Assignment: As listed in the ds106 Assignment Bank, the objective of the Pokemon Card assignment is to create a Pokemon card of yourself which lists your special powers.
It was a real treat to discover that Bryan had taken it upon himself to reinterpret the original assignment and made a card featuring one of the internet pioneers we’ve been looking at to start our semester. I sensed immediate excitement from several students when his Vannever Bush card was projected on the big screen one morning last week. I announced then that I intended to do one. I have a feeling that several other Tokyo students will try it out as well.
In choosing Adam Osborne, I hope to show that we are all free to interpret any of these ds106 assignments to suit our own purposes. His name is not on our list of pioneers and most would view his story as a failure rather than a success. But when I saw the picture of young Osborne with Sri Ramana, I knew I had my Pokemon Card. I’ve also decided to play a bit fre and easy with the facts in the story section which follows (let’s say I embellished a bit).
Process: I’m almost embarrassed to admit that it took me several hours to pull this image together. It began with scanning 18 of my daughter’s Pokemon Cards. Little remains of the one I selected for this assignment. I did a bunch of stuff in Gimp that I can barely recall, let alone describe. Again it was a time of experimentation, making mistakes, undoing those mistakes and shouting at the computer in disgust. It was also a time of discovery.
One useful discovery was to step away from the computer when things get too frustrating. More than once I found myself completely stumped about how to manipulate the text or how to remove certain features of the original card. It was while away from the assignment and thinking of something else entirely that an idea emerged for one way to go about solving the problem. Sometimes the solution worked and others it didn’t. The point here is that patience helps.
Story: I was vaguely familiar with the story of the Osborne 1 Portable Computer. I remember seeing magazine ads for it and a few of it’s competitors as a high school student in the early eighties. As I had no need for a 24 pound portable computer, it wasn’t anything that interested me.
But I was able to get my hands on one when I visited my Uncle Calvin in the Cayman Islands during a school holiday. He was professional gambler who had gotten in to a wee bit of trouble with some casino operators in Atlantic City and decided to cool his heels in the Caribbean. Apparently he had acquired his Osborne 1 in a poker game some months before and had quickly fallen in love with it.
He showed me the word processor software he was using to write a book about his card counting system. That Spring break was also the first time I ever saw or heard a modem in use. Apparently there was a bulletin board network for bookmakers and betters that he was involved with. You might be wondering why I’m telling Uncle Calvin’s story when the moment should belong to Adam Osborne. I suppose it’s because it’s the personal connections that sometimes make a story work.
In my Pokemon card I allude to Osborne’s supposed biggest failure which came to be termed, “The Osborne Effect.” It refers to how a premature announcement of an upcoming product can severely harm or destroy a company. An obituary from a newspaper in India, the country were he was born and died, called his a riches to rags story. Between 1981 and 1983 he had made himself a billionaire with the wildly popular Osborne 1.
Finally businessmen, entrepreneurs and number crunchers on either side of the law could take their work with them on the road and in the air. It was the precursor to what we all recognize as laptop computers. Wikipedia tells us that at one point Osborne was filling 10,000 orders a month for this $1,795 machine.
Anyhow, in an interview in 1983, Osborne boasted that the next model would be many times better and faster than the original model. For reasons that have yet to be fully revealed, the company was bankrupt and out of business within the year. The prevailing myth is that demand dropped for the Osborne 1 in anticipation of the upcoming model. This caused a drop in cash flow which made production of the new model impossible. And before long Adam Osborne would be sitting next to Uncle Calvin at a high stakes poker game in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Does Osborne qualify as a pioneer? Perhaps he’s an A-list pioneer but his story is an interesting one. For a moment in time, he saw the future and seized his place in it. When I look at the picture above, I like to imagine that Sri Ramana is visualizing the twists and turns of the life that lays before young Adam that will eventually bring him back home to India to spend his final years – having nothing to do with computers.