The Rise and Fall of Serial Entrepreneur Adam Osborne

On March 6 in the year 1939, one of the pioneers in the portable computer industry was born in Bangkok, Thailand. His name was Adam Osborne, a serial entrepreneur who founded Osborne Computer Corporation and several others.

Adam Osborne
Adam Osborne (Photo Credit:

Adam Osborne was the son of a writer and one-time professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Birmingham in England and his PhD at the University of Delaware, USA. In 1972, he founded his own publishing company named Osborne and Associates. By the time it was sold to McGraw-Hill in 1979, he had accumulated 40 titles, most of which were easy-to-read computer manuals. He had also been writing a column for a technical magazine where he reviewed and criticized the current crop of computers.

Using the money he earned from the sale of his publishing business, Adam established Osborne Computer Corporation in 1981. With the help of Lee Felsenstein, a computer nerd who was working for Intel, Adam produced the first portable computer called Osborne-1. When he introduced the product at a computer fair at the initial price of $1,795, it was a runaway bestseller. In eight months, 11,000 units were sold which was more than the plan of 10,000.

However, the early success was not sustained. Adam committed a marketing error which was later called “Osborne effect”. He announced in advance the launching of a better product which drastically reduced demand for the previous item. Eventually, inventories piled up and the company declared bankruptcy in 1983.

Adam went on to found another company. It was called Paperback Software International. The process was repeated. It was successful in its initial year and then, it went bankrupt when Lotus 1-2-3 sued for property rights infringement.

Adam died of brain disorder in 2003 at the age of 64. He married twice and divorced twice. He left three children.


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