Kaypro 10

Kaypro 10

For just a few dollars more than the cost of adding a separate hard drive to an existing computer you could buy the Kaypro 10. A full featured transportable computer, built by Non-Linear Systems in Solana Beach CA. The Kaypro 10 followed the Kaypro II and is similar to it and the Kaypro 4 in many ways except that it has a built in disk drive. In fact, it was one of the first computers to come standard with a built in hard drive and also eliminated the complicated procedures usually required to turn a computer on and off often associated with hard disk.

Priced at $2795 it features a built in 10 megabyte hard disk drive, a double density two sided 5 1/4″ floppy disk drive and a bunch of software. It looks a lot like the earlier Kaypro II but is heavier at 31 pounds. It’s housed in a metal cabinet with a handle on the top for carrying. When you want to use it you lay it on a table and flip two latches to release the keyboard unit and reveal the front panel of the computer. The keyboard has a basic typewriter style layout with four directional keys and  a 14 key number pad on the right side.

Kaypro Disk Drive

The front panel of the Kaypro 10 has a 9 inch green, monochrome, anti-glare CRT display which is 80 columns by 24 rows in text mode and 160 x 100 in graphics mode. the display is recessed which reduces the risk of screen glare. The front panel also has a power indicator lamp, a hard disk ready lamp and a half height floppy disk drive.

Below the front panel is a fold out bracket that will elevate the front of the main computer to the level of the keyboard.

Kaypro 10 Screen

The back panel of the Kaypro 10 incorporates a power cord that can be stored on the clips mounted to the machine, the power switch, a reset switch, a brightness control and a parallel printer port with a centronics type connector. There are also two standard RS-232 I/O ports (for a modem and serial printer) and a modular telephone connector which can be used for an optional light pen. There is another modular connector for the keyboard as well.

The big features of the Kaypro 10 are its internal 10 megabyte hard drive and CP/M operating system. The drive was pre partitioned into A and B drives. When purchased new the computer came with a very extensive set of software programs pre installed on both of the drives. Yes, the same software on both the A and B drives. That way if the user accidentally erased a program they could copy it from the other drive. So, out of the total 10 megabytes available on the drive nearly 6 megabytes were already taken up by the software. A flexible but not very efficient storage system.

Kaypro 10

The 5 1/4″ floppy drive was designated as the C drive and allowed for another 390K of storage. Many users immediately copied the hard drive software onto floppies in order to free up hard disk space. One of the software programs installed on the Kaypro 10 was called SAFETY. Before shutting down the Kaypro the user would run the SAFETY program which would park the hard disk drive heads so that the drive would not get damaged when the computer was moved or jostled during transportation.

The Kaypro 10 utilizes the Z80A processor and runs at a speed of 4 MHz. It has 64K of RAM and 2 Kb of ROM.

It also came with a nice carrying bag.

Kaypro 10 Carrying Bag

In 1984 Byte magazine had this to say about the Kaypro 10:

While the Kaypro 10 is “not a technologically innovative machine … the equipment and power delivered for the price are outstanding.” They noted that the $2,795 computer “costs less than many stand-alone hard-disk drives“. They concluded that the computer was an “exceptional value for the money. It should be considered by anyone interested in hard-disk capacity or performance at an excellent price“.


Processor:    Z80A
Speed:     4 MHz
RAM:     64K
ROM:     2 kb
Storage:     1 5.25″ floppy drive, 1 10 MB hard drive (built in)
Expansion:    None
Video:     80×24 text on built-in monochrome monitor
I/O:     Parallel, Serial
OS Options:     CP/M
Text Mode:      80 x 25
Graphic Mode:      160 x 100
Colors:     built-in 9” non-glare green phosphor screen
Size / Weight      450 x 200 x 385 mm / 12.5 Kg
I/O Ports      One Centronics-type parallel port, two RS232C serial ports
Price      $2795

Some of the software included was:

  • CP/M 80
  • Perfect software suite (Perfect Writer, Perfect Calc, Perfect Filer),
  • WordStar (word processor),
  • dBase II (database),
  • Superterm (terminal emulator)
  • Two BASICs (Microsoft’s BASIC and SBASIC, which was a compiler version written by Gilbert, the head of Kaypro’s software engineering.
Kaypro 10 Side

The Kaypro 10 has a place in early luggable / portable computer history. While not that difficult to find it is hard to put together a complete system with original software and boot disks. In good working condition the Kaypro 10 will sell for around $150.

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