April 18, 1983
The Osborne Computer Corporation officially announced the Osborne Executive portable computer, the follow-up to its extremely successful Osborne 1. This is the computer that according to lore, took down the company. Known as the Osborne Effect, the legend is that by leaking the announcement of this computer earlier in the year, dealers cancelled all orders for the Osborne 1, effectively destroying the company’s cashflow and hindering operations going forward. This resulted in the cancellation of the company’s IPO and eventually to bankruptcy.
The reality may not be so simple, but my research shows that the Osborne Effect may have been a contributing cause to the company’s demise, along with the rise of competitors, the introduction of the IBM PC, and mismanagement by the company’s president, brought in by investors to provide “adult supervision”.
April 17, 1967
The spacecraft Surveyor 3 is launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. It is the second U.S. spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon (Surveyor 2 crash landed) where it will study the lunar surface and send more than 6,300 pictures back to Earth. In all, seven Surveyors will be sent to the Moon, five of them successfully completing soft landings.
April 16, 1977
On the same day at the first annual West Coast Computer Faire, both the Apple II and Commodore PET 2001 personal computers are introduced. Ironically, Commodore had previously rejected purchasing the Apple II from Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, deciding to build their own computers. Both computers used the same processor, the MOS 6502, but the companies had two different design strategies and it showed on this day. Apple wanted to build computers with more features at a higher price point. Commodore wanted to sell less feature-filled computers at a lower price point. The Apple II had color, graphics, and sound selling for $1298. The Commodore PET only had a monochrome display and was priced at $795.
Note, it was very difficult finding a picture with both an original Apple II (not IIe) and Commodore PET 2001. I could only find this picture that also includes the TRS-80, another PC introduced later in 1977.
April 15, 2002
Budding entrepreneur Marcel Brown starts his first day as a full-time self-employed professional, after years of helping people and small businesses with their technology needs on the side. It was from this humble beginning that a technology empire of unprecedented scale was created.
Well, okay, maybe all of that’s not quite true yet, but with any luck, soon it will be!
April 15, 1977
The first annual West Coast Computer Faire is held over three days in San Francisco, California, attended by 12,750 people. The Faire features the debut of the Apple II computer, which features 16KB of memory, BASIC, a built-in keyboard, eight expansion slots, and built-in high-resolution color graphics. Many credit this event and the launch of the Apple II as giving birth to the personal computer industry.
April 15, 1892
The General Electric Company (GE) is founded. It was formed by the merger of Edison General Electric (started by Thomas Edison in 1890) and the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. GE was one of the original 12 companies listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and in 2010 was ranked by Forbes as the world’s second largest company.
April 14, 1912
The RMS Titanic strikes an iceberg four days into its maiden voyage. Over 1,500 passengers drown when the ship sinks early the next morning. The Marconi wireless equipment on board is used to call for help, effectively saving 700 people. It was stated that, “Those who have been saved have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi and his wonderful invention.”
April 13, 2000
The heavy metal group Metallica sues Napster, alleging copyright infringement and racketeering. This lawsuit, later joined by Dr. Dre, as well as other lawsuits from the RIAA, eventually caused the original Napster service to shut down and file bankruptcy. However, the Pandora’s Box that Napster opened could not be closed and digital distribution changed the music industry forever.
As for Metallica, their reputation was tarnished for some time by this move. Ironically, Metallica owed much of their early popularity to the spread of unauthorized copies of their early albums. As the heavy metal genre in general and Metallica in particular did not get much airplay at that time, it was reported that Metallica quietly encouraged the free spread of their music in the early 80’s. Therefore many viewed Metallica’s action against Napster as hypocritical and greedy.
April 13, 1970
An oxygen tank aboard the Service Module of Apollo 13 explodes. Moments later, astronaut Jack Swigert announces the later-famous phrase, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” The explosion cripples the spacecrafts, resulting in a near-complete loss of electricity and oxygen. The oxygen leak will force the crew to abandon the command module for the lunar module as a makeshift “lifeboat” becoming stranded for four days, more than two hundred thousand miles from Earth, while NASA plans the most spectacular rescue mission in U.S. space history. Against all odds, the three astronauts will return safely back to Earth.