back to article Jim Westwood, home micro revolutionary

We all know Sir Clive Sinclair, the sometimes eccentric British boffin whose early simple, cheap and often kit-assembled devices helped usher in the UK's home computer revolution. You may also have seen the irreverent 2009 BBC drama Micro Men, which chronicled Sir Clive's failed battle with his own ex-employee and Acorn co- …


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  1. My Opinion


    I think that referring to any Sinclair product as hifi would require significant redefinition of that word!

    1. Ivan Headache

      On the contrary

      The Sinclair Neoteric 60 was very highly rated by HiFi News and The Gramophone at the time.

      I've been trying to find one for ages but not many were made. Apparently they were very difficult to make because of their small size and that caused reliability issues with overheating.

      Still. I'd have one if I could find one.

  2. Gilbert Wham

    I had one of those pocket TVs

    A device badly crippled by its choice of battery; a flat Li job that was almost entirely unobtainable, and cost a bastard fortune.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Yes, the fabled

      battery was available in one of those cameras that developed the pics there and then, kodak instaprint? Instamatic??

      And yes, they were bloody expensive.

      But, it was a pocket tv and i remember being in london in the mid eighties with mine in my lonely B&B...

      Worked well....

    2. hplasm

      Had the one between the one with all the knobs

      -and the flatty.

      Watched the last episode of Blake's Seven on the bus.

      oo- Still got it-! runs on AA batteries- but not much on these days...

      Great for Pong, though but the bloody ball is tiny!

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Toastan Buttar

    We're not worthy!!!

    That is all.

  5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    people like this we should be celebrating, not bloody Steve "I'm a good salesman" Jobs

    1. Paul RND*1000

      Unfortunately the bloody marketers are rather better at manipulating what we get to know. Which is exactly why they're marketers.

  6. Dave Lawton

    Another unsung hero

    Could we please, please, please have a similar article on Sophie Wilson ?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Dave Lawton

      "Could we please, please, please have a similar article on Sophie Wilson ?"

      Excellent idea.

      having seen one of her presentation on YouTube I'm curious to know more.

      Another candidate who helped kick start the process of chip design would be Lyn Conway.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    people like this we should be celebrating, not bloody

    Sir Alan "Barrow Boy" Sugar.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Indeed we should celebrate Westwood instead of Sugar. I often wish people would remember that Sugar's talent was employing bloody good engineers, namely Roland Perry, and Cliff Lawson, as well as people like Richard Clayton at Locomotive.

    Like Westwood it was these guys who sat in the background doing the hard work that made their bosses very rich indeed.

    So Jim Westwood we salute you, and all the other guys who sat in the background doing all the hard work that gave us so many wonderful computers and electronics. I may now carry around a iPhone, tablet and a laptop but computing just isn't as fun anymore.

  9. Conrad Longmore
    Thumb Up


    You'd never get away with making a device like the Z88 today.. which is a shame. If you want to take written notes, it is probably the best possible device.. and the battery lasted forever. There still seems to be quite a lively user community too.

    1. Seanmon
      Thumb Up


      I own a Z88 that was used in 1991 to file reports on the attempted coup against Gorbachev.

  10. Sam Liddicott

    You can't read this...

    You can't read this without feeling immense gratitude and humility - thanks guys! And thanks el reg for bringing this to us.

  11. David Perry 2

    The text and font of the headline on that PDF (page 4)

    "Now you can watch a little TV everywhere" very similar font and text to Apple's current advertising. Wonder where they got that idea from - imitation is the biggest form of flattery. And wonder if apple's marketing veep ever knew/will know this - what was I reading here earlier about apple and innovation/lack of it hmmm...

  12. The answer is 42

    Sinclair's IC12 Audio amp started life as a Plessey low-wattage audio output chip. Seconds were sold off to Radiospares, who sold it as a 6 watt audio amp; their seconds were passed to Sinclair, who stuck the big finned heatsink on top and passed it off as 12 watts. Can't for the life of me remember whether it was RMS, peak or "music power", though. I had a Sinclair FM radio, which was also matchbox size; it ran on 2 mercury button cells. His calculators were RPN, just like the early HP calculators, I think. Can anyone confirm?

  13. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Sinclair's ability was not only to employ bloody good engineers - but to let them get on with it.

    He's quoted in one of the books about British industry that "employs an engineer on a salary of 20,000 but quibbles over buying them a 20quid tool to do their job" .

    Unfortunately this attitude eventually sent the TV outfit bust when everybody in the village could apparently bill anything to Sinclair withotu question

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Beware tall balding ginger Scotsman shopping for a shark tank and something to fill it

    Be afraid.

    Be very afraid.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RPN - nearly?

    It is indeed commonly written that the Sinclair calculators used RPN. I have also seen it written, and find it plausible but can't find the reference again, that the RPN they used wasn't proper formal RPN but some slightly bastardised form of RPN required to work around some limitation or other in the calculator's chippery.

  16. Whitespace

    Sinclair Cambridge

    Although pictured there was no mention of the Sinclair Cambridge assemble-it-yourself calculator which retailed, if I remember correctly, for 29.95 pounds.

    After several false starts I finally had mine going and - due to an accident of birth date - I was the first person in my school with a real electronic calculator.

    Four functions, the possibility of spelling SheLLOIL and BOOBIES, and instructions for iteratively calculating square roots using Newton-Raphson - my fingers generated a motor memory so I could calculate square roots in seconds, just like today's youth can send an SMS faster than I can make a phone call.

    Just two or three years later I could buy a CBM calculator that did everything I ever needed at university for about the same price - but the Sinclair was the only calculator I was ever proud of.

    Sadly I had no sense of history so although I still have my slide rule - which I must bring out sometime to frighten my children - my Cambridge has long disappeared

  17. John 62

    A giant among Radio 1 DJs

    Great friday night listening. <explosionsfx /> UNDASTAND, BABY! <explosionsfx />

    Better than X-hibit on Pimp my Ride, as well.

  18. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    The TV *was* something special

    Yes it was small but it was also.

    1) Multi-standard. Designed to operate *anywhere* in the world. The core seemed to be some fiendishly clever Ferranti ASIC or PLA (There was speculation but I don't think they ever opened up the design even as far as block diagram level. It seems impossible that it could have been entirely digital and I'm not sure people were producing analogue PLA's at the time.

    2) The CRT using a 3rd set of electrodes to bend the picture 90deg which (IIRC) was patteneted by Denis Gabor around the time he was inventing holography.

    3) The glass was vacuum formed. This is normally only associated with plastic (probably because the softening temperature of the plastics of the time were about 1/6 that of glass).

    People speculated it could be the basis of a *projection* TV as well but that never went anywhere.

    On the upside it seems to have given the team PLA (or as Ferranti called them ULA's) which got them set up for doing the ZX80.

    Incidentally from some of the comments it would seem his hardware design was sound but (and I think this is a *recurring* theme in UK engineering) the *production* engineering (especially quality control on PCBs and other stuff) was at times a bit s**t.

    Note that he had *no* degree.

    It seems impossible for *any* future UK generation of engineers to come up as he came up. Essentially hardware hacking *lots* of circuits and studying how they worked by twiddling with them.

    Not very *formal* but it seems to have been quite effective.

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