back to article Ian Williamson: The engineer who gave Sinclair his first micro

Before Sinclair Research and the QL, the Spectrum and the ZX81, before even Sinclair Computers and the ZX80, there was Science of Cambridge and the MK14 microprocessor kit. Released in February 1978 - that’s when the first adverts for the mail-order-only offering appeared, at least - the MK14 entered the SoC pipeline late in the …


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  1. Jedit Silver badge

    This seems oddly familiar...

    Is this article a repost? I'm sure I saw a lot of the material (including SCRUMPI) elsewhere on the Register last year.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This seems oddly familiar...

      You mean: ?

      Search. Fantastic thing. :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This seems oddly familiar...

      Nope, you're on about this:

      Which was about the late founder of Bywood.

  2. TRT Silver badge


    Now RaspberryPI...


  3. Adam 1

    > Scrumpi cost around £65, right in the centre of the £50-60 price range


    1. James Hughes 1

      Just one of a number of weird statements or nonsense sentences in the article. Is proof reading a dead art?

    2. Wyrdness

      From the Lunchtime O'Booze school of journalism, perhaps?

  4. Richard Tobin

    The keypad might have lasted longer if the software had been better - when typing in code you had to press MEM-TERM-MEM between every byte, so guess which key was likely to fail (quite apart from it being unnecessarily tedious and error-prone).

    All in all it was a typical Sinclair product: unavailable, unreliable, unpleasant to use. They always aimed to build the cheapest possible usable product, but somewhere along the line the "usable" part of the specification was lost.

  5. Steve Todd

    That takes me back a few years

    I managed to build a MK14, and the first thing I did was to adapt a calculator keyboard to replace the dreadful pile that was the standard model (domed steel triangles IIRC, covered with a sheet of sticky backed plastic in best Blue Peter style).

    The big problem was that the SC/MP CPU was such a steaming pile. No stack, only 12 bits of address space and a 4 bit ALU (which explained why it was so slow) were some of the limitations I remember. Still, it got me started along the programming track.

  6. Kubla Cant

    It wasn’t was a straightforward reproduction of the existing National Semiconductor SC/MP evaluation system.

    Make your mind up. Was it or wasn't it?

  7. Stevie


    Once again: If someone wants to enforce a non-obvious pronunciation of their invention's name then he or she had better work harder to let the public know.

    Everyone I know who actually remembers this thing calls it a "mark 14". Had it been listed in PC World as M.K. 14 people would be using the correct pronunciation.

    That crumbly from CompuServe who silently "borrowed" a proprietary algo wasn't involved in the name was he?

    1. Andus McCoatover

      Re: Bah!

      I always called it an "em kay fourteen".

      Still do.

      1. Stevie

        Re: Bah!

        But I don't know you ...

  8. Andus McCoatover

    Oh, W00T!!!

    My nipples explode with delight!

    My first micro.

    Man, did I get it to do some tricks! Finally it taught me how to (modified with a latched display) write an MSF fast-code decoder. I STILL have the hand-written assembler sheet at home (used no RAM, just registers, and it worked second time. (Hour digits were backwards the first time - rather than change the wire-wrap I built the thing on, I re-blew a new offending PROM. By hand. One nibble at a time))

    Gave it to a young apprentice at a place I worked. Stood him in good stead.

    Didn't do me any harm, either.

    I loved that machine! Cost me a lot then, but what could be done with it was incredible. Even now I'm doing fun things with a Pi, it's not quite the same. Bit too easy when you can Google for a solution, rather than have to puzzle it out yourself.

    1. Tom 7

      Re: Oh, W00T!!!

      pico Basic!

      Still got mine - seems to be the most valuable computer I've ever bought.

    2. Steve Todd

      Re: Oh, W00T!!!

      You should try playing about with an ATMEGA328. One 28 pin chip costing less than two quid, a crystal and a couple of passive components and you have a device that knocks the SC/MP into a cocked hat. Oddly enough it's sometimes being confronted with such limited resources that brings your creativity out.

      1. Jim 59

        Re: Oh, W00T!!!

        You guys are *hard core*...

  9. Number6

    We had one of these at school, and mostly we programmed it with the moon lander program from the manual, none of us at that point having the skills or understanding to cope with the assembly language or what it meant.

    I went on to build my own little computer in the same style in about 1982 while still at school, except I used big seven-segment LEDs rather than the tiny calculator display, and I had a 24-key keypad. I also used a Z80A and added a PIO and CTC. By then I'd learned machine code, so I could write the software. The PCB was designed using 0.1" graph paper and carbon paper (cheap way of producing a mirror image of the bottom) and laid out directly on the copper board using tape and then etched at home. I was quite pleased with it in the end and found it in the loft a few months back. I'm hoping that it stil works. I also made an expasion card with an SIO, another CTC, plus a D/A and A/D converter (ZN426/428, I think).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Had one of those

    My first computer was the Science of Cambridge Mk14. While I don't have the computer any more, I do still have the manual....

    My second computer was a Nascom 1. Loaded it was too, with a Vero case and most of the expansion boards.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Slightly before my time, but as someone whose first computer experience was with the ZX81, still very interesting.

    Regarding the line "Quite why Sinclair bought Ablesdeal isn’t known, but it gave him a ready registered company he could establish quickly and cheaply at any time". According to the Wikipedia article (*), this *was* the point- Ablesdeal was an off-the-shelf company (or "shelf corporation") that he'd bought in case Sinclair Radionics (his first company) ran into problems.


    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Ablesdeal

      That is indeed what Wikipedia says, repeating an idea raised in earlier biographies of Clive Sinclair and histories of Sinclair Research.

      However, when Clive bought Ablesdeal, Radionics was on a high. It was more than two years away from the plunge into loss caused by the Black Band watch and the resultant involvement of the National Enterprise Board (NEB).

      So in 1973, Sinclair didn't need to buy an off-the-shelf company as a parachute. That's not to say that's not the reason why he did buy Ablesdeal, only that that is an assumption applied by reporters more than ten years later, helped by the fact that Clive did indeed use Ablesdeal as a firm to jump to when Radionics went tits up.

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