adam osborne, the pc pioneer, ‘vellakkaara thamizhan’ – the man…

March 27, 2014

” The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake – you can’t learn anything from being perfect. “

– Adam Osborne (1939 – 2003)

I do not know how many of us 45+ folks remember Adam, I mean THE Adam.

Perhaps not many. Our memories are short. Our capabilities in respect of studying, mapping, assimilating and knowing in breadth and depth — the details and mappings of any idea or a concept – are  rather shallow. We are designed from the beginning to be lusers, Dravidian  lusers. We offset our incredible  lack  of scholarship by manufacturing random histories (such as Aryan invasion or Dravidian superiority theories) and random geographies (such as Lemuria or Kumari-k-Kandam, if you will).

Otherwise, what would be preventing us from celebrating the memories of such a personality? I am not talking about a random Robert Caldwell or a randomer  Constantine ‘Veeramaamuniver’ Beschi here – am referring to a fantastic individual, who lived in our midst – after making epochal contributions to the spread of the cult of the portable computer.

But then, am digressing, as is my wont.

Of course, the reason why I am rejiggling my fading memories is that – Adam Osborne, the man, one of my boyhood heroes, moved on –  just about 11 years back, after living for so many years in India — on 18th March, 2003 – in our good ol’  Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu.

Snuffed out. Unsung. Unheard of.  PBUH.

… … … Having been lost in a dazed reverie, I have been thinking about him for the past few days and just thought I would share a thing or two about this fine  man…

I personally admire Adam Osborne for three reasons:

1. He was a true pioneer of the relentless drive for manufacturing, packaging and selling usable personal computers really economically. (thusly innovating in the area much, much before the other respectable guy,  Steve Jobs – am not even talking about Bill Gates) I would say that he was the first true PC entrepreneur; this was in 1981!

2. Him being the first successful publisher of useful, affordable, very well designed computer books – in addition to being a very good author.

3. The fact that he talked persistently about the inferiority complex of many of us ‘learned’ Indians. (In this context, he even wrote a simple and hard hitting article in a computer trade magazine DataQuest, way back in 1991 – that will be reproduced in a subsequent blog entry)


He was the guy who spent his childhood in Tiruvannamalai in our Tamilnadu, grew up in Ramanashramam, prided himself for being the ‘only vellaikara tamil’ (the only white tamil) – and after a rather roller-coaster ride through life (and silicon valley),  finally breathed his last in 2003, in Kodaikanal in Tamilnadu.

Adam with Sri Ramana, Young and brash Adam; Middle aged Adam; OSBORNE/1 - the revolution (pic montage created from pics off and

Adam with Sri Ramana | An young and brash Adam | Middle aged Adam | OSBORNE/1 – the revolution (pic montage created from pics off and

His father, Arthur Osborne was an ardent devotee of Sri Ramana Maharishi and made Tiruvannaamalai his home. Arthur too, has written some of the best books on Gnyana Yoga – in a very lucid english prose style, in my humble opinion.

These kinds of  biographical details perhaps, are still important. But, I would point you to another page for them. There is this nice obit of his, that was published by Dr Dobb’s Journal – whose high standards I always admire and respect!


A few years back, I was talking to Christopher Quilkey (the editor of the journal Mountain Path – published by Ramanashramam) – who visited Bangalore and us on some personal errand. Apparently he spent some 5 years personally tending to his ailing friend Adam Osborne – and Chris must have shared in the grief and sorrow of  witnessing the gradual and irreversible deterioration of a beautiful, straight-thinking and innovative brain.

… Chris shared  a few poignant details about the final years of Adam, and the human condition. One suddenly felt rather numb.

Chris is also a sensitive and fine raconteur of ideas – and of course, we then moved on to other common interests such as the dogs being very sentient, films etc etc.

Such is life.


A couple of years back, I was staying in a remote village off Kodaikanal – in a rather little house on a cliff commanding a green valley – regretfully only for a few days, and then decided on a lark, to go visit the grave of Adam. It turned out to be a kind of sentimental pilgrimage for me.

I feel that, any self respecting geek or a wannabe electrical etc etc engineer – from our part of India at least – should ponder over the life & times of guys such as Adam and the ways in which Adam was more an Indian, much more a Tamil, than the non-metacognitive rest of us.

சில மனிதர்கள் – சில நினைவுகள் & குறிப்புகள்

2 Responses to “adam osborne, the pc pioneer, ‘vellakkaara thamizhan’ – the man…”

  1. Fixed the broken link of Mountain Path.


  2. ஆஸ்போர்னின் பின்னணி கொடுத்ததற்காக நன்றி.

    வன்பாக்கம் விஜயராகவன்

மேற்கண்ட பதிவு (அல்லது பின்னூட்டங்கள்) குறித்து (விருப்பமிருந்தால்) உரையாடலாமே...

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