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Adam Osborne

Adam Osborne (March 6, 1939 - March 18, 2003) was a British author, book and software publisher, and computer designer who founded several companies in the United States and elsewhere.

Born in Thailand to British parents, Osborne spent much of his childhood in India. He was best known for creating the first portable computer, the Osborne 1, released in April 1981. It weighed 23.5 pounds (12 kg), cost $1795--just over half the cost of a computer from other manufacturers with comparable features--and ran the popular CP/M 2.2 operating system. Besides being the first portable computer, it was also the first computer that included software; the bundled WordStar, SuperCalc, dBase II, CBASIC and MBASIC had a retail value of more than $2,000. Its hardware features included dual 5.25-inch disk drives, a 4 MHz Zilog Z80 CPU, a fold down keyboard, and a five-inch, 52x24 character monitor. At its peak, Osborne Computer Corporation shipped 10,000 Osborne 1s per month. The computer was widely imitated as other computer companies started bundling software, lowering prices, and offering portable computers. Osborne's most famous imitator was Compaq, who offered a portable computer compatible with the IBM PC.

In 1983, Adam Osborne bragged about two advanced new computers his company was working on, which destroyed consumer demand for the Osborne 1. The resulting inventory glut forced Osborne Computer to file for bankruptcy on September 13, 1983. After Osborne Computer's collapse, Osborne wrote a best-selling memoir of his experience, called Hypergrowth, which was published in 1985.

Osborne was also a pioneer in the computer book field, founding a company in 1972 that specialized in easy-to-read computer manuals. By 1977, Osborne Books had 40 titles in its catalog. In 1979, Osborne Books was bought out by McGraw-Hill.

In 1984, Osborne founded Paperback Software International Ltd, a company that specialized in inexpensive computer software. Its advertisements featured Osborne himself, arguing that if telephone companies applied the same logic to their pricing as software companies, a telephone would cost $600. One of its products was an inexpensive clone of Lotus 1-2-3, which led to legal action. In 1987, Lotus sued Paperback Software. Public fear over the lawsuit caused Paperback Software's revenues to drop by 80% by 1989 and prevented the firm from getting venture capital for expansion. In February 1990, the case went to court and on June 28, the court ruled that Paperback Software's product, by copying Lotus 1-2-3's look and menu interface, violated Lotus's copyright. Osborne stepped down from Paperback Software the same year.

Osborne graduated from Birmingham University in 1961 and completed his PhD at the University of Delaware. He started his career as a chemical engineer with Shell Oil in the United States and left Shell in the early 1970s to pursue his interest in computers and technical writing. Osborne was known to frequent the famous Homebrew Computer Club's meeting around 1975.

In 1992, Osborne returned to India in declining health, suffering from a brain disorder that triggered frequent minor strokes. He died in obscurity 11 years later, in Kodiakanal in India, aged 64.

Other people, places and things are also called Osborne.