“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake - you can't learn anything from being perfect.” – Adam Osborne
Osborne, born in Thailand on this date in 1939, was 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 before selling out to publisher McGraw-Hill, which continued the imprint as "Osborne/McGraw-Hill.” He said writing, like science, often benefits from "trial-and-error" and writers should never be afraid to give something a go and edit it later.
Osborne earned a chemical engineering degree from the University of Birmingham and went on to study and earn a Ph.D. at the University of Delaware. He started writing computer manuals when he observed how difficult existing ones were for the average person to read. In 1981, he introduced the Osborne 1, the world’s first portable computer, now displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.
In addition to his publishing, he co-wrote a best-selling memoir and founded Paperback Software International Ltd, a company that specializing in inexpensive computer software. Its clever ads featured Osborne arguing that if telephone companies applied the same logic to their pricing as software companies, a telephone would cost $600. His career was cut short when he developed an incurable brain disease and died in India at age 64.
Once asked about his ongoing successes, he noted, “I take what I see work. I'm a strict believer in the scientific principle of believing nothing, only taking the best evidence available at the present time, interpreting it as best you can, and leaving your mind open to the fact that new evidence will probably appear tomorrow.”
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