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Internet Pioneers
Tech Roundup

Besides lassoing their brainpower to help build the Internet, UD folks have rustled up these computing innovations....

First Portable Laptop computer

Adam Osborne, who received his master’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering at UD in 1966 and 1968, respectively, is credited with introducing the first portable computer to the world, when he presented the Osborne 1 at the West Coast Computer Faire in June 1981.

About the size of a suitcase and equipped with a carrying handle, the 24-pound Osborne 1 Personal Business Computer featured a five-inch display screen and included  WordStar, a word processing package, and SuperCalc, a spreadsheet program, among other software. Selling for $1,795, the machine with its novel bundled software would launch the personal computer industry.

Osborne Computer Corporation had its first million-dollar sales month in September 1981. In 1982, sales reached about $70 million. However, with stiff competition from IBM and Apple, coupled with Osborne’s premature bragging about a coming model months before it could be released, which caused stores to cancel orders for an existing model (a phenomenon now known as the “Osborne Effect”), the company declared bankruptcy in 1983.

Osborne did much to spark the computer revolution. Even before the Osborne I was invented, he had founded a publishing company that produced easy-to-read books on computing; he wrote many of them himself. The company was later sold to McGraw-Hill, which established McGraw-Hill/Osborne, specializing in computing books. Osborne died in India, his childhood home, in 2003.

Multi-touch Technology

Did you know that the multi-touch technology used in electronics like the iPhone and iPad originated at UD? Electrical engineering professor John Elias and alumnus Wayne Westerman (Ph.D. 1999) developed the groundbreaking computer interface technology in 2000.

While advances in power, speed and memory had improved computing capabilities over the previous three decades, theirs was the first product to revolutionize the user interface.

Originally called “multi-touch” because it used a touch pad and a range of finger motions to communicate commands and keys to the computer, the technology employed “zero force technology,” to reduce stress injuries such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome attributed to traditional computer work. Their startup company, FingerWorks, commercialized the technology and sold it to Apple Inc., in 2005.

Supercomputer Power

In 2000, Guang Gao, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering, and his associates founded ETI, a UD-start up and high-performance system software company. It provides solutions and tools for advanced computing architectures and platforms based on new microprocessor chips that run at faster speeds thanks to multiple “cores,” or copies of processor circuitry. ETI’s system software applies many-core chip technology, with 160 processing cores on a single chip designed by IBM, to power the world’s most influential supercomputers.


JEOPARDY! fame to company gain

UD alumnus Roger Craig leaped to Jeopardy! quiz show fame in 2010 when he set the all-time record for single-day winnings ($77,000). He also became the show’s fourth-highest winning contestant ever. To prepare for the show, Craig created a data mining software application. Today, he is the co-founder and CEO of Cotinga LLC, a predictive analytics consulting firm based in New York City that markets this software for other applications.