Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Kaypro was a manufacturer of CP/M compatible, portable1 microcomputers. Their first model, the Kaypro II, was launched in 1982 at a price of $1795, and was built around a 2.5-MHz Zilog Z80 microprocessor—like the portable, CP/M-running Osborne 1 of 1981, Kaypro's "source of inspiration". The time from the close of the door on the floppy drive to complete boot of the operating system with a ready command prompt was about 5-6 seconds for the Kaypro II.
The Kaypro 2 (different from the extremely similar "II") had 64 KB of RAM, and dual, single-sided, 180K 5¼" floppy disk drives. The screen was an 80 column green monochrome 9" CRT. CP/M was the standard operating system of the day, and the machine also came with applications such as the WordStar word processor (including MailMerge, for personalised mass mailings), the SuperCalc spreadsheet, two versions of the Microsoft BASIC interpreter, Kaypro's own compiled S-BASIC (which produced executable .com files), a bytecode-compiled BASIC called C-BASIC, and the dBaseII relational database system.
These well-known titles were a replacement for the initial offering that came with the Kaypro II, which included an office suite of PerfectWriter, PerfectCalc, PerfectFiler, and PerfectSpeller, as well as S-BASIC (no Microsoft BASIC). PerfectFiler featured non-relational, single-table databases suitable for merging one's contact list with form letters created in PerfectWriter. The key commands for PerfectWriter were based on Mince, which was based on Emacs.
Using the comma-separated values (CSV) file format you could move data between these programs quite easily, which multiplied the utility of the package. The manuals assumed no computer background, the programs were straightforward to use, and thus it was usual to find the CEO of a small company or somebody else developing the applications needed in-house.
The Kaypro II also came with some games, some of which were ported versions of old character-based games from earlier days (e.g., Star Trek), and a few of which were arcade games re-imagined in ASCII, including a Pac-Man-like game (in which the player character was the letter "C" alternating between lower- and upper-case to create the chomping action) and a Donkey Kong-like game (in which the player character was a lowercase "p" or "q" depending on directional heading, or a lowercase "b" or "d" after a precipitous fall).
All this software when bought separately would cost more than the whole package including the Kaypro 2, which was a very usable and (at the time) powerful computer for the office and the laboratory. This made the Kaypro very popular, both at work and with well educated professionals also at home – even though the metal casing made it look more of a laboratory instrument than a home/office appliance.
Kaypro the company had started life as Non-Linear Systems, a maker of laboratory test equipment, founded in 1952 by Andrew Kay. Their computers continued the design aesthetics of their original volt meters. The outer case was constructed of steel2 or aluminum. The keyboard covered the screen and disk drives, when clipped on. There was no battery, the computer ran off regular AC mains power. There was a legal dispute with regards to the Kaypro 2 main circuit board being an unlicensed copy or clone of the Bigboard design.
The Kaypro 10 followed the Kaypro 2, and featured a 10 megabyte hard drive and a single 5¼" floppy drive. After years of growth with CP/M based computers, Kaypro never quite found a comparable position in the IBM PC / MS-DOS arena. At this time a new company, Compaq, started selling an MS-DOS compatible portable computer, which essentially was what Kaypro should have made.
Home/personal computer manufacturer Commodore largely modeled the specific capabilities of its Commodore 128 CP/M implementation on the Kaypro computers, so that software would be instantly available for it.
- Weighing in at about 20 lb (10 kg), "luggable" might be a better word, compared to more recent truly portable computers.
- The original Kaypro II was definitely painted aluminum— still heavy, but not the steel claimed in the current version of this article.
- The Kaypro 4 was released in 1984, usually referred to as Kaypro 4 '84, as opposed to the Kaypro IV released one year earlier and referred to as Kaypro IV '83
- Kay Computers
- Kaypro II: pictures and details on oldcomputers.net
- Kaypro II on Obsolete Computer Museum
- Kaypro IV & 4
- Kaypro 10 and 2: pictures and details
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