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Adam Osborne
Born March 6, 1939(1939-03-06)
Died 18 March 2003 (aged 64)
Kodaikanal, India
Fields Computer Science
Institutions Osborne Computer Corporation
Known for Osborne 1

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


Early years

Adam Osborne was born in Thailand on March 6, 1939. He was the son of British parents Arthur and Lucia Osborne who spent most of their time in India.

He graduated from the University of Birmingham in England and moved to the United States. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Delaware and was naturalized as a United States citizen on November 26, 1968. He started his career as a chemical engineer with the Shell Oil Company, but he left Shell in the early 1970s to pursue his interest in computers and technical writing. In 1980, he helped to found Osborne Computer Corporation.


Osborne was known to frequent the famous Homebrew Computer Club's meetings around 1975. He was best known for creating the first commercially available portable computer, the Osborne 1, released in April 1981. It weighed 24.5 pounds (12 kg), cost US$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. At its peak, Osborne Computer Corporation shipped 10,000 units of "Osborne 1" per month. Osborne was one of the first personal computing pioneers to understand fully that there was a wide market of buyers who were not computing hobbyists: the Osborne 1 included word processing and spreadsheet software. This was at a time when IBM would not bundle hardware and software with their PCs, selling separately the operating systems, monitors, and even cables for the monitor.

It is said that in 1983, Adam Osborne bragged about two advanced new computers his company was developing. These statements destroyed consumer demand for the Osborne 1, and the resulting inventory glut forced Osborne Computer to file for bankruptcy on September 13, 1983. This phenomenon, a preannouncement of a new product causing a catastrophic collapse in demand for older ones, became known as the Osborne effect, but according to some new sources the real reason for Osborne Computer's bankruptcy was management errors.[1]

After Osborne Computer's collapse, Adam Osborne wrote a best-selling memoir of his experience, Hypergrowth: The Rise and Fall of the Osborne Computer Corporation with John C. Dvorak, 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 & Associates had 40 titles in its catalog. In 1979, it was bought by McGraw-Hill and continued as an imprint of McGraw-Hill, "Osborne/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 VP-Planner, an inexpensive clone of Lotus 1-2-3, which led to legal action. In 1987, Lotus sued Paperback Software. As a result of the lawsuit, consumer confidence waned for Paperback Software, and its revenues dropped 80% by 1989, preventing 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.

Personal life

Osborne was also a member of Mensa.[2] Married and divorced twice (1st Wife Ms. Geddes, 2nd Barbra Zelnick) Adam Osborne had two sisters and three children: Alexandra who lives in Sacramento, California, Paul who lives in Berkeley, California and Marc who lives in Miami, Florida. [3]

Later life

In 1992, Osborne moved to India in declining health, suffering from a brain disorder that triggered frequent minor strokes. He died on March 18, 2003, in Kodaikanal, India, aged 64.[4]


  1. ^ I, Cringely . The Pulpit . The Osborne Effect | PBS
  2. ^ "What is Mensa and what does it do?". Charlotte/Blue Ridge Mensa. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  3. ^ John Markoff/New York times. "Adam Osborne 64 Dies Was Pioneer of Portable PC New York Time Website [1]
  4. ^ Edward Teague (March 2003). "Adam Osborne, pioneer of PCs for people: dead at 64". Natural Science. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 

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