Re: Ah young un's...
> And so on a so forth. If you look inside a 1980 issue of the UK micro computer mags of the day you will see that the ZX80 was met by a massive wave of indifference. Sure it was cheap but for another 100 quid you could actually get a real microcomputer. That could do things. And for 400 quid more you could get one of the proper ones. Like an Apple II or a PET. Who did not lust after an Exidy Sorcerer in 1980...
I'll agree with this to some degree. But it's worth noting that £100 was a lot of money back in 1980 - it's roughly equivalent to £450 in current terms, which meant that it was comfortably more than a week's wage back in the day.
So, yeah. IT professionals and hobbyists may have turned their noses up at the distinctly primitive ZX80 and ZX81. But there were millions of people who were interested in these newfangled electronic devices, but who couldn't afford to splash out over a month's wages on one of the "proper" machines being imported from the USA.
Especially those who were unemployed, with the UK's unemployment rate soaring up to 3 million at the time. That's a lot of people who were time-rich but cash-poor, and Sinclair's "cheap as chips" machines were a lot more affordable for them, even as the media and professionals turned their noses up at them.
After all, it's arguably not a coincidence that many of the great software houses of the 80s came from industrial towns and cities in the north. E.g. Liverpool gave us Bug Byte and Software Projects, Manchester gave us Ocean and Sheffield gave us Gremlin Graphics...
> Now what Clive was a genius at was self publicity. Absolute genius, he had no peers [...] And we had Microchip Mad Inventor straight from Ealing Studios Central Casting, Clive Sinclair.
I'm not sure about that. I think Clive's main genius lay in the fact that he recognised that people would be willing to buy something which was Good Enough. E.g. his calculators may have offered 90% of the features and 80% of the performance of the equivalent machines from TI (to pick some arbitrary values), but they were also half the cost. And given the choice between spending £2000 and £1000 (in 2021 prices), many people were happy to opt for the lower-cost option. Because it was either that, or go back to pen and paper!
It was always a risky business strategy - the high return rates of the black watch essentially bankrupted Sinclair Radionics. And therein perhaps lies Clive's main failing, in that when it became clear that demand seriously exceeded supply, his companies never really got the logistical and manufacturing side of things sorted.
Unlike Amstrad, who seriously shook things up when they bought his IP and started to churn out the +2 and +3 models.
> So to those of us there at the time Clive was just this media side story that had no real impact on the longer term development of the business. It was what happened at places like Acorn, AST, Psion etc that had a long term impact. Not a lot of subsequent businesses came from the Sinclair Research alumni
I'll agree with this to a degree, but you do know that Chris Curry worked at Sinclair Radionics for 13 years before founding Acorn? And Psion used to write software for the ZX Spectrum? And the hardware team from Sinclair went on to create the Flare hardware, which ended up in the Atari Jaguar?
Still, the "Acorn" side of the family tree undisputedly had a bigger impact on the world of hardware. But I'd argue that the Sinclair branch gave us a much bigger impact on the world of software, precisely because a much larger percentage of the population could afford to buy his cheap and shonky hardware.
> But in his defense he was not the financial fraudster that Jack Tramial was or the criminal psychopath that Steve Jobs was. Clive was always doing his wheeler deal schemes all of which eventually failed
For me, I think the problem is that the world moved on. Clive's "build it cheap and accept a high failure rate" approach worked well enough in the 60s and 70s, when - as with his calculators - it was basically a case of choosing Sinclair or nothing for most people.
But as we moved into the 80s and the electronics industry started to mature, prices began to drop and an entire eco-system of systems at varying price points began to emerge.
Which meant that it was no longer a case of Sinclair or nothing, and given his somewhat chequered reputation (in terms of both reliability and delivery timescales), people increasingly went for the options which were a bit more expensive, but far less "quirky".
Equally, and to be fair, Clive did continue to explore interesting stuff post-Spectrum, such as wafer-scale integration. But again, this work was focused on ways to use "defective" hardware, and with Moore's law marching on and yields generally improving, it was easier and cheaper to just use mass produced components...