When I got it home, I plugged it in, and it warmed right up and asked for it’s boot disk. Aaahh, well. Let the computer store clerk think he sold me trash (heh heh heh).

This is a diamond in the rough! I saved it from the trash at my place of employment, along with a perfectly good 8513 monitor. They don’t go together, of course, but the price (free) was too good to pass up. The XT was IBM’s second personal computer. It featured an 8088 processor, a full height 360K floppy, and maybe a Seagate 20 meg hard drive if it was fancy! The keyboard had 84 keys (no number keys on the right hand side), and the standard monitor was the green screen slow-phosphour 5151.

After getting this XT back to my office, I realized it had several unique improvements, the most notable of which being the 286 card installed in one of the 8-bit slots. Not only did it have a 286 processor, but also the original 8088! Flip the switch on the back of the computer up, it boots as a 286. Flip it down, it boots as an 8088. Pretty cool, huh? Also, I managed to scrounge up a mint 5151 monitor to go with the XT. 84 key XT keyboards, on the other hand, are harder to come by.