Let’s Backtrack: The Osborne 1 Computer turns 40 years old

Adam Osborne’s self-named company released the Osborne 1 on April 4, 1981, forty years ago.

The Osborne 1 was the first transportable business computer, though it certainly wasn’t portable.  At 10kg, it was as heavy as a suitcase and should have had wheels built into the casing.  It did not have a battery, so it could only be used in situ, with the power cord plugged in.

Having said that, the Osborne 1 was a full-fledged computer, as powerful as any desktop PC of the day.  It used the CP/M operating system and could run many powerful applications of the day: CBASIC, dBase II, SuperCalc, and many others that came bundled with the machine.  With a Z80 processor, 64kb of RAM (128 on the later model), two 360kb floppy drives, a 80×25 text screen, and ports for external connections, it wasn’t lacking for power.

What Osborne did lack was good management and an affordable price.  US$1800 was exorbitant, even for IBM.  The company overextended itself which (along with the IBM PC’s dominance of the market) led to the company’s collapse in 1984.  It was a short but wild ride.

More below the fold.

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Easter Sucks: Maybe this is too personal, but what the hey….

Not directly in response to Ashes’ post, but. . . .

Growing up with a sperm and egg donor who were both narcissists and fanatical catholics, the April fools day is one of the worst memories of childhood, up there with post-winter solstice “holiday” in December. The only thing that made April more tolerable was not being a captive audience (i.e. things were open, lack of snow and cold made walking possible).

They were the types who thought “vatican II was a bad idea”, that ‘mass’ should still be in Latin despite them not speaking a word of it.  This also included fish on most Fridays throughout the year, but especially in April.  Mentioning red meat, never mind eating it, meant becoming black and blue.

“Easter” has to be the only religious event I know of with as ridiculous and convoluted a calculation as Lunar New Year.  “The second new moon after the winter solstice” and “first full moon at least a week after spring equinox” are nonsensical.  Pick a fixed date, FFS.  April 1st suits you, as it was a couple of years ago.

As it happens, “easter” this year falls on the same date as “tomb sweeping day” (qingming festival) when ethnic Chinese people go and clean up their ancestors’ graves. Then ignore them the rest of the year.

The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best
The ones, love us least are the ones we'll die to please
If it's any consolation, I don't begin to understand them

- The Replacements, "Bastards Of Young"

I have no intention of visiting either’s grave if I ever go back to Canada.


Now We Know: It wasn’t a crash

News media, foreign and domestic, have been erroneously calling Friday’s event in Taiwan a “train crash”.  That’s not what happened.

The train was northbound at 9:30AM local time (UTC+8), on the eastern coastal line near the city of Hualien, along a cliffside.  The west side of Taiwan is mostly flat, more mountainous as you move east.  There is a roadway above the rail line.  A construction crane on the roadway was not parked properly (for lack of a better term) and rolled off the edge, onto the passing train below which then derailed.

This was not a train crash, and those operating the rail line are unlikely to face any backlash.  Several passenger cars were crushed and there are at least fifty dead.  No one I know of planned to take that train, and no one I know is unaccounted for.

This happened Friday morning, the first day of a four day long weekend (Tomb Sweeping Day on 4/3 and Children’s Day on 4/4).  The statutory holidays were moved to Friday and Monday, providing a four day weekend.  It’s likely many families were travelling along the line.

This happened with a TRA train, which travels roughly 80kmh.  This would not happen with the High Speed Rail line not only because the HSR is along the populated west coast, but because the HSR is protected from such events (elevated platforms and tunnels).

The Guardian: Taiwan train crash: dozens dead after express service derails in tunnel

Focus Taiwan: Scene of train crash like ‘living hell:’ Red Cross rescuer

Also from Focus Taiwan:

Crane truck driver questioned by police over fatal train accident

Local police are questioning the driver of a crane truck that is believed to have slid down a hillside and blocked the path of a moving train heading south in Hualien County on Friday, leading to an accident that caused the deaths of at least 48 people.

The driver, surnamed Lee (李), was still being questioned by Chungte police as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Xincheng Precinct of the Hualien County Police Department.

Police department commissioner Tsai Ting-hsien (蔡丁賢) said the crane truck was parked on a hillside road close to the construction site of a tunnel for the northbound rail line.

The road hovers above the southbound track, and authorities suspect that the driver parked the vehicle without engaging the emergency brake, Tsai said.

Let’s Backtrack: Gil Scott-Heron’s “Pieces Of A Man” turns 50

Gil Scott-Heron’s second album “Pieces of a Man” was recorded in April 1971.  The released date unknown, so now is as good a time as any to mention it.

The album is most famous for the opening song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, a Jazz/Rap/Scat poem laid of a funky, bass-heavy and flute-driven background.  This song is a sledgehammer to the face.  “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is more relevant than ever and could deservedly be the theme song of the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, it is not a “one hit plus filler” album, it is a personal and social statement, with one strong song after another, many of them timeless and still relevant today:

“Save The Children”, exactly what the title suggests.

“Lady Day and John Coltrane”, how music can save your sanity.

“Home Is Where the Hatred Is”, the POV of people with addictions.

“When You Are Who You Are”, a beautiful love song.

“I Think I’ll Call It Morning”, I can’t describe well:

     I'm gonna take myself a piece of sunshine
     And paint it all over my sky
     Be no rain
     Be no rain

     I'm gonna take the song from every bird
     And make em sing it just for me
     Cause why should I hang my head
     Why should I let tears fall from my eyes
     When I've seen everything there is to see

“Pieces of a Man”, when a man loses his job and can’t support his family.

     Jagged jigsaw pieces
     Tossed about the room
     I saw my grandma sweeping
     With her old straw broom
     But she didn't know what she was doing
     She could hardly understand
     That she was really sweeping up
     Pieces of a man
And many more.
I’ll admit I was only introduced to the album when it regained popularity thanks to the Acid Jazz movement of the 1980s/1990s.  But it’s such an emotional and powerful album that it makes an impact the first time you hear it.  The entire album is on a youtube playlist.