> if Sinclair hadn't done it, someone else would
I can see where you're coming from, but I think we may have to agree to disagree :)
For me, Sir Clive's philosophy can pretty much be summed up as:
a) find a market where things are expensive
b) make things as cheap as possible
c) find ways to reuse obsolete technology
d) accept high failure rates
E.g. back in 1972 the Sinclair Executive calculator cost the equivalent of £1000 in 2019 money. Which was half the cost of any other digital calculator on the market at the time. Which basically meant that it was the *only* choice available to most people, and a significant improvement as compared to working out calculations with pen, paper and slide rule!
And I think there were very few people who could combine that particular set of ethoses. Especially when it comes to d) - Wozniac was arguably at least as clever as Sinclair when it comes to innovation, but I suspect he'd have been horrified at the idea of building anything which wasn't as robust as he could make jt.
It's a very high risk strategy, and it did in fact go spectacularly wrong; back in the 70s, the high return rate for the Black Watch essentially bankrupted Sinclair Radionics, and it essentially had to be bailed out by the government, while Sir Clive spun up another company which eventually became Sinclair Research...
Could someone else have been clever enough to come up with the various cunning hacks creates by Sinclair and his team? Would someone else have been prepared to literally dig up scrapped components and reuse them? Would they also have had a thick enough skin to weather the complaints and costs of the high failure rates?
I'm not convinced there would have been. I mean, I'm sure there would have been competition and Moore's Law would have marched on regardless, but I suspect it would have been a much slower process and prices would have stayed higher for longer.
Though saying that...
> which is why when half decent systems like the BBC Micro came out, Sinclair sank fast and without trace.
The BBC micro predated the ZX Spectrum - in fact, the ZX Spectrum was at least partly created due to Clive being furious about the fact he'd lost the BBC contract to Acorn.
I'd also argue that the ZX Spectrum had a very successful commercial life - it lasted all the way up to 1988 or so, once Amstrad took over and started to produce the +2 and +3 models.
What caused Sinclair to sink was a number of things; the amount of money ploughed into things like the C5 is one obvious factor.
But for me, it mostly boils down to two things. The first is that Sir Clive didn't really care about computers: to him, they were just another electronic device, alongside the amplifiers, calculators, watches, TVs and various other things his companies produced.
The second is that prices dropped drastically in the 80s. Partly thanks to Moore's Law, but also thanks to the commercial battle between Commodore and TI in the USA, as well as the way that the Japanese government ploughed vast sums into subsidising their newly fledged memory fabs.
All of a sudden, buying a "real" computer wasn't really that expensive anymore. And so by the time Sinclair released the successor to the Spectrum, in the shape of the QL, there were enough choices on the market that people no longer wanted to opt for "quirky" and underpowered systems anymore...