This Week In Techdirt History: March 29th – April 4th

from the from-osborne-to-ipad dept

Five Years Ago

In the wake of the Apple iPad announcement, the company was scrambling to secure a trademark on the name, and this week in 2010 it succeeded. Meanwhile, publishers were scrambling to take advantage of the new device, while grappling over what that meant and the iPad’s future in general. Plus, as expected, patent holders were also scrambling to bring claims against the new tablet.

In the world of patents, there was a major ruling: a district judge declared gene patents to be invalid, leading many to discuss what would happen next. We also discussed the fact that software patents violate the patent bargain, while over in New Zealand some politicians were looking to explicitly ban them. Nearby, Australia was looking into a great-firewall-esque censorship scheme, drawing criticism from President Obama and responding with a barely-related attack on Google.

Copyright extortion schemes based on automated threat letters started picking up steam in the US, with tens of thousands of letters sent by a group of filmmakers. One of these was Uwe Boll who, it turned out, registered his copyrights too late. Meanwhile, some online scammers were using mock copyright threats to spread malware.

Ten Years Ago

The entertainment industry’s history of blocking innovation runs deep. This week in 2005, we noticed how much control they were exerting over new mobile phones, blocking some devices and crippling features on others to prevent piracy. Sony was demanding the courts solve its innovation problems while pitching a weak plan for an “iTunes for movies”, and the FCC was still pushing for a broadcast flag at the behest of Hollywood, and facing opposition from librarians and hobbyists.

Also in 2005: yet another study showed that red light cameras are dangerous, while Illinois was gearing up to use speed cameras that take your license away; HP seemed to be attempting to patent refilling printer ink, while the patent office seemed to suddenly realize that online auctions are obvious; and ISPs mocked the very concept of net neutrality by seeking to block VOIP usage, while Japan’s lack of public wi-fi spurred by near total mobile data penetration (in 2005!) provided a rude wake-up call to Americans about how crappy their service is.

Fifteen Years Ago

Had a few court cases gone differently back in these early days, deep-linking might be illegal and the web would be a very different place — but thankfully, this week in 2000, this didn’t happen. Another thing that didn’t happen is any meaningful impact from the Patent Office’s supposed changes in the way it handles internet patents.

It was the early days of the DivX codec for video; online bill paying existed but had yet to take off in a big way; laptop thefts at the airport were worthy of a scare-story or two; and the social experiment of personal weblogs was in full-swing. Salon was telling the music industry that it had to get used to Napster and learn to adapt to technology, but unless this is your first time reading Techdirt and you skipped directly to this sentence in this post, you know they didn’t exactly listen.

Thirty-Four Years Ago

This week in 2010 everyone was buzzing about the iPad’s April 3rd release, so it’s fitting that all the way back on the same day in 1981, the world saw the release of the first commercially successful portable computer, the Osborne 1. It cost $1,795 (just under $5000 in today’s cash), weighed nearly 25lbs, and was described as looking like “a cross between a World War II field radio and a shrunken instrument panel of a DC-3”:

By Bilby (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Reportedly, its sales tanked after the company prematurely announced a superior successor machine — a phenomenon dubbed the Osborne effect and applied to similar situations like Sega’s early discussion of the upcoming Dreamcast after releasing the Saturn. However, it appears that the effect’s original, titular example may have been a myth.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: March 29th – April 4th”

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Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Ah, back to the future!

I worked at ComputerLand in the Silly Valley back in the early 1980’s and had one of these (Osborne 1) to take home and play with. Useful for the time, but the tiny screen was a major PITA. Eventually, when I left CL I bought a Compaq Plus to take with me as I was becoming a serious programming engineer. I think my right arm is about 5″ longer than the left now from hauling that all over the world! That said, it was a very usable system, and I was able to connect a good external monitor so I could use it as a desk top system at home. Those were the days when a 10MB disc and 512K of RAM was top of the line!

My last laptop was a Lenovo Carbon X1 – weighed about as much as a feather, had a battery that would last the day, 8GB of RAM, a dual core 3+GHz i7 processor, plus a 250GB SSD. Ah, progress!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Ah, back to the future!

I, too, have fond memories of the Osborne 1. I am still kicking myself for getting rid of my collection of luggables from that era: an Osborne, a herd of Kaypro IIs, and a Kaypro 10. I still have the schematic for the Kaypro II framed and hanging on my wall.

Because I’m insane, about 15 years ago I networked all of them together and modified CP/M to allow them to be used collectively as if they were a single multiprocessor system. The speed boost was impressive. It almost reached the lower boundary of the throughput you could get from low end modern systems of the day.

Those were the days…

PT (profile) says:

Re: Ah, back to the future!

I remember the Osborne with great affection. The screen was way too tiny, but I liked having all the ports available on the front, where they were accessible, instead of round the back where the marketing department thinks users want them. The other Osborne innovation was bundled software – it came with a whole suite of applications, which was a first and a powerful inducement.

My O1 was truly portable, because I had a battery pack. This was like a leather lunch box that weighed 20 pounds and put out 120V DC, so you just plugged the computer into it like a wall socket. It was a “D’OH” moment for me when I realized that switch mode power supplies work equally well on AC or DC.

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