back to article RIP Sir Clive Sinclair: British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81

Sir Clive Sinclair died on Thursday at home in London after a long illness, his family said today. He was 81. The British entrepreneur is perhaps best known for launching the ZX range of cheap microcomputers, which helped bring computing, games, and programming into UK homes in the 1980s, at least. This included the ZX80, …

  1. AndyFl

    Brought back memories

    He certainly was responsible for some interesting products. I have fond memories of my Sinclair QL.

    I also still smirk at the memory of seeing a C5 vehicle being closely followed by a large truck on Elizabeth way roundabout in Cambridge. I'm pretty sure that the only thing the truck driver could see was the flag flying jauntily on the top of a pole attached to the rear of the C5.

    Sorry to see him go.

    1. Andy 73

      Re: Brought back memories

      I saw him give a lecture about technology, where a cheeky student asked about the disaster of the C5.

      His response? "I lost about seven million pounds of my own money on that, but there you go."

      Many of us owe our careers to his early influence on the tech scene in the UK. Besides the technical leaps and wild experimentation, he also had a keen enthusiasm for design - Rick Dickinson (Sinclair) and Jony Ive (Apple) were both graduates of the same Design for Industry course in Newcastle.

    2. Red Ted Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Brought back memories

      Oh yikes, tempus fugit and all that!

      His contribution to British Science and Technology should not be underestimated. The number of people he must have inspired is a significant number.

      RIP “Uncle” Clive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Brought back memories

        He was also a poster boy for British Mensa, don't forget.

  2. ridley
    Pint

    The last Quantum Leap

    RIP Sir Clive

    Thanks for the thrills and spills.

    I'll raise one of these for you tonight.

    I can't help thinking there should be a ritual dodgy keyboard burning to help him take that Quantum Leap into the new DIM

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: The last Quantum Leap

      Good attempt at POKE a couple of puns at USR of speccies past... COS it was good times and worth REMembering it.

  3. DJV Silver badge

    A one off

    Sir Clive was definitely a one-off. I remember the adverts for his hi-fi in magazines like Practical Electronics long before he branched into computers.

    The fact that the retro market continues trying to replicate his old systems (though never at the same price!) is a testament to the man's vision.

    RIP Sir Clive.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: A one off

      There's a great deal of information about his various products here.

      I remember the hi-fi adverts, they were very slick.

      He did have a genius for finding cheap solutions, though there were regrettably few occasions - the ZX80 being one - when the corner-cutting produced something that lived up to the publicity

      I fear his passing marks the end of the 'British boffin'.

      1. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: A one off

        Remarkably, James Lovelock is still alive the age of 102. You don't get much more boffin than that. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock

  4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Pint

    Wobbley rampacks

    a horrid membrane keyboard, unreliable saving/loading system

    Yupp the ZX81 had them all.

    But it was cheap..... and you could program it yourself

    So heres to Sir Clive, without him, my career in computery stuff would never have taken off as every other computer on the market at the time was way out of my family's price range.

    1. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Wobbley rampacks

      Me too.

      All my friends had Spectrums and C64s, I got this crappy little plastic box that just printed K on the screen when turned on, oh, and a ring bound book that told you how to make it do stuff.

      It changed my life.

    2. monty75

      Re: Wobbley rampacks

      Same here. Sometimes I'm not sure if I thank him for that but here we are.

    3. Ken G
      Happy

      Re: Wobbley rampacks

      It was a ZX80 for me (reduced when the ZX81 came out) and I never got it to successfully do anything or save a programme on cassette BUT keying in lines from badly printed magazines changed the way I think.

      1. Colintd

        Re: Wobbley rampacks

        Same here. A loaned ZX80, then my own ZX81 and finally a Spectrum, and 40years later I'm still working in tech!

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Wobbley rampacks

      It looks as if a great many in IT in the UK of my son's generation started out on the Spectrum. In my generation it was punched cards. In our grandchildren's generation it's likely to be the Pi but I suspect for many the Pi will be eased out by the smartphone and the laptop. I wonder how that will work out.

      1. GreyWolf

        Re: Wobbley rampacks

        Smartphone and laptop cannot do what an R-Pi can do. The whole physical computing thing is enormously important, and from the viewpoint of teaching kids, much more fun.

  5. knarf

    ZX81 was a terrible computer,,,,, but I loved it.

    Not sure who else could have put a computer that was so cheap in one of the worst housing schemes in Glasgow. Lead to a fairly successfully career in dev for me so worked out well.

    RIP Sir Clive.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: ZX81 was a terrible computer,,,,, but I loved it.

      I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for Sinclair, my outlook wasn’t looking very good at that time. It’s not an exaggeration to say Sinclair changed my life.

  6. ForthIsNotDead
    Pint

    Literally a legend

    Let's face it - this guy is responsible for the launch of a LOT of British programming/computing careers. If you were around for the British home computer boom of the early 80s, and you're in IT today, you probably owe a beer to Jack Tramiel, or Uncle Clive. In my case, I owe a beer to both of them.

    Beers Clive. You literal legend.

    1. pPPPP

      Re: Literally a legend

      Yep, me too. I still have my speccy and my ST. They still worked last time I checked.

      1. Ted's Toy

        Re: Literally a legend

        Makes me want to go digging in the garage under a pile of part and boxes dating back to 1975

      2. TDog

        Re: Literally a legend

        My first Atari 800 ending up programming lighting rigs for the Welsh National Opera. It was the one with the aluminium chassis. I never got paid for it - a mate borrowed it when he got a job with them. But (obligatory Sir Clive bit) also had ZX81 and several spectra some of which worked semi consistently (responding to the Jack Tramiel bit. Also had 520, 1040 and Amiga's from the 64 upwards)

        And no I never worked in IT at all (well maybe just for 40 years).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Literally a legend

          I had a BBC micro but it was a friends ZX80 which introduced me to the world of computing.... which was to be my career.

          1. davidp231

            Re: Literally a legend

            "I had a BBC micro but it was a friends ZX80 which introduced me to the world of computing.... which was to be my career."

            End of the day, if it weren't for Sir Clive, there may never have been a Beeb to begin with, as Sinclair Radionics is where some key Acorn staff started.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Literally a legend

      Jack Tramiel's products were my introduction, but I was always amazed at the invention, innovation and lateral thinking from Sir Clive.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Literally a legend

        The story goes Tramiel came up with the Commodore 16/116/Plus 4 series to compete with the Spectrum but sales were pretty bad.

        1. John 48

          Re: Literally a legend

          Jacks original concept was that he already had his Apple II killer with the C64, now he wanted to see off the Timex/Sinclair invasion of low cost machines.

          So he conceived a range of new low price machines built around what was then new concept of a "System On a Chip". He tasked Bill Herd with creation of a range of machines based on a new "TED" chip that would do everything outside of the CPU and memory. The first would be the C116 - a proper computer with real keyboard and a full range of peripherals available. It would be promoted as a low cost home machine and as a business machine. It would retail in the US for $49.

          There would be higher end machines (one of which eventually got re-branded as the Plus/4 after Jack left CMB), that would retail at $79.

          There was a machine already prototyped including the V364 - a high end 64K machine with built in speech recognition and synthesis, that would also feature Magic Desk - a full GUI based OS with speech, that would have been introduced a couple of years before the Mac!

          Alas this all turned to crap and confusion without his lead, and the "legendary" CBM marketing department took over. The rest is history...

          (for those interested Bill Herd has recently released an excellent book about his time at CMB and the creation of the TED machines and the mad 5 month struggle to create the C128 the last and greatest of the 8 bit computer era).

    3. Mungo Spanner

      Re: Literally a legend

      Yep, me too - wouldn't be where I am without having wasted (or possibly not) a large proportion of my teenage years on a Sinclair Spectrum. I'll be raising a glass tonight.

    4. twellys

      Re: Literally a legend

      +1. RIP Sir Clive

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Literally a legend

        1 Print "RIP Sir Clive"

        2 GOTO 1

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

          Re: Literally a legend

          Close. The ZX-80 and 81 were uppercase only :-)

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Literally a legend

            And only the ZX81 had "GOTO", the ZX80 and the Spectrum had "GO TO".

            Why I still remember that I don't know.

            1. JohnGrantNineTiles

              Re: Literally a legend

              Wow, I don't remember that, maybe we needed to save a byte to fit all of Steve's floating point package into the 81?

              1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                Re: Literally a legend

                That was it, the ZX81 lost the INUE from CONTINUE, the OMIZE from RANDOMIZE, the space from GO TO, and also the space from GO SUB to match GOTO in the keyword table at 0111 to give a grand total of one byte free in the 8K ROM at 1DFF.

                ZX81 ROM Disassembly.

    5. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

      Re: Literally a legend

      Reading about Sir Clive on some of the sites I do get the impression that he's somewhat of a vagabond, who perennially over-promises and under-delivers.

      His Hi-Fi kit especially was pretty bad and poorly engineered. I'm pretty sure that even I with my BSc in Electrical Engineering could do better.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Literally a legend

        I'm pretty sure that even I with my BSc in Electrical Engineering could do better.

        But did you?

        1. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

          Re: Literally a legend

          A good point, well made, sir!

          Recommend the film Micro Men if you haven't already seen it. A nostalgia fest.

          I sold my ACT Sirius to get a QL because I thought it would be more 'interesting'...indeed it was!

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Literally a legend

        "His Hi-Fi kit especially was pretty bad and poorly engineered. I'm pretty sure that even I with my BSc in Electrical Engineering could do better."

        The adventure was in getting it to work (dangit). I like dodgy stuff, it gives me the perfect excuse to remove the cover and "improve" it. It's like all of the mods that people apply to vacuum tube guitar amps to "make them better".

        I had a ZX81 at some point. I remember it, but I don't think I ever had the patience to do much with it.

        One key to success is getting out there with some products and have a go. There are plenty of brands that started out with horrible products that improved over the years and a few that have gone downhill without anybody noticing that they are now crap.

  7. Woodnag Silver badge

    Fraudulent too...

    Don't forget Sinclair repeatedly took in orders before the product was available.

    1. MrMerrymaker Silver badge

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      Who pissed on your chips?

    2. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      There's a time and a place to bring up some of the less desirable business practices of that era. This is not that time, nor that place.

      1. Woodnag Silver badge

        Ok, technical practices then?

        The black amplifier that used 2N3055s instead of 2N3055Hs, so if you clipped the amplifier (dropped the stylus, for example) it blew up the output stage...

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Ok, technical practices then?

          We all know his designs cut corners, pushed components to/beyond their design limits, and were pared down to the absolute minimum. THAT was part of the point of what Sinclair did - enabling the masses to afford stuff that, in its better designed incarnations, was financially out of reach.

          Would I have had a home computer in the early 80s if my parents hadn't had the option to spend under two hundred quid on a 48K Spectrum vs twice that amount for a C64, BBC etc? Simple answer, no.

          Was the Spectrum as well built as those alternatives. Also, no.

          Did the Spectrum succeed beyond the wildest dreams of Sir Clive et al? Hell yes.

          I'm not suggesting that *every* product Sinclair put onto the market was similarly successful in spite of its flaws, merely that if it hadn't been for those flaws, most if not all of them either wouldn't have made it onto the market in the first place, or wouldn't have had the success they did thanks to their significantly lower price points.

          And designing products with potentially critical flaws in them was hardly a Sinclair speciality. Apple aren't exactly shining beacons of excellence in this regard, no matter how much money they splurge on R&D, or how much they charge their customers for the finished product. And that's just the first example that comes to mind, there are so many more companies out there producing genuinely substandard crap but marketing it as it if was world class with a price tag to match. At least with Sinclair stuff, you a) knew what you were letting yourself in for, and b) weren't having to take out a second mortgage just to be able to afford it.

          Oh yes, and this STILL isn't the time or the place for bringing up whatever personal issues you have with the man or the products...

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Ok, technical practices then?

          "The black amplifier that used 2N3055s instead of 2N3055Hs, so if you clipped the amplifier (dropped the stylus, for example) it blew up the output stage..."

          A design that might have been copied from the Phase Linear 400 or vice versa. Those were known in the US as the "Flame Linear" and anybody with one added a whole row of fuses to prevent the output transistors from doing that job.

    3. SuperGeek

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      And modern crowdfunding isn't much much worse?

    4. Mozzie

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      It was a different era, and at least Sir Clive delivered.

      This was an era where you made the promise and did everything you could to deliver on it because you believed yourself it was possible. These days taking pre-orders is about building up some capital that you can fall back and you still get paid even if you get caught out on the bullshit you're spinning. You don't even have to provide a finished product.

      For me is was the ZX 48K. It got upgraded with a Saga 1, had an astonishing Saisho cassette player that never to failed to load anything except LoTR. Chuckie Egg, Dizzy, Wriggler, Harrier Attack, Target Renegade and even HiSoft Pascal.... thanks Clive for giving me the means to feed my family the last 16 years.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Fraudulent too...

        It was a different era, and at least Sir Clive delivered.

        Well sometimes. I don't think he was a crook in the sense that I don't think he was intentionally crooked. He just didn't think that normal rules of behaviour should apply to him.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Fraudulent too...

          I think he was just over ambitious and optimistic about his ability to get something into mass production. Doesn’t matter, it is not what he is remembered for, his impact on a generation is far more important than any delays upsetting whingers.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Fraudulent too...

            If we (engineers / technologists) weren't optimistic about how long things would take, and ambitious about what we could achieve, we'd never bother or dare to start most non-trivial projects.

    5. jake Silver badge

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      Starting at the beginning of next month, I will be accepting members into next year's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Each member will be paying me half of next year's cost to them ... for crops I haven't even decided on, much less put into the ground yet[0].

      I have room for 300 members. It will probably sell out in the first week, likely in a couple days. That'll put $300,000 into the CSA for the cost of seed, fertilizer, tractor maintenance & fuel, mulch, irrigation parts, and the like. The members will be paying the other $!,000 at $100/month for ten months. We attempt to deliver 20 pound produce boxes at least 3 times per month 12 months of the year. A dozen eggs optional, first come first served.

      I am clearly taking in orders before the product is available. Is this fraudulent?

      [0] I'll be starting carrots & beets to over-winter for an early spring crop in a couple weeks.

    6. Cynical Pie

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      You mean like Apple.... and any modern crowdfunded project... or in fact pretty much any company out there?

    7. Ken G
      Holmes

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      I would describe him as overly optimistic rather than fraudulent, the difference being that he usually wound up losing the money on his next big idea instead of squirreling it away.

    8. Onen hag Oll

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      What do you think the BBC are doing with their licence in the UK? At the end of each licence term you've already 'put in an order' and paid for 6 months worth of products in advance. Not only are the products not available, you don't even know what products you're going to get. Some of them haven't even been created yet. It's also likely that some of that prepaid money is being used to develop those products. When the Beeb introduced Direct Debits instead of annual renewals they upped their licence revenue by 50% per licence. I certainly remember paying an inflated Direct Debit price for the first year to cover this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fraudulent too...

        > When the Beeb introduced Direct Debits instead of annual renewals

        This isn't really the place but...

        With direct debit, the Beeb decided to ask people to pay 6 months up-front then monthly thereafter. If you cancel you get your 6 months back.

        With an annual licence you pay 12 months up-front, so the direct debit version is clearly less money up-front.

        The Beeb did not introduce direct debit payments "instead of" annual renewals, they introduced them "as well as" annual renewals.

        I agree that they didn't/don't explain this very well. And I don't know why they don't scrap the 6 months business and just do a monthly direct debit as many, many other organisations that rely on subscriptions seem to be able to do quite easily.

        1. stiine Silver badge

          Re: Fraudulent too...

          Because it saves them money on processing fees. They aren't stupid.

    9. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      It was just the way things worked back then.

      Mail order put everything on at least 28 day delivery, and all of the computer companies put their adverts out to accept orders at least 28 days before they *thought* that the product would be available, and then there were often last minute delays. Sinclair, Acorn, Tangerine, pretty much all of the British home micro industry had the same problems.

      In the case of the Spectrum, one was the Ferranti ULA (Uncommitted Logic Array, think of it as an early and rather restricted FPGA), which was also the reason for the BBC Micro delays (I waited nearly 6 months for my BEEB, which was ordered on the first day of orders being accepted to arrive, and all I got in compensation was a pair of the terrible analog joysticks).

      The other problem that the early Spectrums had was a bug in the the first release board (or it may have been the programming of the ULA) that required a transistor to be wired in as a patch to make the video stable.

      Oh. and quality control problems.

      I've since read that Commodore had similar problems with the early C64s, and they actually started shipping systems that they knew were faulty, just so they hit their delivery deadlines.

      Somewhere amongst my dad's things that we cleared from his house is a first gen. 48K Spectrum, the one with the 32K memory daughter board and light grey keys. Boy, did that thing run hot. But I did not use it much beyond working out what it could do, as I already had my BEEB, and was already working as a programmer. But it did serve as a tool to allow my dad to learn, and then use some of the programs he wrote to assist with his teaching job.

    10. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      Wow invented kickstarter too..the man was well ahead of his time

    11. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      Do you think credit for SMEs was easy to get in the early 80s?

    12. anothercynic Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      So what you're saying is that Sinclair revolutionised crowdfunding before Kickstarter and Indiegogo came along? :-)

    13. Tams

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      So very forward thinking then?

    14. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Fraudulent too...

      "Don't forget Sinclair repeatedly took in orders before the product was available."

      That sounds awfully familiar. Somebody Musk seems to ring a bell.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP, Sir Clive

    Rest in Peace. Your computers developed my love of computing, and 33 years later, it's still going strong. Thank you.

  9. anothercynic Silver badge

    What a loss

    My condolences to the Sinclair family. Sinclair clearly had a big influence on the industry and as such, it's a loss to everyone. I remember the old cassette tapes go around with games and other things on.

  10. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Cheers Sir Clive

    First redefining what the public expect computers to be (somewhat more cut back and pared down than the competition) and somehow miraculously delivering computers at a bargain price that nobody else could manage (they still insisted on proper keyboards and floppy drives).

    But even so Spectrums had all the software and were enough to start me and many others off in IT and that's what counts.

    And if he didn't sink all his profits into electric vehicles and portable TVs I'm sure he would have had an empire.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Cheers Sir Clive

      For the first computing products, the ZX80, 81 and Spectrum, floppy disk drives were just a dream for the home user.

      I added the floppy disk controller and a single TEAC double sided 80 track floppy to my BBC micro, and it cost nearly as much as the BBC itself (I think that the drive cost £199, and the 8271 and other support chips cost me about £120 to have fitted).

      The only systems at the time that had floppies were the VIC20/C64, which used a drive that included as much processing power (another 6502 processor) as the system itself, and at least in the UK was hugely expensive.

      Of course, you could get an Apple ][ or a Pet, but again the prices were eye-watering. And when the IBM PC was launched in the UK only slightly later than the Spectrum, a system with 64K of memory, a single 360K floppy disk, a mono text only display board and an IBM monitor cost about £2500.

      Sinclair did try to break this high cost of rapid storage for the Spectrum with the Microdrive and Interface 1, but this was one of his one-step-to-far products where the corners cut were just too much. But ICL actually managed to make them reliable in their OPD product, surprisingly.

  11. MrMerrymaker Silver badge

    A legend, a king, an icon

    Pouring one out into my ZX for Sir Clive.

    I don't feel proud of being British most days.

    But this man sure kindles that.

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: A legend, a king, an icon

      "Pouring one out into my ZX for Sir Clive."

      Ah, so that's how you get yours to work!

  12. dephormation.org.uk

    ZX81

    I started on a ZX81s, an astounding machine, even in retrospect.

    The products this man developed created & shaped my career.

    So sorry to hear of his passing.

    1. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

      Re: ZX81

      That's what I started on, and it was even then only a second hand one from some cousins who'd upgraded to a spectrum, as I recall. The school had some TRS-80's; but I'm not sure any more which came first in my timeline.

      Even tried a little bit of Z80 (hand) assembler, after I'd seen some machine code for side-scrolling or a sneaky way to get higher-screen res (or something) in a magazine. But I have no idea what it was I might have needed to use machine code for. Some crappy game that never worked properly, I expect. :-)

  13. DrXym Silver badge

    First computer was a 16K Spectrum

    I've got to say Sir Clive gave me my start with computers so am indebted to him for that. I think he was better as an inventor than he was at running businesses or producing products people actually wanted though.

  14. Dr. G. Freeman

    Bugger.

    Like everyone of my generation in Dundee, had a factory second ZX Speccy, designed by the great man, at home.

    For some of us, the computer games led to careers fixing computers, designing games, or a myriad of jobs in the great IT.

    Me, it led to wondering what it was made of, what the metal inside was made of, and what was inside of the metal was made of.

    Sir Clive, I thank you.

    GOTO Valhalla

    END

  15. Stumpy

    I'm currently crying like a baby here. This has hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. This marks the end of the line for the largest chuink of my formative years, and possibly the greatest influence in my entering the career I have.

    RIP to a massively flawed genius. A man with ideas often far ahead of their time. I'll be setting a glass of decent malt aside for you tonight.

    1. Robert Moore
      Unhappy

      You are not alone Stumpy. I never met the man, but my first computer was the TimexSinclair-1000 with the truly abysmal keyboard, and the 16K RAM pack that would crash the computer if you even looked at it.

      Think I am going to go play with it tonight.

      1. hayzoos

        The TS-1000 was the second computer I wrote a program on, it was my uncle's. Many years later I found a Chinese knockoff, I bought one for the novelty. My life was certainly influenced by this man's work. I am grateful.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. AJ MacLeod

    Z88?

    Surprised the (admittedly brief) article didn't mention the actually really good Z88. I rescued my late father's Z88 (box, printer interface, manual, PSU and all) from a house fire this year, must get a moment to power (nearly wrote fire, oops) it up again.

    Such a useful format and machine that some folk are still using them for practical tasks even today...

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Z88?

      The Z88 was truly excellent. I wrote a program for transferring data between it and the Atari ST. It sold precisely one copy.

      1. ridley

        Re: Z88?

        Was it to your mum?

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Z88?

          Nope. It was on a shareware site for free with a paid version if you wanted binary transfer enabled.

    2. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

      Re: Z88?

      Ah, I had a Z88 for quite a while and found it pretty useful ... until the screen cracked while in hand luggage during a flight somewhere.

      These days, with my multiple monitors and all, it hardly seems reasonable to me that I could ever have managed to work on a 5x80 character screen.

    3. Synonymous Howard

      Re: Z88?

      I still have the wonderful Z88 that I bought to type up my CS PhD on … I wrote a unix utility to send/receive files over the serial port to a Sun workstation, it is in the Z88 user group software library somewhere.

      The Z88 was a great machine to just pull out and start typing on, A4 in size, about 15mm deep, with EPROM storage, AA batteries and a dead flesh keyboard (dust attractor!). A ‘cambridge topper’ was an absolute must to protect it though.

      It meant I could work from anywhere in the early 90s … I still have an acoustic coupler that I have used with the Z88 to dial in to university systems from a pay phone on a busy street.

    4. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Z88?

      Wonderful machine.

      I have 3...

      2 of them are still in the cardboard 'briefcase' packaging...

  17. derrr

    Sitting here with my old Sinclair / Cambridge Z88 under the desk.

  18. Jim Willsher

    Sad. I was born in 1972 and learned programming on a ZX81; my dad had a QL. Yes, the microdrives were horrific and yes, it was annoying loading games from cassettes. I still have a copy of a program listing (in BASIC of course) I wrote for the Disciple, a third party storage system for the Spectrum.

    But it's where I cut my teeth. Fast forward to now and I've been a tech lead in software services companies and I am now a CTO, so in retrospect he was responsible for mapping out much of my career.

    Those ZX and X keys really took a hammering on Daley Thompson's Decathlon though. And I didn't buy a C5.

  19. pgleghorn

    Ditto RIP

    Like many folks my age, I got my start in computing thanks to the ZX Spectrum. As a kid in the 80's I was able to learn real hands-on coding skills, debugging, assembly, devices, protocols, and problem solving, all because of the huge communities of developers and creators that sprang up around this quirky but special little machine.

  20. Altrux

    ZX81 FTW

    My life in computing began on a ZX81, as a young kid. That was eventually upgraded to a BBC Master 128, in the late 80s, and then my first PC in 1992. The rest is history. Who knows where things would have gone, back then, without Sir Clive's pioneering machines?

  21. ChrisC Silver badge

    Getting on for 40 years since I first put fingers to keys (or at least to squdgy rubber protrusions) on my very own 48K Speccy. That and the other experiences I had in those early days of the UK home computing revolution are, without any shadow of a doubt, responsible for my life being the way it is today on both a personal and professional level. SO so many aspects of my life are directly or only slightly indirectly related to my love for coding and electronics and tech in general, and that all stems back to those heady days of the early 80's, sat in my bedroom in front of my Speccy, or round at my mates house on his Beeb, learning about coding just by being able to switch on the machine and start typing there and then.

    It's absolutely no exaggeration to say that the products Sir Clive brought to market genuinely changed the lives of millions. That's one hell of a legacy to leave behind, so as one of those many I say a heartfelt thank you. Rest in peace, may your tape heads be ever clean and aligned, and your RAM pack free from wobble.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Finally a job the C5s will be just the right speed for! (They can use a Reliant Robin for the hearse)

    Thanks for the Sinclair Scientific Clive.

    1. Fred Dibnah

      And a Project 80 amplifier for the funereal music.

  23. mrmond

    My ZX81 still sits next to my Xbox

    People under 30 can hardly believe I actually used it to program on.

    "What do you mean 1K and 16K with a rampack!?"

    And from there I upgraded to a 16K Spectrum that I upgraded to 48k. Happy days.

    Oh, And I'm still playing Jetpac and Atic Attack on the Xbox with the Ultimate collection.

    RIP Sir Clive.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: My ZX81 still sits next to my Xbox

      Those of us who work in embedded software may well still be writing code for systems with similar memory constraints. Our development systems might be worlds apart from what was available to coders back then, but the fundamental problems of trying to work out how to get <- this -> much functionality into ->that<- much space are just the same.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: My ZX81 still sits next to my Xbox

        I'm thinking how well I could switch from writing server software which is a pretty thankless task to writing embedded software which at least on paper sounds more interesting.

        I think if I say in the interview that I used to program a 16K Spectrum, I'm in, right?

  24. Howard Sway Silver badge
    Pint

    An era has ended tonight for a generation

    Without him, the beginning of mass ownership of computers in the UK would have looked very different, and would likely have been much more exclusive and limited, due to the higher prices of other machines. Sure, everything was somewhat quirky about the machines, and the business was ramshackle at times, but there was no roadmap for how to do home computing at the time and that's why it's so fondly remembered by those of us who were there. Nobody ever complained about corporate blandness in those exciting days.

    Inventiveness and originality will always lead to as many failures as successes, and whilst the failures were often fun to laugh at, the successes were real and had a major impact on so many people. You don't become an icon like Sir Clive did without being the real deal.

    Goodness knows what my teenage years and career would have looked like had my classmate not brought their ZX81 in to school to show us, typed some small programs in and run them, causing me to go "so THAT'S how they work". I'm still programming now, 40 years later. That's how much he influenced people.

  25. CuChulainn
    Pint

    RIP, Clive

    Sorry to hear this.

    He was one of those people who helped change the world forever. Not by himself, not necessarily the way some would always approve of, but as part of the generation that was there at the right time to try to find a way forward for the then new technology.

    RIP Mr Sinclair.

  26. carl0s
  27. werdsmith Silver badge

    So many similar stories of careers that happened because of Clive’s low cost micros. I was another one, ZX81. However crude it was, I can still remember the feeling of seeing the k prompt. There wasn’t anything before.

  28. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Ave, Clive.

  29. DiViDeD Silver badge

    RIP Sir Clive

    When the ZX80 kit first showed up, I was using a Cado Cat minicomputer (twin 8" floppies - no hard disk, hideously expensive) and fatasizing about one day owning a Superbrain or a Commodore PET.

    Suddenly, there was an admittedly underpowered computer I could own at home. And you couldn't really break it by experimenting!

    The ZX81, with various 'novel' attachments to deal with RAMPack wobble, and an original ZX Spectrum soon followed. playing with the Save output on the ZX80 to generate music (pretty piss poor, but it was mine!), stealing other peoples' code to try to produce pixels on a character based screen, designing 'sprites' with user defined characters and graph paper - all the experimentation, trial and error and exploration that Sir Clive opened up for us.

    The 80s would have been so much duller without him.

  30. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Pint

    He was a good jumper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as6hSAqJ_g4

  31. juice Silver badge
    Pint

    Farewell to a legend...

    Sir Clive's inventions may have been cheap and cheerful (albeit sometimes a bit too cheap), but the humble Speccy was a significant part of my childhood, and helped to direct me into a life in an IT career. Alongside many others!

    In fact, I suspect the UK's computing industry - especially video game developers - would be a lot smaller without the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum.

    After all, they may have not have had sound chips or fancy graphics capabilities, but what they did offer was enough to get people started, and at a price which meant that a far wider range of people could afford to buy one; the Spectrum may have cost £175 at launch (approx. £630 in 2021), but the BBC Model B cost a whopping £335 (£1315 in 2021) and the Commodore 64 arrived with a £399 price tag (£1565)...

    So, yeah. Some of his products may have been shonky. Some of them may have failed miserably. But the ZX Spectrum was a definite success - not just for Sir Clive, not just for his company, but for the entire country!

    And I think that's more than worth raising a pint for.

    Thanks, Clive. For everything.

  32. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Pint

    I raise a pint

    I have never used any of his products in my life, but I can still admire the man for his drive and focus on mass production and very slim margins to hit price points that were almost impossible at the time.

  33. sulligogs

    The man that changed millions of lives

    I got a second hand ZX Spectrum 128k computer way back in the late eighties. It was my first and oh, it’s one of the periods in my life that I would never ever want to change. Those days are cherished of coming home from school, running upstairs, switching on the mains and feeling as one with a piece of technology that gifted a growing mind with programming, game demos and the essence of computing. My world would never be the same again and I remember many times on my way to and from school feeling blessed that I was born at the right time to own and appreciate such an amazing invention.

    Thank you Sir Clive. My youth from that time was touched by your genius and opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking.

    Rest In Peace.

  34. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Pint

    And another one

    Started me off too. I was asked to fix a friends ZX81 "cos you know transistors an' stuff" while he was away on holiday. That was me hooked!

  35. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    His funeral has been announced for next Tuesday. It will take place in April, when they work out how to assemble the very small coffin.

  36. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    An absolute genius...

    ...with just the right amount of barminess to be a proper British Boffin. He even had the proper boffins bald patch and glasses!

    RIP Sir Clive.

  37. overloaded

    Got my interest in computing, will be missed.

    I got into IT because of a humble Spectrum 48k hand me down.

    10 PRINT "HELLO AFTERLIFE - Sir Clive Sinclair."

    20 GOTO 10

    RUN

    1. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

      Re: Got my interest in computing, will be missed.

      "GOODBYE WORLD" Shirley

      1. adam 40 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Got my interest in computing, will be missed.

        _______E

  38. Tromos

    Amongst his many early products, one which I had (and it worked really well, too) was a matchbox sized radio. I remember having a good laugh when some film director decided that its miniature size and futuristic styling made it an excellent communications device for secret agents. I can't remember the name of the film, but I think it was Patrick McGoohan that was speaking into the tuning dial of the device!

    It was ingenious penny saving tricks that were a feature of many of his products and a prime example was the use of the earphone jack on this radio. On many radios the earphone jack also featured a metal contact that would break the circuit and silence the speaker when the earpiece was plugged in. This little radio did not have a loudspeaker, so it was a stroke of genius to bend the contact so it made rather than broke the circuit and use this as the on/off switch for the device.

    This, together with some other component saving tricks, enabled the radio to be sold in kit form for the princely sum of thirty-nine shillings and six pence if memory serves (it often doesn't these days).

    Thank you and RIP Sir Clive for this, the calculator, the 81, Speccy and QL, which provided years of pleasure.

  39. TRT Silver badge

    Sad day

    RIP Sir Clive.

  40. jake Silver badge
    Pint

    Another great one gone.

    I had not lived in England full-time for a while when his home computer kit came out, so I missed out on it ... but I read the trade press and knew of it. Occasionally I would run across someone with one of his computers here in the US in the early '80s, first at the Homebrew Computer Club, where it was surrounded by the curious from most of the Silly Con Valley companies (no, it wasn't a Timex version, it had been imported from Blighty by the owner before the Timex deal).

    RIP, Sir Clive. You done good, and will be remembered by many.

  41. Swiss Anton

    My ZX81 was a stepping stone at just the right time.

    Courtesy of an inspirational teacher at my very bog standard comprehensive school I had already learnt how to program by the time I got my ZX81, but that computer gave me the space to try things out, and 40+ years later, I'm still hacking away with the kids writing stuff that is a million miles away from that start. Without doubt Clive Sinclair (and his team) gave me a massive boost towards what ended up being my career. RIP Sir Clive.

  42. eFoz
    Pint

    The man who brought you Jet Set ****ing Willy

    Raising a glass while watching MicroMen - like so many others here - the ZX Speccy is why I have a career. Safe travels Clive

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proof that all it takes

    To avoid prison for fraud, and get a knighthood, is to employ good PR men and grease the right palms.

    1. David Pearce

      Re: Proof that all it takes

      He lost his own money on the C5

      There are a few other prominent "Sirs" from the same era who were far dodgier businessmen - they only risked other peoples money.

      1. Citizen of Nowhere

        Re: Proof that all it takes

        >There are a few other prominent "Sirs" from the same era who were far dodgier businessmen - they only risked other stole peoples money.

        And there are plenty of examples from more recent times as well.

  44. Furbian
    Unhappy

    Part of wished I had met him...

    A computer for under £100 was just a master stroke (ours was an £80 ZX81), kicked off the entire computer revolution together with the BBC Mirco's in schools (£400 a pop, I only knew of ONE school kid who had one and his dad was always held up as the only 'professional' father of note). I for one am grateful for Uncle Clive's machine literally changing my life and setting my career path. I always hoped he'd come out with one more revolutionary idea; the bikes were always interesting, but never quite hit the spot.

    It's first day of the semester next Monday; I'll share some of my memories of the man and his inventions with my students. Paradoxically, of the Acorn and Sinclair founders, it's the Acorn side that I know one of!

    1. Jim Willsher

      Re: Part of wished I had met him...

      I was fortunate to do so. Every now again there used to be computer fairs in London - Earls Court I think. My dad took me down there (from Cheshire) for the day and we visited, bought some stuff, toured the stands etc. Sir Clive was there (I don't think he was a Sir back then) and we had a brief chat and shook hands etc. Probably well over 35 years ago now but I still remember it vividly.

  45. This post has been deleted by its author

  46. JBowler

    Yes, an entrepreneur

    I bought a ZX Spectrum. No customer support, total POS. I worked with it anyway, best available, at the price, in the land of the failed.

    Years before that I had a Nascom. Worked, didn't do anything; that was my job (failed, miserably), well, it worked so I did the first bit right).

    Nah. Sir Clive. End. I hope he looked after his family.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP Sir Clive

    I was lucky to visit the man in his house in South Kensington, London in the mid-1980s (as I went there to install an audio system he bought from the shop where I worked).

    But before that, I'd bought a ZX81 plus a 16K RAMPACK and had great fun linking this to a Vesta-branded (from Woolworths) mono cassette recorder and making up my own 3.5mm plug to plug cable and SAVEing my carefully entered programs onto some cheap 2nd hand blank tapes.

    Subsequently, I got a friend in our service dept, to hard wire the RAMPACK to the edge connector on the ZX81, which improved it's reliability. I was then able to use an accounts program to record my personal expenditure (which seemed like a good idea at the time)

    My brother got a Spectrum 48K, and bought various bits to improve it, including a new "oversized proper" keyboard, plus a Kempston Joystick (so he could play Jet Set Willy and other games). Subsequently, we got an ZX Interface One and about 3 MicroDrive modules which worked well - I used to record the results of the "new to UK TV" American Football results on it.

    And then I got a VTX5000 Modem (1200/75 half duplex) to link to the Spectrum, and a Prestel account, which got me into "comms" and some delightful chats with various young female Travel Agents, as many of them booked holidays for people using Prestel (and when they were not busy, they would chat about the free holidays they got from various travel firms !).

    That then led me to get a PC, a better modem and a CompuServe account...and the rest is history.

    RIP Sir Clive - a basic genius inventor, who should have left sales and marketing to other people...

  48. Mike 137 Silver badge

    A pioneer in the early days of amateur electronics

    Long before any of the products, Sinclair was already being useful in the technology sphere. Somewhere in my library I have an A4-ish thin flimsy publication by Babani publishing. If I remember rightly it's called something like "Using Transistors" by Mr. Clive Sinclair, and must have been first published in the early '60s.

    Those were the days when the upper Edgware Road in London was almost entirely populated by electronic component and surplus shops - including the famous H.L. Smith, where you could buy almost anything even remotely electronic. I got my first helium neon laser (and probably this book as well) there among many other things.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: A pioneer in the early days of amateur electronics

      I fondly remember the shops in and around upper Edgware Road and the characters who ran them. A fantastic place for any sort of electronics, from pre-WW2 valve stuff and 2nd hand transformers through to all sort of modern (for the time) things.

      Sadly the block that had H.L. Smith seems to have been knocked down for redevelopment last time I visited London and took a trip out to see what remained. Nothing, as far as I could see :(

      1. Tromos

        Re: A pioneer in the early days of amateur electronics

        The electronics block in Edgware Road had disappeared many years ago, but one of the stalwarts started a second shop a block further North and on the opposite side as their original shop was rather small and cramped. Henry's Radio was the name and it was still going last time I passed through the area (a couple of years ago).

        One of the few retail outlets for many Sinclair Radionics products.

  49. Sam Therapy
    Pint

    RIP Sir Clive

    Your machines gave me my start in CGI. Primitve by modern standard but still exciting to see your own work appearing on screen. I was bitten by the bug (pun not intended) instantly.

    I'll raise a glass to you.

  50. alwallgbr

    Made work fun

    RIP Clive.

    I worked for Sir Clive for 2 years in the 1970's at St Ives, Cambs.

    Two amazing hard working, fun packed years servicing audio products and demonstrating at Hi-Fi exhibitions.

    I enjoyed the work and the buzz of the company so much, no other employer came close in my entire working life.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Made work fun

      > I enjoyed the work and the buzz of the company so much

      Surely the HiFi wasn't that bad?

  51. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Pint

    MK14

    My word, am I the only person here who remembers the MK14 - his *first* computer available to the masses?

    I still have mine, though it appears that the proms have suffered bitrot with time (and possibly my late father reverse polarising the power...) and developing hardware and software for that (ee, when I were a lad, if you wanted video out you had to design your own video card!) led me to forty years' computering for fun and profit.

    Cheers Clive, RIP

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: MK14

      I still have a couple of Mk 14s. The keyboard was so crap that I wired in one from a pocket calculator that a mate had run over in his driveway. That mate went on to develop MRI scanners. I also got its tape interface but could never get it to work - typical Sinclair.

    2. Richard Tobin

      Re: MK14

      The MK14 - a cheap version of the NS Introkit - was more Chris Curry's project than Sinclair's. It's said that Sinclair's lack of interest led to Curry leaving to form Acorn with Hermann Hauser.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Zx81

    The Zx81 certainly got me started on a career in computing. I bought one at the age of 20 after having failed to get a job at ICL, within 3 years I was working for an American company as an engineer and amongst other things, writing assembly language on Perkin Elmer 3220 mini computers. I still have that Zx81 boxed up with its 64k rampack. Learned C, and even today for my sins I'm still writing c shell scripts on Sun Blades from the 1990's on production systems, god help me. Now days I'm surrounded by Raspberry Pi's. I guess Sinclair never thought a computer without a case would ever sell. Maybe he missed a trick there :-) RIP Sir Clive, we need more like you that are not afraid to dream big.

  53. IT's getting kinda boring
    Pint

    This was the man who launched me into a computing career. As a kid I remember the ZX81 (my friend had one) and it piqued my interest enough to want to get into computers. Being a rather enterprising child, I remember getting into minor trouble once and being given lines (I must not do whatever it was I did as the time) - so I wrote a program to print out the lines to give to the teacher (she laughed and made me go back an write them out, but it was worth a try). I got my first job while still at school fixing computers (Spectrums, BBCs, QLs - you name it, whatever was about at that time).

    I raise a pint, and tip my hat in memory of Sir Clive Sinclair.

  54. GlenP Silver badge

    RIP

    RIP Sir Uncle Clive.

    I'd likely have ended up in IT anyway but my first home computer was a ZX81*, followed by a Spectrum. They were a great way to learn programming, mainly 'cause you couldn't break them! Worst case, turn it off and back on. Bringing the entire bus and keyboard interface to an edge connector made them very versatile as well, I built a custom fully programmable** multi-button joystick, I/O interface, etc.

    *A few years ago I acquired one, including wobbly RAM, as a bit of nostalgia, Unfortunately it's not boxed.

    **Programmed to any key using croc clips and busbars

  55. SecretSonOfHG

    "Wouldn’t have had a career without this guy,"

    True for a lot of people. Including me. My ZX Spectrum 48K original case (the inner board went inside a customized keyboard to which I wired a reset button on my own) looks a bit older today.... He's not only responsible for my career in SW development, but also for my learning of english out of the desire to understand how to program that thing.

    I raise one for the man. Godspeed, Sir Clive Sinclair

  56. Andy3

    It had to happen sooner or later, but I still feel very upset at his death. I had several items of Sinclair stuff in my youth and so did my schoolmates. Between us I recall a Z12 power amp, two Micromatics, A project 60 pre-amp, a project 60 stereo tuner and several Z30s. Plus a few Cambridge calculators. All of them worked a treat, although I did manage to blow the backside out of one of my Z30's by shorting the speaker. We even had a disco amp made from two z50's and a PZ8 PSU. Despite some pretty aggressive use, it never let us down. Farewell Sir Clive, you'll have a bit more time in the lab now.

  57. Phones Sheridan
    Pint

    +1 me to the list of people who started their career with a Speccy 48.

    I shall wear my old "Bernadette gets it every month!!" badge today in his honour. https://www.flickr.com/photos/nathanchantrell/8094702884

  58. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Lots of survivor bias here. Sure, plenty of British IT people had their first programming experiences with Sinclair kit, just as most state educated professional sin the 60s went to grammar schools and most people who survived 18th century medical care were treated with leeches. That doesn't actually make Spectrums, grammar schools or leeches good things, because it ignore all the people who were put off, discarded or killed.

    Would there have been more programmers if Sinclair's product hadn't been so awful? Possibly not, but it's worth considering.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Stupid comparisons. A better comparison would be to the steam engine, especially the steam locomotive. Or the internal combustion engine. Or the telephone. Or radio. Like the computer, all started off as complicated, unreliable playthings of the wealthy until someone came along and made then cheap enough for the masses.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        You miss my point completely. Yes, Sinclair brought cheap (and crappy) computers to the masses, but if he hadn't done it someone else would, and these threads would be full of people saying "I would never have got interested in IT if it hadn't been for my Oric Atmos / Dragon 32 / Commodore PET / BBC Micro Insert-any-one-of-many-others-here.

        Clive Sinclair, to use your analogy, turned computers form complicated unreliable playthings of the wealthy to complicated, unreliable playthings of the masses.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          You're still missing the point though. Someone had to be first. No one else was aiming for that price point or form factor at the time. Even the Oric-1 (pre Atmos, that was later), the closest in price and form factor, was competing with the Spectrum, not the earlier and revolutionary ZX-80/81 models.

          Something which is obvious in hindsight isn't always obvious at the time. What Sinclair did was to make very cheap computers that were usable. It was only after this that some others copied his money saving ideas. Without that to copy, they may not have been quite so price conscious as prior to the ZX-80 and 81, there was only a niche market, not a mass market. The VIC-20 and maybe the Atari 400 beat Sinclair to "mass market" to some extent, but were vastly more expensive by an order of magnitude. It cost less than a weeks wage for many. Other computers cost a month or more of most people entire wage.

          As for your last point, even when cars, radios etc became mass market, they were still "complicated", as was every computer on sale at the time of the Sinclair launch, so I'm not sure what you last point actually is.

    2. juice Silver badge

      > That doesn't actually make Spectrums, grammar schools or leeches good things, because it ignore all the people who were put off, discarded or killed.

      Sounds like you perhaps weren't around at the time.

      The early 80s were a grim time for the UK, thanks to various national and international things in the seventies which had crippled the economy. E.g. the oil wars, the union strikes, etc.

      And then (and without wanting to get political) Thatcher's government came into power and did some significant restructuring of the economy, especially when it came to publically owned industries.

      Between the "diseases" and the attempted cures, unemployment shot up, peaking in 1984 at around 3 million people, or around 12% of the working population.

      So, all those fancy American computers were way out of many people's budgets; as previously mentioned, the C64 cost £399 at launch, or about £1500 in 2021 terms. And that sort of money was way out of the reach for both those 3 million unemployed people and their dependents, especially since there were far fewer financial options back in the 80s; this was the era when you still had to go into a bank and talk to your manager to arrange a loan!

      But then Sinclair started to offer cheap computers; first the MK14, then the ZX80 (£100 assembled) and ZX81 (£70 assembled), and finally the ZX Spectrum (£125 for 16k or £175 for 48k).

      And yes. They offered the bare minimum necessary to compete in the market. They were notoriously fragile; some were even built using components Clive literally rescued from landfill[*]. You even had to provide your own display and cassette tape player.

      But they were Just Good Enough, and a much larger percentage of those 3 million people could afford to buy one for themselves, or their children, as compared to the luxurious American/Japanese imports or even the British equivalents such as the BBC micro and Acorn Atom.

      So, yeah. There's a reason why Sinclair struggled to meet demand for the rubber keyed marvel: it was literally the only machine many people could afford to buy. And the UK IT industry would be very different if the many bright bods at Sinclair Research hadn't risen to the challenge of meeting Clive's mandatory price point requirements...

      And that's why - especially when it comes to video games and despite the fact that Britain essentially gifted the entire computer industry to the USA, post-WW2 - the UK has arguably punched way above it's weight in IT since the 80s. We've even seen things come back around full circle, with the Raspberry Pi revolutionising modern low-cost computing in much the same way as the Spectrum did.

      Because they might be underpowered and a bit crap. But they're affordable.

      [*] if memory serves, some manager at TI had used a load of half-working memory chips as fill for his drive. Clive head about this and paid to dig this guy's drive back up. Because hey: half the chip was still working, right?

      1. mrmond

        "But they were Just Good Enough, and a much larger percentage of those 3 million people could afford to buy one for themselves, or their children, as compared to the luxurious American/Japanese imports or even the British equivalents such as the BBC micro and Acorn Atom."

        This right there! My Dad got me the 16k Spectrum, we couldn't afford the 48k model, but friends at school thought we must be rich because we had a computer! Far from it. Had saved pocket money for ages to get a ZX81 and then saved again to get the extra 32k ram kit for the Speccy.

        I think a couple of years later, maybe by the time I got to the 6th form nearly everyone had a Spectrum, a BBC or C64 when prices came down even more and the Micro boom really took off.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        I was then, and I agree with everything you say. Which is tangential to my point, which is that if Sinclair hadn't done it, someone else would. His computers are viewed with affection not because they were the best game in town but because they were the only game in town, which is why when half decent systems like the BBC Micro came out, Sinclair sank fast and without trace.

        It's a bit like those early Amstrad IBM compatibles - from the PC512SD to the PC640DD. They were rubbish, but they dominated the market for a couple of years because they were half the price of anything else.

        1. juice Silver badge

          > 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...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Because they might be underpowered and a bit crap. But they're affordable.

        This.

    3. Wayland Bronze badge

      The BBC Micro was a proper computer and I really wanted one. Everything about it was proper. 80 column capable screen and really decent Teletext output for your humble TV set. ROM based operating system with the ability to add more features by plugging in ROMs. Amazing machine capable of proper work.

      I could not afford one, I could afford a ZX Spectrum or a Dragon 32. I went with the Dragon because it had a decent keyboard and MS Basic. I discovered assembly programming on it was excellent because of the advanced 6809 CPU.

      The Spectrum on the other hand had the advantage of better graphics for gaming which in the end was what helped create the UK gaming industry. Those programmers in their bedrooms went on to found the game developer companies.

      Yes both the Spectrum and the Dragon lacked features a proper computer like the BBC Micro had but really that just forced you to get down and dirty and learn how it really worked. This may have made us better programmers.

  59. Steve Kerr
    Pint

    RIP Sir Clive

    Started in computing with a ZX81 when they first came out, was 11 years old with a 16K ram pack too.

    As much as people have mocked him over the years - he kicked off the affordable home computer market in the UK.

    Yes, some of his products failed, some were ropey but the point is, he tried to produce new product were ahead of the time but unfortunately the technology of the era sometimes was quite up to it.

    Here I sit, working in IT over 45 years later and a good proportion of the reason for that all started with the ZX81 created by Sir Clive that was purchased from WH Smith.

    I read he was still tinkering as recent as last week.

    So I raise my beer to you as the impact you had will carry on for many years to come and a name that will live on in human history.

    1. Wayland Bronze badge

      Re: RIP Sir Clive

      A very British inventor. It was the fact he got the price right down that made his products successful. There were far better computers for a bit more money but it was too much more.

  60. mikecoppicegreen

    Rest in peace

    Condolences to Sir Clive's family

    I never met the man myself,

    I had one of the kit scientific calculators - reverse polish notation, ate AAA batteries for breakfast, lunch and tea, but was a real calculator that people could make and use for tiny money.

    My first programming was on a borrowed Heathkit 6502 machine (late 1970s?), but the Spectrum was the computer that really got me into programming, with the "one touch" basic, and the odd PEEK and POKE to liven things up!

    Sir Clive's biggest contribution is to make a whole generation of people willing to take on computer technology - before the spectrum, computing was a niche activity, after the spectrum, computing was for the masses.

    Rest in peace.

    1. Jim Willsher

      Re: Rest in peace

      POKE 23609, 255 still sits in my memory. 30+ years on. I have no idea what it did but bizarrely I can still remember it. I must google it and see if anyone else can weirdly remember what it did.

      1. Wayland Bronze badge

        Re: Rest in peace

        POKE 32768,65 puts A on the top left of a P.E.T screen.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Rest in peace

        That's the one I always remember too! 23609 is the address of the keypress click, and the 255 is the length of the click.

    2. Bowlers

      Re: Rest in peace

      I remember a guy showing off his self built Sinclair calculator as we walked into the computer room. It threw a wobbly as we crossed the threshold, rather than the mainframes and associated IO causing it we decided it was the large door retaining magnet that caused it. Cool bit of kit at the time though.

  61. 2Fat2Bald

    I had a spectrum and was a bit of a fan back in the day. 14 year old me really wanted a C5. People always bring up the C5 when discussing Sir Clive. Oddly they overlook the QL, which also fell flat on it's face (overtaking the Mac and PC wasn't likely in business, even back then).

    To be honest I think the C5 was an idea ahead of it's time or at least ahead of technology - the lead-acid batteries were never going to be good enough for a road vehicle of practical performance in a world of petrol cars. I can only think it was originally supposed to be a more ambitious thing more like a mini metro or renault 5 and got cut down and cut down until it emerged as this sort-of electrically assisted recumbant bike that eventually hit the market. To be honest if you just needed to commute in moderate traffic a short distance through town to your office job or college or something it was probably perfectly fine - most of the year. Only now are electric cars gaining mass adoption - slowly. I did feel at the time the press were being a little unfair to it - it had it's place but as a niche product for commuters and shopper - more a replacement for the push-bike or the moped than a small car. Whoever tried to market it to suited business people should just stop trying to market anything to anyone.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Oddly they overlook the QL, which also fell flat on it's face (overtaking the Mac and PC wasn't likely in business, even back then)."

      Yes, it was associated with the Spectrum (a "toy" computer), and was so much cheaper than the business competition that it was "too cheap" to be taken seriously. But the Psion office package it came with, and when paired with a proper monitor rather than a TV, made it a very decent business machine, even though few could see that through the "too cheap" and "toy" connotations it came with.

      Oh, and it was really only the PC it was competing with. The Apple Mac was released 12 days AFTER the QL was released and both came a full year before the more traditional-like Amstrad PCW "cheap" business computer.

      1. ridley

        Same thing happened with the Amiga, especially when CBM released the A500.

        Too cheap and too associated with games to be taken seriously, sadly. I still miss AmigaDOS

    2. juice Silver badge

      > Oddly they overlook the QL, which also fell flat on it's face (overtaking the Mac and PC wasn't likely in business, even back then).

      Dunno. Some bloke called Linus Torvalds got his start on the QL; you might have heard of him?

      The QL hit a lot of problems, thanks to Sir Clive's attempts to both undercut the competition and stick with Sinclair's in-house technology (e.g. the microdrive).

      The result was a machine which was seriously delayed to the point where legal action was began against Sinclair. And which was buggy as hell - if memory serves, the original models came with a "dongle" containing part of the machine's ROM. And hideously underpowered; it may have used a 32bit 68000 CPU, but only had an 8-bit data bus. And unreliable to boot, thanks to the continued reliance on microdrives.

      I tend to think that the QL is a prime example of a company failing to recognise that the world has changed. In the early 80s, the no-frills approach for the ZX series made perfect sense, but Moore's Law quickly marched on and people were starting to expect far more from their machines (in terms of both features, performance and reliability) by the time the QL eventually staggered onto the shelves. You can maybe even draw parallels with Nintendo, and the way that they thought that the best thing after the Wii would be the Wii U, despite the fact that the novelty of motion controls had worn off, leaving people with an underpowered console with an odd secondary display mainly intended for asymmetric multilayer games...

      Equally, and to be somewhat fair: the QL was conceived in 1981 and could have made more of a splash if it had arrived on time. And it's always worth bearing in mind that Sinclair Research was an electronics company rather than a computer company; home computers were just an unexpectedly lucrative product line which Clive used to fund things such as handheld TVs and electric bicycles. Which both failed but were perhaps just a bit too far ahead of their time...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "it may have used a 32bit 68000 CPU, but only had an 8-bit data bus."

        FWIW, the 68000 had a 16-bit external data bus. Sir Clive, on another cost cutting exercise, went with the 68008 which is the version using the 8-bit external data bus in the QL. Internally, it was still a 68000 inside the silicon but the 8-bit data bus and the reduced size address bus hobbled it down to about half the speed of the equivalent "full fat" 68000. Unlike the Amiga 500 and others that did use the "proper" 68000

        1. 806cat

          That was so Motorola could squeeze it into a 0.6" 48 pin DIP. The original IBM PC was based on the 8088, a similarly hobbled version of the 8086.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Surely it was the the XT that had the 8088 (had access to one in the early 90s)?

    3. Wayland Bronze badge

      QL

      Potentially the QL was world beating. If it had had a proper disk drive then a machine based on the 68000 range was capable of doing real work. All the things expected of a computer. The Atari ST was used in business, it had a proper disk drive. The Amiga was used in music production. Apple also used the 68000 CPU.

      One reason we use the IBM PC clone today is because the PC came complete with a proper screen, not a TV and proper disk drives so you can save those accounts you've been working on. Not because the 8086 was so great although it was able to do something the Z80 could not do and that's address large amounts of RAM. 68000 was designed from scratch to do that making it the technical winner.

      Sinclair should have simply built an IBM PC Clone based on the 68000 and called it the QL. It would have been expensive but it would have been able to do actual work.

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: QL

        > Sinclair should have simply built an IBM PC Clone based on the 68000 and called it the QL. It would have been expensive but it would have been able to do actual work.

        Wha? The technology at the time was way too primitive to bridge the gap between x86 and 68k in that sort kf way. Tricks like VMs and bytecode were several decades away at best, though you did later get hardware cards to let Amigas pretend to be Macs, etc.

        The big problem with the QL is that it was specc'd in 1981 but didn't actually launch until 1984. By that time, the various hacks dreamed up by Sinclair to cut costs looked increasingly poor compared to the competition - e.g. the Amiga came out in 1985 - and it was bug ridden to boot.

  62. Phil Parker

    I was a Sinclair kid at school. So much cooler than the Commodore kids (and the one teacher's kid with a BBC micro). Both the ZX81 and Spectrum (proper rubber-key version) were amazing and I loved what I could do with them.

    Now, I mustn't spend the day on eBay looking at QL's, or C5's, I've always wanted one of those...

  63. MtK

    RIP

    Had a ZX81 then was given a QL for my 10th birthday. Got into SuperBASIC and then assembly. Remember using the various issues of QL World to work out how to compile stuff from the assembly programs that included the hex on the side. Definitely kept me entertained. Been in IT ever since. Not doing so much in assembly these days.

    4E75 RTS

  64. Andrew Alan McKenzie

    Don't forget the calculators!

    I still have my RPN Sinclair Scientific - gloriously quirky thing that saw me through science A levels and kickstarted an expensive addiction to RPN calculators....

  65. Twanky

    Memories (not RAM)

    I was rather envious of a friend at school who got a Sinclair Cambridge calculator. I seem to recall him demonstrating that 664751 multiplied by 8 spells BOOBIES when you hold the device upside down - but I'm unsure of my memory (no pun) as the wikipedia article seems to suggest the thing had a 5 digit plus 3 digit exponent display. Whatever, boobies are very important to a growing lad. And no, I was not a twitcher bird watcher birder ornithologist.

    Later on I was given a Sinclair Scientific calculator. It was almost a lightbulb moment when I got my head around the Reverse Polish Notation. I'm pretty sure that was when I changed from near-last in Maths to near-first (school maths, I hasten to add).

    Later on my envy was re-ignited when he got a Sinclair Black Watch. If my memory does not betray me it was shortly after that that Douglas Adams wrote about '...an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea'.

    RIP Sir Clive.

    1. skswales

      Re: Memories (not RAM)

      My Sinclair Cambridge calculator no longer works, but my 1975 Sinclair Oxford Scientific does. Only quibble was the cheap deg/rad switch: had to send it back for repair under warranty three times - the final time they resolved it by replacing the switch with a much meatier one. Thanks to my dad for that - it was probably what he took home in a week.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Memories (not RAM)

        The scientific lives on forever: http://files.righto.com/calculator/sinclair_scientific_simulator.html

  66. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

    C5

    Given the lack of success of the C5 and its banning from roads for being dangerous, here we are not many years later with electric scooters cluttering up the roads all legal like ( well nearly).

  67. Efer Brick

    Reincarnated as Elon Musk ?

    Someone messing with the timeline?

    Clive ahead of his time :-(

  68. Binraider Silver badge

    Had the 48k when I was maybe 4 or 5, and, as one does, studiously copied the examples in the user manual in. The spectrum was, and still is, a cunning tool for sparking interest in taking actual control of a computer. 35 years later, still making a living mostly off doing just that; and definitely no sign of that going away.

    Sadly the machine got a glass of lemonade in it and didn't survive that long. But, I did get the vastly more potent C64 maybe 2 years later.

    There is no exaggeration possible of how important Sir Clive's early work is to all of us in the trade; and it very definitely important to Britain reinventing itself mostly along the lines of a service economy.

    RPi is great though it's still not quite as accessible as J shift 2, 2. (Commander X16 I think I might have to visit).

  69. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Back in the day, my Dad bought me a Cambridge Scientific calculator for school, a Sinclair Black Watch, and a ZX81. Having also recently lost my Dad to cancer, I would like to pass my sympathies and condolences to Sir Clive's family and friends.

    Sir Clive wasn't the best businessman and made some poor decisions, but cheating people or fraud were never his aim. He just wanted to fund his ideas and see if they worked, as all inventors do. Several of them didn't, including the C5 that everyone bangs on about, but the calculators, ZX81, and Spectrum were great successes and made him his fortune.

    As an inventor he inspired a great many people and many (myself included) used his creations to learn, develop, and grow. Those of us who used his creations extensively, learned to work around or fix the defects. My ZX81 ended up with a decent keyboard, 64kB Ram soldered to the motherboard, and a decent quality cassette recorder made saving and loading programs much less fraught. My Dads QL ended up with disk drives and was used for several years. I have now carved out a career fixing things (software support in the Cancer treatment field) and I owe much of that to Sir Clive and to my Dad encouraging me in the fields of electronics, radio, and computing.

    Would there have been more programmers if Sir Clives creations had been perfect? Maybe, but the ZX80/ZX81/Spectrum were so cheap that that alone exposed more people to computing than any other computers did. I also used Apple 2e, early IBM PCs, Commodore PETs and 64s at school and various friends houses but as a family we could not afford any of those. The BBC model B came along after I'd finished school and even that was 5 times the price of the kit form ZX81.

    RIP Sir Clive, and thanks for all the inventions.

  70. War Puppy

    He anointed my tech life

    Washed cars to buy ZX80 ... so many cars.

    Wrote code to help my dad do QS, he was using a slide rule!!

    The company he worked for bought me a ZX81 to do code for everyone at the office. Speccing a job went from 3 hours to 15 mins.

    Cheers Sir Clive.

  71. Sequin

    I started with a ZX81 kit - my first real adventure in soldering! I got it working after a day or two and never looked back. I later upgraded it with a proper keyboard kit from Maplins - I still remember cutting out the paper letters to stick in the clear keycaps! A piece of window insulation foam between the case and rampac cured the wobbles.

  72. steelpillow Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Let us not forget the

    Clive Sinclair began his working career as an electronics writer, publishing several books for the hobbyist. The first time he changed the world was when he watched all the dud transistors at, I think, the Ferranti factory, being used as hardcore for a new car park. The market was almost entirely military in those days and the yield of milspec quality devices extremely poor. He took them home, graded them A, B and C and sold them on, thus moving the hobby world at a stroke from expensive valves to cheap transistors.

    He did the same for audio circuitry with his radio and stereo amps. The radio has been mentioned, what he did with the stereo amp was to take a high-bandwith op-amp and slug it with massive negative feedback. That reduced its bandwidth to 20 kHz, which did not matter, but made the gain Hi-Fi flat throughout the 20-20kHz Hi-Fi spectrum, without the need for a big circuit board full of transistors and other bits, which very much did matter.

    That was his true genius. He didn't invent the transistor or the stereo amplifier or the hobby microcomputer, what he did was slash the cost, repackage and sell direct to a new market.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Let us not forget the

      > what he did was slash the cost,

      An engineer is a man who can do for ten bob, what any fool could do for a pound.

      Clive Sinclair ex@81

    2. juice Silver badge

      Re: Let us not forget the

      > That was his true genius. He didn't invent the transistor or the stereo amplifier or the hobby microcomputer, what he did was slash the cost, repackage and sell direct to a new market.

      I think his genius came from the fact that he could think outside the box and wasn't afraid to use some downright shonky hacks; in fact, I strongly suspect that Nintendo's "lateral use for withered technology" ethos may have been directly inspired by him. After all, Thatcher did make a point of showing off the ZX Spectrum to a Japanese business delegation...

      For instance, with his calculators, the cost of LED segments was directly tied to their size. Clive therefore cut costs by making them smaller and just putting a magnifying lens in front of the LED panel.

      Similarly, the CPU was some TI chip which hadn't been designed for calculators; it didn't have the right instructions and drained too much power. Sir Clive and his crew figured out how to run the CPU at a lower power level by dropping the voltage and "pulsing" energy to it at just the level needed to keep it from losing data. And they implemented the missing instructions in software; slower and sometimes less accurate, but Good Enough for most people, especially when offered at a fraction of the price of a "real" calculator.

      Of course, the problem with these sorts of innovations is that they're easy for others to copy, and as the industry matured, the price difference between the low end and mid end dropped drastically.

      But without that sort of innovative thinking putting evolutionary pressure on things, that price drop may never have happened...

  73. steviebuk Silver badge

    ZX81, the RAM pack and a carboot sale

    I first remember the ZX81 in the 80s when I was in middle school. Wasn't into computers but would get an urge at school to "Want to go home and type in programs for the ZX81". Didn't know what I was doing really. It was my brothers and we had to hook it up to the telly in the back room so couldn't use it much. Knew how to load a game from tape but never realised back then, that you could save to tape. There was a horse racing game in a book or magazine we had. I'd type it in whenever want to play it, never realised I could save it back to tape. I believe found a backgammon game on a magazine once, that was good and learnt backgammon from it (now forgotten).

    Anyway. Never liked it that much but was all we had. I liked our friends version who had the raised keyboard. Eventually my brother bought the RAM pack for it. Which eventually got taped onto the ZX81 due to the wobble that would wipe your code. I never understood the code I was typing in and never knew how to fix the code that didn't work due to poor magazine printing.

    I wasn't into computers much back then, not the Sinclair range. Always annoyed me (because I had no imagination) how the art work on the front looked nothing like the graphics. I have a very, very clear memory of either late 80s or early 90s being in the front room and finding an old Spectrum game in a case (we never had a Spectrum). Looking at the art work and saying to myself "This is why I don't like computers or games. That art work. When I turn this over to look at the back the graphics will be nothing like that".

    Anyway. Years later wasn't until the 16 bit era that I really liked gaming.

    Eventually I did get into computing due to Microsoft and Windows 3.11 but still have fond memories of the ZX81 despite knowing I never really enjoyed it.

    Later on in life my mum did a carboot sale and I gave her the ZX81 to "get rid of". Sold it for £50. I giggled and said "But it didn't even work properly. You'd touch it and it would wipe the code". I didn't know then about the RAM pack issue or that they were becoming "retro". And it wasn't until Micro Men that I discovered the RAM back wobble was a well known thing back then!

  74. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Have a spectral beer Sir Clive now your ram pack has wobbled.

    Not only was he an inspiration to many I have a couple of his old computers. It still amazes me that to this day the most valuable computer I have ever owned is my 40 year old MK14 and it still works, well turns on anyway - I'm not sure I can think in 128bytes without a few beers and a reset myself.

  75. Displacement Activity
    Thumb Up

    RIP

    Nice guy, will be missed. I worked for him while I was a student in the summers of '80 and '81, on Kings Parade in Cambridge (I programmed Fortran on a mini in '79, but bought a £400 Nascom and got the bug). He normally hid away in a back room working on the flat screen TV, but he always came down to the pub with us after work. It was a very small operation back then - about a dozen girls doing mail order, who we never saw, and basically Clive and 3 guys, and the accountant occasionally, and another 2 when work on the Spectrum started. I used to answer 'technical queries' on the phone and do the odd bit of engineering. The 'technical queries' were almost always 'what will a computer do for me'; I particularly remember one lady who spent a lot of time betting on the horses, who wanted to know why she should buy a computer. I seem to remember that we had an ad saying that you could run a nuclear power station with one of these things - I hope no-one tried!

    And the stuff about late deliveries, stuff that didn't work - well, that's life - get over it. It was a bright shiny new world. Everyone in the business had the same problems, to a greater or lesser extent, and we were all learning. I worked for a Cambridge start-up a couple of years later, and designed a more sophisticated computer for them, but they went bust in '84. Everyone was always one step from bankruptcy, which could make life challenging. At the end of the day, Clive inspired a lot of people, myself included, and that's what he'll be remembered for.

    Oh, and still got a Sinclair Scientific down in the basement somewhere, which I got for my O'levels. It's actually my second - I had to send the first one back because it didn't work... :)

  76. Jay 2
    Pint

    Like many others here the result of Sir Clive's endeavours where arguably what got me into the entire computer/IT thing of which is now my profession. I remember having a play on a ZX-81 and using the block graphics to display some sort of TARDIS. That morphed into me getting my own Spectrum+ and my tentative steps of programming (which also included typing in POKES from games magazines). And as an aside that continued with the BBC Micro at school.

    Here's to the memory of Sir Clive and his various hits and misses!

  77. Drone Pilot

    To the man who allowed a teenager to...

    10 print hello

    20 goto 10

    I thank you.

    Your turn to goto 10

  78. DogRuff
    Pint

    Thanks Sir Clive

    A true legend: entrepreneur, slightly eccentric and stereotypically British engineer and genius.

    Although I cut my IT teeth on the slightly bigger 370 series IBM, but when the chance of having a computer at HOME came along I rushed out to get the kit form ZX81, having bought a red led dot digital watch from Sinclair late 70s and loving it. I remember the ZX81 being quite amazing at the time for the price and complete with *gasp* a whole 1k ram, although I later bought the fag packet 16k wobbler..

    Many many a happy eve typing stuff in from computer mags then waiting with innocent wonder after 'run'ning the prog for the first time... then debugging!

    50 years later - still pretty much doing the same, so thanks Sir Clive for helping bring home computing to the masses.

    Cheers!

  79. Franco Silver badge

    RIP Sir Clive. I'm off to find an emulator so I can play Horace Goes Skiing in tribute.

    1. juice Silver badge

      Jet Set F*cking Willy, shirely?

      (For anyone who's watched Micro Men. I once had the pleasure at a retro computing convention of watching this in play form. And then the double pleasure of following the actors who played Clive and Alan Sugar, as Alan pushed Clive around the convention in a Sinclair C5 which someone had brought...

      https://youtu.be/vDnPODC89FA

      )

  80. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

    Legacy

    His legacy is grand. With his ZX computers he introduced a whole generation to computers who wouldn't have been able to afford them otherwise. He cut a few corners here and there but in the end the result was palatable.

    Sir Clive, rest in peace.

  81. ronkee

    When I was a kid I wanted to be an inventor. Sir Clive was probably the only living one I could have named.

    Even now we'd call them co-founders, but it's really not the same.

  82. nonsequitur

    Changed the course of my life really...

    I got my ZX81 with 1K of RAM for Christmas 1981. Mind you, I had to work for it and sold Christmas logs with a candle, holly and snow spray until I reached that magical 100 quid. The rest, well, that's history. True pioneers change the course of history, and Clive Sinclair did just that! Who knows, maybe Elon Musk was inspired by the first commercial electric vehicle ;)

  83. Peter Galbavy
    Pint

    Thanks for everything

    Like many others have said, I almost certainly owe my career and many of my life choices to the influences of Sir Clive - and thank you for those. RIP.

  84. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Regarding the C5 - I'm sure that with today's more modern batteries and technology, the C5 would've had a chance of succeeding.

    Especially with biker lanes and so on.

  85. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    And another thing.

    The computers of that era was more pleasing to the eyes (rubbery keys aside) and they had more character than today's bland mass-produced tat.

  86. Stephen Wilkinson

    I'm another one that started with a ZX-81 with wobbly RAMPACK before moving to Commodore (VIC-20 followed by C64) and a keyboard that was nice and you could type on (not that I could type but it was a lot better than a button doing whole keywords!).

    Even though I defected and was a Commodore fanboi, I have Sir Clive to thank for my interest in computers which led me to my career in IT.

    Thank you Sir Clive and may you rest in peace.

  87. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Just a thought

    I wonder if there is some way of letting his family know about all the comments here, and indeed across many techie forums - even across to the SoundOnSound musicians website.

  88. Trygve Henriksen

    I'm going to dig out a few of the machines and play a few games.

    Jet Pack on the ZX Spectrum, of course, Lemmings on the Z88.

  89. Rtbcomp

    RIP Sir Clive, and thank you.

    I had been a field service engineer for 10 years when the ZX80 came out and this introduced me to BASIC programming. I went on to write a few projects in QBASIC, VBA and DataEase on a freelance basis after that.

  90. Miller

    Time was not right for the C5 but times have changed

    The Sinclair C5 is routinely mocked but he was absolutely right about personal electric mobility being the future.

    1. StrangerHereMyself Bronze badge

      Re: Time was not right for the C5 but times have changed

      Sir Clive also learned us that you can lose a lot of money very quickly if you bet on the wrong horse and erase much of the winnings you had with previous successes.

  91. Wayland Bronze badge

    My first successful programming was on a Sinclair Programmable Calculator. This slim space-age (Space 1999) looking white calculator with a power bulge for the PP3 could be programmed. Endless hours of fun keying in the code to make it do something.

    Thank you Clive Sinclair R.I.P.

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of nosalgia as expected, but he was just another business failure.

    Maybe it was because I was actually in the business at the time but to me Clive was just another typical British business failure.

    The UK always has a fanatic depth and range of creativity, ability and sheer inventiveness but when it came to building out businesses that can grow into market segment dominant forces not so good. The UK mainframe / mini business was destroyed by the government shotgun marriage called ICL but the microcomputer / PC business in the 1980's had the potential to go toe to toe with the US and Japanese PC companies but it all just faded.

    And I think the distraction and terrible publicity of the various Sinclair fiascos had something to do with it. The BBC Computer was both the making and the bane of Acorn and ACT almost got critical mass but neither could crack the US or Japanese markets. The bad reputation of Timex/Sinclair having a lot to do with this bad reputation by association UK tech acquired in the US. Plus UK tech companies at the time really did not understand how to sell in the US. Considering it just a larger version of just another European country. But the US was half the world market at the time. With Japan being another third. So UK companies just settled for the remaining 15% / 20%. Where they did very well.

    So Clive might had made for a lot of good media copy. And given lots of people that first magical experience of computing. But as a technologist and a tech businessman very much a failure. If a very colorful one. So in many ways another John Logie Baird. Another very media savvy tech failure. In the bigger scheme of things.

    1. anthonyhegedus

      Re: Lots of nosalgia as expected, but he was just another business failure.

      How many US 'micro' manufacturers are still around? Apple... yes, but that almost failed. And TI... but that counts about as much as the BBC... they're both still around but don't make computers. Acorn was successful though, their IP being in just about every phone in the world.

      Not every measure of success comes from being able to grow into a large company that makes pots of money though.

      Sinclair was innovative, yes, and made some reasonably badly-built computers, but he did create an industry.

      Yes, Sinclair was a total business failure, but he was a success in every other way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lots of nosalgia as expected, but he was just another business failure.

        > How many US 'micro' manufacturers are still around?

        Lets see, from 1985. The year of the QL actually started working. We have IBM (Lenovo), Comaq (HP), Apple, DEC (HP), Dell... I could go on. Enough said? Break open an issue of Byte from that era and spot all the familiar names. And some names those of us who were around at the time still miss.

        There were maybe three years Sinclair were kinda relevant. 1980 to 1983. And to those of use who had been using micros since 1977 it was interesting to watch the breakout. But outside the UK Sinclair was really not a big deal. Break open an issue of Practical Computing or Personal Computer World for 1982 or 1983 and you will see just much more was going on even in the UK than just the Sinclair stuff. Quite an exciting time.

        Maybe to someone whose first exposure was seeing a ZX80 in WH Smith might think "Clive created an industry". But to those of us who first had their mind blown by seeing the Altair 8800 on the cover of the January 1975 issue of Practical Electronics Clive was just a very colorful episode fairly late in the story.

        As for ARM, they failed to build a computer company but did a great job of leverage a good CPU design into a great business model. Just like Pilkington Glass did with Float Glass back in the 1950's.

        1. Paul Kinsler Silver badge

          Re: There were maybe three years Sinclair were kinda relevant.

          Perhaps, but since there were about 1.5 million ZX81 sales, and 5 million Spectrum sales ... is "years" really the correct metric? And, despite the many shortcomings of his products, he is clearly remembered with affection by a great many people for whom his products meant a great deal.

          Not such a bad legacy, all in all. Even if only based on your assertion of "three years of relevance".

        2. Binraider Silver badge

          Re: Lots of nosalgia as expected, but he was just another business failure.

          Ask the Russians, with their various Sinclair clones, and also timex in the US.

          The price point forced other, definitely better machines to come down to stay alive. Good, capable computing power at reasonable prices was the result.

          See also, DEC who went bust insisting that computers should be rare,expensive beasts.

          Market share isn’t the only measure. Market impact is what Sinclair created. I’m amongst millions who have jobs directly attributable to cheap computing

  93. anthonyhegedus
    Pint

    He's Poked RAMTOP...

    Sad to see him go... my introduction to computing was a Sinclair Cambridge programmable calculator that I bought for £8 in 1979... I was 12. That thing ate through 9V batteries, had 18 bytes of program storage (36 'steps') and an on-off switch seemingly made of sandpaper. But it got me into computing. Various better calculators later (thanks to my dad) I ended up with a ZX81... when it finally arrived!

    Never had a Spectrum, but moved on to the Sinclair QL. I wasn't interested so much in games, as the pure enjoyment of programming. That was the last Sinclair device I ever got, and the most reliable. I stopped following my career in programming in the 90s, but I'm still in IT, thankfully.

    So thank you, Clive, for being there to spark my imagination. Let's all raise a pint to the man without whom many of our careers would have turned a different path.

  94. hamiltoneuk

    I hope they show the BCC Micro Men film again in his honour. I thought it captured the spirit of the age well, I had great fun building and breaking a couple Sinclair match box size radios when I was a kid. When is got my Garrard SP25 MKII turntable it was connected into my homemade Baxendale pre-amp which powered 2 Sinclair amplifier boards and Sinclair bookshelf speakers which looked classy. The amplifiers would blow up if the outputs were shorted for a millisecond or so but they were fun.When the reverse polish calculators came out they looked too complex for me so I avoided them but I am sure they were fun too. When Sinclairs Z80 based computers arrived I didn't swallow the stuff about running as nuclear power station with them. I went for strange things like Tangerine and Oric and the BBC Micro and I realised that i did not understand them much but they were interesting. I remember a girl saying "I thought computers were supposed to make things fast" after her boyfriend and I spent an age labouriously typing in a Basic listing from a magazine. Soon after a Sinclair C5 was seen parked outside the pub down the road. It was all cutting edge and great.

  95. Speckled Jim

    The hours I spent re-soldering a new ZTX650 every time i moved my speccy....

    Cheers Clive.

  96. TonyMurphy

    Probably got me the job I'm in now

    I remember the day my dad returned home with that polystyrene box in the carboard sleeve with the ZX81 on it. I was hooked from the first few hours and 40 years later I'm working with computers, albeit mostly in Mr Bezos's world now.

    The hours-on-end typing in listings from books and magazines, (who remembers the good old Usborne computer programming books?) only for the wind to blow in the wrong direction and the ram pack wobbled and pfft it all disappeared. It was frustrating at the time but I wouldn't change any of the experiences and lessons it taught me.

    I'll be raising a glass high in memory of Uncle Clive, without who I really don't think I'd be in this job, certainly not live in this house, and probably woudn't have met my wife.

    RIP Clive

  97. This is not a drill
    Pint

    Lots of us old timers on here.

    Try explaining loading a game from tape onto your 48k Spectrum which you bought from WH Smiths to the latest generate of IT support guys and they look at you like your mad.

    RIP Sir Clive, as ride you off into the sunset (on a C5), a lot of us probably you owe you our careers. We'll raise a cold one in your honour.

  98. Dr Kerfuffle

    I was offered a job at Sinclair!

    When I was working for Tangerine/Oric computers in Cambridge, I was offered job at Sinclair for £21,500. Which was pretty decent in 1983.

    However before I had a chance to decide whether to accept it or not, it was announced on the news the next day that Sinclair had closed down!

    Oh well

    Paul

  99. dazzzler

    10 Print "RIP Clive you'll be missed"

    20 GOTO 10

    1. Expat_Andy

      You want to add 15 Poke 23692,255!

  100. tiggity Silver badge

    Got a lot of people into computing as the price was right

    Ironically as a teen I purchased the atom basic solder it yourself kit as opposed to the ZX80 as shop was selling atoms off cheap (atoms came with more expensive prebuilt offer & they were selling well but nobody was buying the more DIY atom version from the shop so they just cut their losses, otherwise I would have ended up with a ZX80 as being a teen funding purchase on revenue from paper round & odd jobs I was very price limited.

    .. Having said that, most of my friends and family who went the computer route got Sinclair products so I had a lot of experience helping people out with them and so lots of time using them- their cheap price & (relative, for the time, ease of use) played a huge part in stimulating interest as (apart from a few rich kids / kids with parents who splashed out on expensive presents for them) the rest of us teenagers were heavily constrained on price & without Sinclair cheap & cheerful products a lot of kids would have missed out on getting into personal computers at an early age (wonder how many kids manually typed in listings from C&VG etc. back then)

  101. Pantagoon

    Obit

    His divorced wife has published a short obituary.

    Dead ex, 81.

  102. Ashto5

    ZX81 Totally B4 It’s time

    The keyboard hade built In shortcuts you only really type variable names.

    Some of the games written that fitted in to 1k were amazing.

    1K think about it

    I need an SSD & 16gig of memory to do the same stuff.

    THANK YOU SIR CLIVE

    LIVED A VERY GOOD LIFE THANKS TO THE ZX81

    RIP Bro

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: ZX81 Totally B4 It’s time

      I would argue that you don't, and a lot of code is just not as tight as it needed to be back then.

  103. JustAnotherBadger

    Yet another "me too" but the ZX81, Speccy 16k and Speccy+ were instrumental in my career.

    Thanks Clive. You had more influence than you ever knew

  104. XSV1
    Happy

    My ZX81 still works

    My ZX81 still works

  105. Michael Habel Silver badge

    I would argue that Sir Clive was ahead of the curve in the eBike craze thats curtrently sweeping the post coof world.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021