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Portable Pioneer Adam Osborne dead at 64 324

douglips writes "Yahoo News has the story. He's best remembered for the blunder of announcing that his next version of the Osborne portable computer was so much better, that nobody bought the current version and the company died quickly. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon."
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Portable Pioneer Adam Osborne dead at 64

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  • So sad... (Score:5, Funny)

    by SpanishInquisition ( 127269 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:40PM (#5587566) Homepage Journal
    I hope Sharon,Kelly,Jack and of course Ozzy will be able to go trough this with force and pride.
  • by }InFuZeD{ ( 52430 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:40PM (#5587569) Homepage
    But I really hope when I die I'm not best known for what I did wrong =/
    • Are we helping the evil company by saying the DRM, Palladium, etc of the upcoming Windows Longhorn will royally suck more than English class itself!? If so we'd better go back to saying that NT3.5 was perfection and M$ has just continued to screw it up since then.

      In all seriousness, this is a good example of why developers and engineers shouldn't be in marketing. I am always bragging about the features in the unstable version of FlameCalc [], but I never stopped to consider that if I was selling this for
    • by IdleTime ( 561841 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @09:54PM (#5588392) Journal
      I actullay met the guy several times during the early 80's. I was working for a distributor of Osborne computers in a rather obscure country :)

      I really liked the guy, he had a lot of good ideas in the pioneer days of PC computing and he made the first portable computer that was actually usable.

      Adam, you will be missed by many who knew you and admired the work you did.

      Rest in peace!
  • but heard about it a lot. especially in Dilbert Comic Strips.
    definitely sad news :(
    • by garethw ( 584688 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:31PM (#5587902)
      The Osborne 1 was a such a cool machine. borne/

      It was based on a Zilog Z80A processor (same as that used in the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the Colecovision console, and similar to that used in the original Gameboy), but curiously, used Motorola peripheral chips.

      It came bundled with a wide selection of software - Supercalc, Wordstar, an operating system called CP/M (the blueprint for DOS), and a BASIC interpreter by a small software company called Microsoft.

      One of the really cool things about the Osborne is that it was sold with a manual about 500 pages thick. There are chapters on each of the software packages, but also a great deal of technical information on the machine itself - memory maps, details on the types of peripherals and that kind of thing.

      It was clearly the product of a man and a company who loved computing, released in a spirit of openness and innocence for a hobbyist culture. Sadly, that culture died soon after, and stayed that way for some time.

      It was the first computer I ever had, which started me off down a road that eventually led to me earn a degree in Computer Engineering. When I first heard about Linux, it was that same hobbyist culture that immediately appealed to me.

      I think I'll boot mine up tonight. Thanks, Adam.
  • Just for a minute there I thought this was one of those "(name) dead at (age)" trolls you always see when you browse at -1!
      • Just for a minute there I thought this was one of those "(name) dead at (age)" trolls you always see when you browse at -1!
      It was.

      That's the "hip/funny" part of the story that got it selected over the other submissions.


    • As soon as I read "Even if..." near the end of the article, I went and checked. It's identical in format to the Steven King/Alan Thicke trolls. I'm sure if that's funny or creepy.
    • Just for a minute there I thought this was one of those "(name) dead at (age)" trolls you always see when you browse at -1!

      You may have been right. At least, I've not been able to find any other mention of his death on CNN, CBS, MSNBC, NPR, etc.--in fact, the only on-line reference to his death that I have been able to find is the ./ article and the the Yahoo story it mentions (by following the link); I'm not even sure how you'd find the link if it wasn't provided, since it doesn't seem to be showing up

  • by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:42PM (#5587585) Homepage
    It seems fitting, in a nerdish way, that he should die at 64. There is a certain symmetry somehow.
  • by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:45PM (#5587612)
    First Lynne Thigpen, now Adam Osbourne. But seriously, I, and I am sure many other slashdotters would love to hear stories from some of the "old-timers" around here about their experiences working with Mr. Osbourne. Hopefully nobody told him about the afterlife, would probably make life less worth living.
    • this has been a shitty week.... First Lynne Thigpen, now Adam Osbourne.

      Thigpen wasn't this week, wasn't even last week, was the week before that. And hardly of specific interest to slashdotters.

    • If you know someone from the early days of the computer industry, now's a good time to jot down his/her stories and recollections. There's a lot of history that could vanish otherwise.
    • by __aaowgu6674 ( 544990 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:14PM (#5587807)
      I worked with Mr. Osborne during the late 1980s at Paperback Software (I was the Tech Support Manager). He was a brilliant, charismatic leader with enough ego for four people. A member of MENSA, he had a beautiful house in the Berkeley Hills (spared from the Oakland Hills fire by feet, IIRC), a lovely wife, and he threw marvelous parties.
      Paperback Software was a great idea - cheap versions of popular software sold with paperback manuals for $99.00 or so (I think VP-Expert sold for more). VP-Planner was the Lotus clone, VP-Info was a dBase clone, VP-Graphics was a standalone graphics program, VP-Expert was an expert systems program, and there were a couple more I don't remember off the top of my head.
      He was a good person to work for and with, and always knew how to make a splash and cause a ruckus. And it was fun to go out for Indian food with him, since he spoke Urdu and Hindi.
      Rest in peace, sir.
      • I like to quote something I heard Adam Osborne say:

        "Those who ride technology's cutting edge frequently find themselves sacrificed upon its blade."

        Ironic, maybe. That was before the Osborne computer company went bust. So he knew the dangers of blazing a trail.

        Wellvis said:

        He was a brilliant, charismatic leader with enough ego for four people. A member of MENSA, he had a beautiful house in the Berkeley Hills (spared from the Oakland Hills fire by feet, IIRC), a lovely wife, and he threw marvelous par

    • I fear that Osbourne and Thigpen aren't really related with regard to the "comes in threes rule". I'm afraid the sequence is going to be Richard Crenna ("Judging Amy"), Lynne Thigpen ("The District"), and someone else whose unexpected demise will necessitate some frantic plot line reworking for some other television show.

      Unless,of course, this is a PBS thing, and it's Mr. Rogers, Lynne Thigpen, and someone else from afterschool TV.

      Of course we could also see two more unexpected losses of personal computer

  • Heh, great form. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 )
    The guy's death is made into a joke. Well, some people will undoubtably complain, because you're supposed to be somber or something. IMHO, jokes in one's eulogy are a good thing, but just watch, someone will flame it.

    Anyway, I saw an Osbourne as late as 1988. I was over at a friend of a friend's house, and his mom did her word processing on one. I was amazed. I impressed her by knowing how to copy files with PIP. ;-)

    The little screen was so tiny, and it was so heavy. Just a few years later, Toshib

    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:58PM (#5588042)
      I never had an Osborne, although I knew a few people who did. I ended up with the Compaq clone and you could have seen me using it (as I've posted before, for anybody keeping score) to run the core functions of my business until 1999.

      I loved that old 4mhz battle ax, and only retired it because purely mechanical bits that I couldn't find replacements for began to wear out.

      I'd beg to differ somewhat on the Toshiba comment. Sometimes a luggable really is the proper portable solution because sometimes you don't want a laptop or "desktop replacement."

      You want a desktop that's easy to take with you.

      And now, for the first time, with new low power, low heat cpu's and integrated chipsets on *desktop* motherboards a quarter the size that Osborne was able to make them, and loverly full size, flat panel, LCD screens, a true transportable, *NOT* a laptop, is truly possible to make.

      I intend to make one.

      I'd name it in honor of Adam Osborne, only I can't name it Osborne, of course, and I can't name it Adam, for, ummmmm, obvious reasons.

      I know, I'll use a TLA for (A)dam (O)sborne (L)uggable.

      Yeah, that'll work.

  • by Fritz Benwalla ( 539483 ) <> on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:52PM (#5587653)

    Writing the manuals for the Intel 4004, the very first single chip CPU.

    Rest in peace.


  • Last Words (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:53PM (#5587656)

    "My reincarnated self is going to be waaaaaay better than this.

  • Farewell, Uncle A-O (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr. Spleen ( 308231 ) <<mrspleen> <at> <>> on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:56PM (#5587684)
    I have family photos with him back from the early 80s. I was just a tot when he and aunt Barb divorced, so I don't remember him. My mom has told me that I called him Uncle A-O (since my name is also Adam).

    But a few of my extended family members still have Osborne 1s in their basements/attics/garages. I played with one last year at a family reunion. The article is correct, it's almost exactly like a portable sewing machine.

    So long, Uncle A-O!
  • OH my gosh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by snatchitup ( 466222 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:57PM (#5587689) Homepage Journal
    He came to my school while I was in the MBA program. He gave us a little speach on what it meant to be an entrepreneur.

    He said, "An entrepreneur is the kind of guy that walks into a bar with friends, and notices the one woman that is too hot for anyone to consider making an approach. The entrepreneur is able to walk up to that woman, begin a conversation, and have her under his thumb before the evening's end."

    He then went to speak of a lawsuit against is VP line of software. He had a spreadsheet and was in a lawsuit against Lotus.
    He said something like, "Who care if I lose. Any publicity is good publicity. When I'm at the press conference after verdict, I'll announce my new line of Artificial Intelligence software."

    Just thought I'd share with you.

    RIP Adam.

  • by eadint ( 156250 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:57PM (#5587691) Homepage Journal
    If your woundering heres a Picture [] of it. man i thought my kaypro was ugly and old.
  • Back in the day... (Score:5, Informative)

    by john82 ( 68332 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @07:58PM (#5587696)
    The Osborne1 was the hot piece of technology. And to give you an idea how desperate the situation was, consider this.
    • It had a 5 inch screen that was monochrome (amber I seem to recall).
    • It weighed a freakin' ton. Okay maybe 30lbs. But the brochures highlighted that like it was impressive (Only 30 lbs!).
    • There were two 5.25" floppies (360k?)
    • 64 kB of RAM!
    • And last, but not least, a 4MHz Z80 CPU!

    Gadzooks how could one resist? But for a lot of folks who needed a computer not bolted to the floor (like reporters), the Osborne1 fit the bill.
    • You make light of this machine's accomplishments, but in its time, it was truly a wonderful machine. Just the thought that there was this computer and you could actually take it with you on a trip so you had it available where ever you were going was just fantastic. While there were a few that pre-dated it (there was a similarly sized APL machine, the IBM APL 5100), this was truly a revolutionary machine. It was such a shame when they announced the Osborne 2 prematurely and EVERYONE decided to stop buying t
      • Even if he didn't hype the Osbourne 2 prematurely, Kaypro came out with a better model a little while later. It had a 9 inch screen that you could actually use to read 80 column text. The rest of the specs were all industry standard for that time for a business class system running CP/M.
      • No, no, you misunderstand. I wanted one of these in the worst way. I'm just pointing out what we thought was irresistible back then in light of present day capabilities.

        Still, the Osborne1 was a pacesetter. And for a time it was considered one the best offerings available.

        Do you recall the print advertising though? I do. Byte magazine used to run an ad showing an attractive business woman carrying one as though it was her attache. After I carried one the first time, I thought she must have been a weightli
    • They used to say that you could always pick the Osbourne users out of a crowd. They were the ones with one shoulder 5 inches lower than the other.
    • and a x86 card you could put in it to run dos apps.

      really ahead of apple at the time.
  • Heavy heart... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Not only did he premier his suitcase computer, he also premiered the monsterous software bundle along with the machine. CP/M and a slew of the top applications.

    It was a funny little machine, with its 80 character console on a scrollable, 50 character, 4" monitor.

    The closest, most pure competitor was the Kaypro.

    He also was behind a lot of early technical books. I think I still have a book on the 8080 from his company.

    For old farts like me, he was a notable personality back In The Day of every body trying
  • by gonzo_bozo ( 652898 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:02PM (#5587720)
    "Nobody will ever need more than 64 years of life..." Yet another shortsighted designer :(
  • Meta-Slashdotting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fritz Benwalla ( 539483 ) <> on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:02PM (#5587727)

    I find it very funny that the first site that comes up when you search for "Adam Osborne Biography" on Google goes down moments after Slashdot posts his obit. Even if slashdot hasn't linked to it.

    All the karma-whores rushing out in their titbit scavenger hunt.


  • by chitselb ( 25940 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:13PM (#5587799) Homepage
    I'm 40. Back in the day, I worked at the Tyson's Corner ComputerLand store, where they sold the Osborne I. It had a Z-80, it ran CP/M -- the precursor to what could have been DOS if only Kildall hadn't been out flying his airplane the on the day IBM knocked on his door. The bundled software with an Osborne I included PacMan, adapted for the 16x64 text display, and I played that on the floor demo a lot.

    Looking back now, it seems to me that the Osborne books were the logical O'Reilly Associates of that era. I was particularly fond of "Introduction to Microprocessors" and their various assembly language introductions. My copies were majorly dogeared. The only one I hung onto was my 6502 Assembly Language Programming by Lance Leventhal.

    About ten years ago, some friends of mine gave me an Osborne I, which they picked up for $7 at a garage sale in Colorado Springs. I turned it on a few years ago and it still worked... was thinking of Ebaying it but I think I might just hang on to it now. Osborne will be remembered by me mostly for the Osborne I and those great books he published.
    • what could have been DOS if only Kildall hadn't been out flying his airplane

      Au contraire (pardon my French). I doubt that Kildall was half the businessman that Gates was (and is.) The thing about MS-DOS is that it was not sold to IBM; it was licensed non-exclusively. THAT was the coup d'etat that gave us the IBM-compatible revolution. IBM had fumbled by using industry-standard hardware that any company could replicate (NOT in the Star Trek sense, mind you). MS-DOS allowed any pair of guys in a barn to mar
    • CP/M -- the precursor to what could have been DOS if only Kildall hadn't been out flying his airplane the on the day IBM knocked on his door.

      <nitpick> Actually, this isn't true. Kildall had a long talk with the IBM people but decided he didn't like their offer. Apparently, they wanted to pay him a flat fee for a CP/M license and he wanted more. IBM went to Microsoft who agreed to the deal (for less cash up front but with the right to license DOS to other companies. The rest is history. </nitpi

    • by per unit analyzer ( 240753 ) <EngineerZ AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @10:15AM (#5591046)
      Looking back now, it seems to me that the Osborne books were the logical O'Reilly Associates of that era. I was particularly fond of "Introduction to Microprocessors" and their various assembly language introductions. My copies were majorly dogeared. The only one I hung onto was my 6502 Assembly Language Programming by Lance Leventhal.

      I'm surprised that Osborne's publishing venture with McGraw-Hill has received such little attention in this slashdot topic. He published a lot of books that got many an aspiring geek started in the early eighties. I learned assembly with the 6809 vesrion of the Leventhal book. I never really got the hang of assembly before Leventhal, after that it all made sense. A lot of the books Osborne published were that way... He seemed to publish books that were very practical and helped the reader understand the topic at a fundamental level. Typically the Osborne books served as invaluable references long after the reader had mastered the topic. I still own my Leventhal book too. It represents a huge turning point in my understanding of computers... Many folks will remember him for the luggable computers but, IMHO, his real contribution to computing was his publishing.


  • Open Source Osborne (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:22PM (#5587851) Homepage Journal
    As I recall, Osborne first came to public attention by starting a software company that gave away its product. Income was supposed to be derived from selling manuals. The software side of this company didn't work out, but the publishing side found a niche -- which is why there's still an imprint called McGraw-Hill/Osborne.
    • Damn, dude, you better read up on your industry history. I don't know the origin of what you posted about Osborne, but I think you'd have a good shot at finding it with the help of a good proctologist and a flashlight. :-)

      Osborne got his start working for Intel. He wrote the docs for their first microprocessors.

      For a while he had an industry-gossip columns (at least one was called "From The Fountainhead," IIRC) in Interface Age and InfoWorld magazines.

      He self-published a book called An Introduction To Microprocessors. One of the cofounders of IMSAI was so impressed with the book, he struck a deal with Osborne to include a copy with each IMSAI machine sold.

      That IMSAI deal provided the means for Osborne to start his own publishing company, which produced computer books. He would often go to Homebrew Computer Club meetings with boxes full of his books, and leave with empty boxes and wads of cash.

      He eventually sold his publishing company to McGraw-Hill, for millions.

      The money from that deal was what he used to start Osborne Computer. The Osborne I was designed by Lee Felsenstein, another prominent name in the history of the Early Days.

      These Osborne facts and more can be found in the excellent book Fire in the Valley, by Paul Freiberger & Michael Swaine.

  • Osbourne 2 Specs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:29PM (#5587882) Homepage
    Do we know anything about the fabled Osbourne 2? I'd like to know what was supposed to make it so much better than the first, if we know anything. Did the thing even exist on the planning board (other than "the O1 is making money, let's make an O2!") at the time?
    • Re:Osbourne 2 Specs (Score:3, Informative)

      by mpthompson ( 457482 )
      Yes, it was known as the Vixen []. The specs I was able to dig up are:

      Osborne Vixen
      Built in 1984
      Price: $1,300 USD
      CPU: Z80A 4 MHz
      Memory: 64KB RAM
      Interfaces: RS232C, parallel
      Monitor: 7" Amber
      Text Resolution: 80x24
      Graphics Resolution: 640x240
      OS:CP/M 2.2
      FDD: 2 x 360 KB FDD (DS, DD)
      Keyboard: 61 Keys
      Size: (WxDxH) 32cm x 41cm x 16cm
      Weight: 8.2 Kg
      Languages: MBasic
      Options: 10 MB HDD ($1,500 USD)
    • took a x86 card so it could run DOS apps, and had a 7"screen(up from 5)
  • by mpthompson ( 457482 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:36PM (#5587932)
    For those interested, the Vixen [] is the system that was pre-announced and caused the demise of Osborne Computer due to the ensuing cash flow crunch.

    Having an Osborne 1 at the time and active in FOG I remember lusting over the Vixen. How times have changed...
    • For those interested, the Vixen [] is the system that was pre-announced and caused the demise of Osborne Computer due to the ensuing cash flow crunch.

      And for years I referred to killing your cash cow by announcing its replacement before it's ready as "pulling an Osborne".

      I have since found out that marketing types have a term for it: "Overhang". (Though I don't know if they already had the term in the Osborne I eclipsed by Vixen days.)

      RIP, Adam. You will be missed.
  • by Cuthbert Calculus ( 629326 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @08:53PM (#5588008)
    I remember reading that when the Osborne computer company finally went out of business, the bank sent guards to the offices to make sure the (now jobless) employees didn't make off with any of the expensive computer equipment.

    However, nobody bothered to inform the guards that the company manufactured portable computers--a new idea at the time--and many of the employees walked an Osborne right out the door, carrying it like a briefcase. The guards had no idea the company's precious assets were being removed right under their noses.

  • Almost word-for-word what I keep hearing about Stephen King.
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @09:12PM (#5588123)
    The first reason is the obvious portability.

    But the second reason was the Software Bundle. For $1795 you got the computer, but you also received copies of WordStar(with MailMerge!), Supercalc and Microsoft BASIC. At the time the software bundle alone was worth over $1,000.

    That was a new concept in the industry at the time and contributed largely to the intial success of the machine.

    My first experiences with computers was with a CP/M system my father bought as a home computer back in 1982. The Morrow MD-2, it was a competitor to Osborne only it was a more traditional desktop case rather than a portable. Computers were a heck of a lot simpler back then, although not nearly as useful.
  • by HBI ( 604924 )
    Jerry Pournelle wrote a nice book about the early CP/M kit computer culture. The hacking nature of it would seem real familiar to those /.'ers steeped in Linux.

    "The User's Guide to Small Computers"

    If you can hunt down a copy, it has a lot of material about Adam Osborne and his company written from a current events perspective back in the early 80's.

    I had a Kaypro 2+ (my first real comp, i'm 33) and it came with a copy of the Pournelle book. Very educational and a lot of fun. True, he still names his c
  • Osborne memories (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @09:13PM (#5588135)
    A friend of mine had an Osborne 1, that was some of the first paid work I did with computers, getting his Wordstar and Mailmerge cranking out direct mail, and stuffing envelopes. I can still feel the eyestrain from working on that dinky TV monitor, and the mental strain of trying to do word processing in a 40col environment.
    One of my first real professional gigs was as an Osborne technician. I was a specialist in getting the floppy drives working, which was a lot of work getting the guts assembled and disassembled correctly, it was so jammed together it was a tech's nightmare. And they got bashed around a lot so everyone needed a lot of service on the floppies, which weren't built for that kind of abuse. I still have videotapes of osborne service procedures, they were recorded on some odd video format, IVHS, and we had to buy a special player to use them. Apparently this was some early form of copy protection.
    People loved their osbornes, I had a lot of clients that attached the early Corvus 20Mb and 5Mb hard drives, and just unplugged for portable use. It was nice kit, but Kaypro aggressively moved into low-end CPM portables and ate up that market. When the Compaq came out, it pretty much killed any market for CPM portables.
    What I remember most about Adam Osborne was as a writer. I first learned programming and digital circuitry from Osborne's early microprocessor books, I still have the books and now they're collector's items. I remember buying his business memoir "Hypergrowth" for 99 cents on the remainders shelf, and thinking how ironic that was. Osborne was a model for early information businesses, they aggregated money around people with ideas and the ability to publish them and mass produce. And he was also a parable for the dotcom era's excesses and of drinking too much of one's own koolaid. I still remember Osborne's story of shutting down the production of the Osborne 1. The announcement of the Osborne II killed the prior model sales, causing a premature cash crunch as they tried to dump the last of the old generation. Since that day, the damage caused by prematurely announcing new models and cannibalizing existing sales has been known as "the Osborne effect." Some quantity like $150k of motherboards were left over when the old line was killed, but they'd run out of plastic bezels and case parts, so the $150k of PCBs were left in stock, unused, with no way to turn them into complete machines. Some middle manager got the idea to order new bezels, but the dies had all been discarded. He authorized new production, and by the time his activities came to light, he's spent some insane amount like over a million bucks making new dies so he could make bezels to make those $150k of motherboards into a salable product. Product nobody wanted anyway. Ooops.
  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @09:54PM (#5588397)
    Down here in New Zealand, the Osborne was the first really "affordable" CPM personal computer.

    All the other CPM-based microcomputers were priced at well over $5,000 (and that was when a $ was really worth something) so the Osborne's $1,600-$1900 price-tag was a real breakthrough.

    I wrote some debtors/invoicing software designed specifically to work around the limitations of the tiny screen and very limited disk space -- it sold a heap and made me a respectable amount of profit.

    I suspect that the Osborne was responsible for introducing a *lot* of people to the wonderful world of computing -- and the somewhat less wonderful workd of DataStar and CalcStar -- although I still have a soft-spot for WordStar [eyes glaze over, breathes sigh of nostalgia]

    Hell, the fact that the guy behind this machine has died makes me feel real old!

    The only question I have to ask is: Why was it him and not Bill Gates who had to die? :-)
  • by /dev/kev ( 9760 ) on Monday March 24, 2003 @10:33PM (#5588584) Homepage
    In case anyone's interested in seeing more of the Osborne 1 itself, you might like to check out my Osborne 1 site [], which has LOTS of pictures of the unit and various associated paraphenalia, some small mpeg movies of it in operation (including the great "disk grind" sound), and scans of the O1 Technical Manual, Field Service Manual, and a few others (though not the User's Manual, which is very large). And yes, it still works, although I've lost a few disks to bit rot... I get the feeling I'll have to dust it off after work and give it a spin, just for old time's sake.
  • Actually, I didn't buy them when they were new. I believe I owned a 286 12Mhz or 16Mhz computer already at the time I made my Osborne purchase.

    I was in a used computer store, looking for interesting stuff, when I stumbled across one.
    I believe I purchased it for around $175, but the store owner threw in a second Osborne 1 in rather beat-up condition as part of the deal. (Supposedly, it was so I'd have spare parts for the good one if I ever needed them - but most likely, it was just an opportunity for them
  • AO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilpenguin ( 18720 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @12:07AM (#5589035)
    I had Osborne's Introduction to Microprocessors, and it is still a book a lot of today's "programmers" (who have never written a line of assembly code) could benefit from reading. A later book specifically on the Z80 is also a great read. They still hold a hallowed place on my shelf along with a couple of books by Rodney Zaks ("Programming the Z80" and his CP/M programming book).

    I had an Osborne 1. It was the first computer my old man and I bought. (We built our first from scratch, doing S-100 bus wirewrap boards). My first significant piece of programming was the BIOS for CP/M for our homebrewed hardware. Couldn't have done it without Osborne and Zaks (southgoing, or northgoing I always wondered).

    I also seem to remember a book about the collapse of Osborne that was essentially a "prequel" to the dot-bomb era. It was called "Hypergrowth" or something like that. Anyone remember that book?

    Osborne's rep was gone after that.

    He's an important figure, but more for fueling the hobbyist movement which really created the microprocessor market. Nobody took these devices seriously until people started making home computers, and that was largely a homebrew phenomenon for a brief shining moment.

    That feeling is what Linux had that the other "free" OSes didn't. The hobbyist mentality. It fosters creativity. Between IBM and Microsoft it had almost ceased to exist. Hobbyist, entrepreneur, establishment, repeat. I wonder what it will be tomorrow.

    They were heady days. Signetics catalogs, Ciarcia's Circuit Cellar, Dr. Dobbs Journal of Computer Calesthenics and Orthodontia (Running Light Without Overbyte) -- yes, that's what the magazine used to be called --, Heathkits (God! Heathkits! Does anyone else here remember the H11? Sure, they had the CP/M machines, but they had the kit clone of the PDP-11! Complete with paper tape mass storage!)

    Of course I wouldn't want to go back. But sometimes, just sometimes, I miss the chomp of the sprockets and the subtle squeak of the pinch rollers. I miss front panels and "LOAD" switches.

    When my dad died, I came across our homebrew S100 bus Z80 machine. Sadly, the electrolytic capacitors had leaked and ruined several of the boards. Thomas Wolfe was right: You can't rewind to load point again. He didn't put it exactly that way, but close enough.

    Adam Osborne was an imprudent maverick. He was an egomaniac whose company failed. But, damn! It was fun while it lasted. I, too, say rest in peace.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The cliche about Adam is that he preannounced his DOS followon machine and this caused sales of his current product to fail, driving the company into bankruptcy. I was there and saw what happened, and that's not what happened.

    The proof is this. First, everybody with a CPM machine was promising a future DOS version--that's what the market demanded. Everybody. Adam warned that his DOS machine wouldn't ship for at least six months, and would be more expensive than his price-sensitive $1795 Osborne 1, so waiti
  • by beej ( 82035 ) on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @02:16AM (#5589461) Homepage Journal
    Rather, my parents' first computer was. I learned to program it as a kid before moving on to the c64.

    POKE 61440, 127

    That'll put a dim rectangle in the upper left corner of the 52x24 screen. Too bad no one ever asks me that in an interview these days...

    As I sit here, I hold in my hand the Osborne I User's Reference Guide. I don't have the computer, but I kept the book for fun. It reads like an old school user's guide, with complete references for BASIC, and a chapter titled "IEEE-488 Implementation". Very useful for users.

    Some specs:


    • 32 lines of 128 characters maintained in RAM
    • 24 lines of 52 characters shown on screen
    • dim, normal, underlined video supported [through bank switching for dim/brite--there was a bank of shadow RAM under video RAM...underline was just bit 7]
    • 32 block graphic characters predefined
    • uppercase/lowercase text display [Whooo!]
    • video emulates TeleVideo terminal
    • external video available via edge connector


    • 200K bytes per diskette
    • 185K bytes of data space using CP/M
    • 40 tracks of information
    • 5 physical sectors each track (soft-sectored)
    • 1024 bytes per sector
    • 40 logical sectors to CP/M (128 bytes each)
    • 1K-byte extents maintained by CP/M
    • 3 reserved system tracks
    Single Density:
    • 100K bytes per diskette
    • 92K bytes of data space using CP/M
    • 40 tracks of information
    • 10 physical sectors each track (soft-sectored)
    • 256 bytes per sector
    • 20 logical sectors to CP/M (128 bytes each)
    • 2K-byte extents maintained by CP/M
    • 3 reserved system tracks (See notes, page 760.)


    • 1200- or 300-baud, software-selectable
    • 2400- or 600-baud, jumper-selectable
    • uses 6850 chip, all parameters memory-mapped
    • standard female DB-25 connector provided

    IEEE-488 PORT:

    • standard IEEE-488 implementation
    • may be configured as Centronics parallel port
    • 26-pin edge connector provided

    I'll stop typing now before I get to the memory map... :)

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.