A lot of people have forgotten about Adam Osborne, which is a shame because he’s one of the most important people in the history of computerdom.
He didn’t make the first portable PC; that came from Kaypro. But there was something completely sexy about the Osborne 1, a CP/M-based machine that looked like a Korean War-era radio crammed into a sewing machine enclosure. The Osborne came with a complete suite of software from WordStar, and the computer’s tiny screen wasn’t even wide enough to display a full-width document.
But for less than $2000, it was a real honest-to-god computer that could actually do things, a true geek lust object. And what’s more, you could take it with you. Good lord, I spent a lot of time at my local Prodigy computer store in the early 80s, trying to imagine how I could possibly scrape together the money on my pitiful UPI salary.
The company grew like a dot-com, until Adam made one titanic error: he announced an IBM compatible model, but it didn’t ship for months. Sales of the old model instantly dropped to near zero, and his company just vanished.
Osborne — a columnist, book publisher, computer entrepreneur, software publisher — was a wild man in an industry that badly needed them at the time. He faded from the scene in the late 80s, and the word was that he fell quite ill. Adam passed away the other day in India.