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Adam Osborne – The innovator of the first portable computer

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Adam Osborne was an entrepreneur most famously known for the first portable computer, but also was an author who made a successful move into publishing computer books and software.

Early Life:

Adam Osborne was born in Thailand March 6, 1939 to British parents where he spent most of his childhood in India. He attended school and graduated from the University of Birmingham in 1961 and received his PHD from the University of Delaware. Adam’s career started out as a chemical engineer working for Shell Oil and then left in the early 1970’s to pursue his interests in computers and technical writing.

Osborne Computer Corporation:

In 1981 Adam introduced the first portable computer the Osborne 1. The computer weighed 23.5 pounds and cost $1,795, just over half the cost of a computer from other manufacturers with comparable features. The computer ran the popular CP/M operating system and featured a full keyboard and a tiny 5" built-in monochrome monitor. The company shipped over 10,000 computers a month and was considered a huge success, earning $6 million in 1981 and by the next year into the $68 million range.

The Fall of Osborne Computer:

One version of the story says that Osborne Computers collapsed when Adam bragged to the media about two advanced computers the corporation was working on and destroyed the consumer demand for the Osborne 1. The result was inventory glut and the company was forced to file bankruptcy. But later research turned up that the machine Osborne had boasted of shipped and put the company back on track until a single executive built up massive debt trying to complete the assembly of older inventory.

Books:

After the fall of the Osborne Computer Corporation, he wrote and published several best selling books about his experience, including Hypergrowth: The Rise and Fall of Osborne Computer Corporation.

Adam was a pioneer in the computer book industry. He founded Osborne Publishing in 1972, specializing in easy-to-follow computer manuals. By 1977 Osborne had over 40 titles in its catalog. In 1979 he sold his company to McGraw Hill for a rumored $3 million, using the money to launch Osborne Computer.

Software Publishing:

In 1984 Adam founded Paperback Software International, which specialized in inexpensive computer software. The company's ads featured Osborne himself arguing that if telephone companies applied the same logic to their pricing as software companies, a telephone would cost $600. Lotus Corporation sued Paperback for copyright infringement in 1987, sending consumer and investor confidence spiraling downward. Lotus won the suit in 1990 and Osborne stepped down from the company shortly thereafter.

Death:

In 1992 Adam returned to his home in India after suffering from several massive strokes caused by an incurable brain disorder. He died in relative obscurity in Kodaikanal, India at age 64.

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