company_name = Kaypro Corporation
company_type = Corporation
company_slogan =
foundation = 1981 (now defunct)
location = San Diego, California
key_people = Andrew Kay
num_employees =
revenue =
net_income = | industry = Computer hardware
products = Computers
subsid =
homepage =

Kaypro Corporation, commonly called Kaypro, was an American home/personal computer manufacturer of the 1980s. The company was founded by Non-Linear Systems to develop computers to compete with the then popular Osborne 1 portable microcomputer. Kaypro produced a striking line of rugged, portable CP/M-based computers which supplanted its competitor and quickly became one of the top selling personal computer lines of the early 1980s.

While exceptionally loyal to its original consumer base, Kaypro was slow to adapt to the changing computer market and the adoption of IBM PC compatible technology. It faded from the mainstream by the end of the decade and was eventually forced into filing for bankruptcy in 1992.


Kaypro began as Non-Linear Systems, a maker of electronic test equipment, founded, in 1952, by Andrew Kay, the inventor of the digital voltmeter.

In 1981, Non-Linear Systems began designing a personal computer, called KayComp, that would compete with the popular Osborne 1 transportable microcomputer. In 1982, Non-Linear Systems organized a daughter company named the Kaypro Corporation and rechristened the computer with the same name.

The first product, the Kaypro II, carried the Roman-numeral designation because the most popular microcomputer at the time, other than the IBM PC, was the Apple II. The Kaypro II was designed to be portable like the Osborne. (When laptop computers became available, the larger machines came to be called "transportable" or "luggable", rather than "portable".) Set in an aluminum case, it weighed 29 pounds (13 kilograms) and was equipped with a Zilog Z80 microprocessor, 64 kibibytes of RAM, and two 5¼-inch double-density floppy-disk drives. It ran on the CP/M operating system of Digital Research, Inc., and sold for about US$1,795.00.

By mid-1983, Kaypro had dropped the price to $1,595, and was selling more than 10,000 units a month—briefly making it the fifth-largest computer maker in the world. The Kaypro II's market success was due to a number of factors: it had a larger screen than the Osborne; it came bundled with third-party application software (PerfectWriter and PerfectCalc, later to be replaced by MicroPro's WordStar and CalcStar); and it was supported by a network of trained dealers. The boxy units were so popular that they spawned a network of hobbyist user groups across the United States that provided local support for Kaypro products. Kaypro's success contributed to the eventual failure of the Osborne Computer Corporation.

Kaypro published and subsidized "ProFiles: The Magazine for Kaypro Users", a monthly, 72-page, four-color magazine that went beyond coverage of Kaypro's products to include substantive information on CP/M and MS-DOS; frequent contributors included Ted Chiang, David Gerrold, Robert J. Sawyer, and Ted Silveira.

Another popular magazine that covered Kaypro computers was "Micro Cornucopia", published at Bend, Oregon.

Following the success of the Kaypro II, Kaypro moved on to produce a long line of similar computers into the mid 80's. Exceedingly loyal to its original core group of customers, early machines ran on the CP/M operating system. In 1985, Kaypro began producing IBM compatible MS-DOS machines, the Kaypro 16 (transportable, same form factor as the original), the Kaypro PC, Kaypro AT (a 286 machine), the Kaypro 386, and the Kaypro 2000 (a rugged aluminum-body battery-powered laptop with a detachable keyboard). The slow start into the IBM clone market would have serious ramifications.

After several turbulent years, with sales dwindling, Kaypro filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 1990. Despite restructuring, the company was unable to recover and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in June 1992. In 1995, its remaining assets were sold for $2.7 million. [* US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (2000). [http://www.ce9.uscourts.gov/Web/newopinions.nsf/38baae7d2f5efe8e88256927007a37ba/c39bb98498dbdefa88256927007a7487?OpenDocument "Arrow Electronics v. Justus 9955210"] . Retrieved April. 1, 2006.]

The Kaypro name briefly re-emerged as an online vendor of PCs in 1999, but was discontinued in 2005 by its parent company [http://www.premiopc.com/ Premio Computers Inc.] due to sluggish sales. [PC World. (May 22, 2001) http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,50725-page,1/article.html - Accessed: March 15, 2007]

Kaypro founder Andy Kay re-emerged from the final failure of Kaypro with a second company, called Kay Computers, utilizing a similar sales strategy.

Kaypro computers



Early in the Kaypro’s life, there was a legal dispute with the owner of the Bigboard computer who charged that the Kaypro II main circuit board was an unlicensed copy or clone.

The outer case was constructed of aluminum. The computer featured a detachable keyboard that covered the screen and disk drives when stowed. The Kaypro ran off regular AC mains power and was not equipped with a battery.

The Kaypro IV and later the Kaypro 4 had two double-sided disks. 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.

The Kaypro 10 followed the Kaypro II, and featured a 10 megabyte hard drive and a single 5¼" floppy drive.

Kaypro later followed their CP/M machines with MS-DOS-based computers in the Kaypro 16, Kaypro PC and others, as the IBM PC and its clones gained popularity. Kaypro was late to the market, however, and never gained the kind of prominence in the MS-DOS arena that it had enjoyed with CP/M. Instead, Kaypro watched as a new company Compaq, grabbed its market share with the Compaq Portable, an all-in-one portable computer that was similar to Kaypro's own CP/M portables with the exception that it ran MS-DOS and was nearly 100% IBM compatible. This and other corporate issues helped lead to Kaypro's eventual downfall.


CP/M was the standard operating system for the first generation of Kaypros. The first application software that came with the Kaypro II included a highly unpopular word processor called "Select" that was quickly dropped in favor of an office suite from Perfect Software which included [http://www.atarimagazines.com/creative/v9n6/55_Perfect_Writer.php PerfectWriter] , PerfectCalc, PerfectFiler, and PerfectSpeller, as well as Kaypro's own compiled S-BASIC (which produced executable .com files). PerfectFiler featured non-relational, flat-file databases suitable for merging a contact list with form letters created in PerfectWriter. PerfectWriter itself was initially just a rebranded Mince and Scribble from Mark of the Unicorn, which was itself a CP/M implementation of the (then) mainframe Emacs and Scribe using BDS C. Later on MBasic (a variant of Microsoft Basic) and The Word Plus spellchecker were added to the model II suite of software. The Word Plus included a set of utilities that could help solve crossword puzzles or anagrams, insert soft hyphens, alphabetize word lists, and compute word frequencies. Another utility program called Uniform allowed the Kaypro to read disks formated by Osborne, Xerox, or TRS-80 computers.

The initial bundled applications were soon replaced by the well-known titles WordStar, (a word processor with MailMerge, for personalised mass mailings), the SuperCalc spreadsheet, two versions of the Microsoft BASIC interpreter, Kaypro's S-BASIC, a bytecode-compiled BASIC called C-Basic, and the dBaseII relational database system.

Using the comma-separated values (CSV) file format (better known at the time as CDF or comma delimited format or comma delimited file), data could be moved between these programs quite easily, which enhanced the utility of the package. The manuals assumed no computer background, the programs were straightforward to use, and thus it was possible to find the CEO of a small company or somebody else developing the applications needed in-house.

The Kaypro II and later models also came with some games, including versions of old character-based games from earlier days (for example, "Star Trek"), and a few of which were arcade games re-imagined in ASCII, including "CatChum" (a Pac-Man-like game) and "Ladder" (a "Donkey Kong"-like game).

All this software if bought separately would have cost more than the entire hardware and software package together. The Kaypro II was a very usable and (at the time) powerful computer for home or office, even though the painted metal case made it look more like a rugged laboratory instrument than an office machine. They enjoyed a reputation for durability.

Later MS-DOS Kaypro computers offered a similar software bundle.

Kaypro by model and year

Kaypro's nomenclature was odd, with the numerical designations for their machines having more to do with the capacity of the drives than the order they were produced. Kaypro also released several different models with the same names, perhaps hoping to capitalize on the name recognition of their older machines. As a result, identifying exactly which model a Kaypro is often requires an inspection of their hardware configuration.

All of the computers listed below are of the portable type unless otherwise noted.

* 1982:"Kaycomp I" - The original Kaypro, was a demonstrator model shown mainly to prospective dealers. It had the same case as future models, but was painted green with two single sided floppy drives that were mounted vertically on opposite sides of the monitor like the Osborne I, its intended competition.

:"Kaypro II" - The first commercially released Kaypro, was an immediate success, dominating over its competition, the Osborne I microcomputer. The Kaypro II had a 9 inch internal monitor instead of the Osborne's tiny 5 inch display, and double sided floppy drives with twice the storage capacity. A redesigned version of the Kaypro II was released in 1984 that allowed block style graphics, and had half-height drives. This version of the Kaypro II had a version of Space Invaders along with the typical ASCII games.

* 1983:"Kaypro IV" - An evolution of the Kaypro II, the Kaypro IV had two DS/DD drives (390 kB) and came with Wordstar in addition to the Perfect Suite of software.

:"Kaypro 10" - The Kaypro 10 was one of the earliest computers to come standard with a hard drive. It came with a 10 megabyte internal hard drive and a single DS/DD floppy drive. All of the computers produced until then had been green or light grey or grey and blue, but the K10 was dark grey, almost black.

* 1984:"Kaypro 4" - The Kaypro 4 was virtually identical to the IV, but featured half-height drives instead of full height drives, a 4 MHz clock speed and had basic graphics capabilities. It also had an internal 300-baud modem.

:"Kaypro Robie" - The Kaypro Robie was the only CP/M based Kaypro to be non-portable. Designed as a desktop computer, it had the same motherboard as the Kaypro 4. It was also equipped with two 2.6 MB high density floppy drives and a 300 Baud modem. The floppy drives were notorious for failing as they literally scraped the media off of the disk substrate, leaving many customers with drives which they could not read. The Robie was jet black, with the drives mounted above the screen, and the front panel angled upward. The Robie did not sell well, but it did make periodic cameo appearances on the ABC television series "Moonlighting", as the desktop computer used by Bruce Willis' character David Addison. Due to its black color, the fact that it sat upright and looked like a helmet, and its handle mounted on the top, it was nicknamed "Darth Vader's lunchbox."

* 1985:"Kaypro 2X" - The Kaypro 2X was similar to the Kaypro 4, but it featured a built in 300 baud modem. Kaypro 2X's were often sold in a bundle with an impact printer.

:"Kaypro "New" 2" - A scaled-down Kaypro 2X for the budget buyer, came with minimal software, and did not feature the internal modem.

:"Kaypro 4+88" - A dual system computer, the 4+88 was equipped with both an 8088 processor and a Z80, and was capable of running both the MS-DOS and CP/M operating systems. It came with 256 KB of RAM for the MS-DOS operating system that could double as a RAM disk for CP/M.

:"Kaypro 16" - Very similar in appearance to the Kaypro 10, the Kaypro's 16's main difference was that it had an 8088 processor and 256 KiB of RAM and ran on the MS-DOS operating system instead of CP/M.

:"Kaypro 2000" - Kaypro's first and only laptop, it was an MS-DOS machine that ran on heavy lead-acid batteries. Strikingly similar in basic appearance to a modern laptop, it featured a detachable keyboard, rugged brushed aluminum casing and a pop-up 3.5 inch floppy drive. In what seems to have been a recurring comparison, it has been called "Darth Vader's laptop".

:"Kaypro PC" - Late on the PC market, the Kaypro PC was intended as a competitor to the IBM PC-XT desktop machine. Running at a faster clock speed than IBM's machine, it was available with a larger hard drive than that offered by IBM and an extensive software package. It featured the motherboard on a bus card, which, like the Zenith Z-series machines, promised upgradability.

* 1986:"Kaypro 1" - The Kaypro 1 was the last CP/M model Kaypro introduced. In most ways, it was simply a Kaypro 2X with a smaller software package. It is distinctive from earlier Kaypro models because of its vertically oriented disk drives.

:"Kaypro 286i" - A 12 MHz 286 desktop, with a faster clock speed than IBM's machine, a larger hard drive than IBM's configuration and an extensive software package. It featured the motherboard on a bus card, which, like the Zenith Z-series machines, promised upgradability.

* 1987

:"Kaypro 386" - A 20 MHz 386 desktop, with an extensive software package. It featured the motherboard on a bus card, which, like the Zenith Z-series machines, promised upgradability.

Kaypros in popular media

* Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote the script for "2010" on a Kaypro II in 1982, using a modem to transmit the script to his studio contact in California from his home in Sri Lanka.
*The Kaypro Robie made periodic cameo appearances on the ABC television series "Moonlighting", as the desktop computer used by Bruce Willis' character David Addison. The computer also made a "Miami Vice" cameo.
* In the 2001 film "The Score", a hacker boasts, "Give me a Kaypro 64 and a dialtone and I can do anything." Although the "Kaypro 64" never existed, it nevertheless refers to Kaypro computers. The "64" is possibly a reference to the mass familiarity of the Commodore 64 home computer; or perhaps it's a reference to the amount of factory-installed RAM in the Kaypro II.
* In the animated TV series "King of the Hill", Peggy Hill uses a Kaypro to write her musings. It was replaced in the Season 4 episode "Hillennium" by an iMac.
* In the third season of the Fox television show "Arrested Development", George has taken all the computers to destroy the evidence on the hard drives. Michael Bluth can be seen using an old Kaypro because of this.
* In The Simpsons, Marge mentions that they got their Kaypro by Nelson dropping it off the freeway overpass.
* In "I Am Charlotte Simmons" by Tom Wolfe, Charlotte's poor family gives her a Kaypro computer, which they had rebuilt from parts, as a Christmas present.


External links

* [http://www.kaycomputers.com/ Kay Computers] has a biography of [http://www.kaycomputers.com/andy.html Andrew Kay]
* [http://oldcomputers.net/kayproii.html Kaypro II: pictures and details on oldcomputers.net]
* [http://www.obsoletecomputermuseum.org/kaypro/ Kaypro II on Obsolete Computer Museum]
* [http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=548 Kaypro IV & 4]
* [http://www.fortunecity.com/marina/reach/435/kpro10.htm Kaypro 10 and 2: pictures and details]
* [http://bitsavers.org/pdf/kaypro/1484-D_KayproTechnicalManual_Dec84.pdf Kaypro Technical Manual] for all models, December, 1984 (5 MB PDF)
* [http://www.old-computers.com/museum/company.asp?st=1&m=92 OLD-COMPUTERS.COM] all Kaypro models detailed

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