Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor and entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing home computers to the masses, has died at the age of 81.
His daughter, Belinda, said he died at home in London on Thursday morning after a long illness. Sinclair invented the pocket calculator but was best known for popularising the home computer, bringing it to British high-street stores at relatively affordable prices.
Many modern-day titans of the games industry got their start on one of his ZX models. For a certain generation of gamer, the computer of choice was either the ZX Spectrum 48K or its rival, the Commodore 64.”
My first brush with Sinclair was as an A-level student in the UK. Before he made computers, Sinclair designed a low-cost programmable calculator.
It fascinated me and, thanks to a well-paid part-time job, I managed to buy one. From memory it could only handle a few programmable steps, but it was enough to make complex calculations.
My second job after university was working as a reporter for Practical Computing magazine. I started in January 1980 and became familiar with the original Sinclair ZX80 computer.
Later that year I went to the launch of the ZX81 and met Sinclair for the first time. Over the next few years he became a familiar face.
That modest, clunky ZX81 computer changed everything. Before 1981 was out, the publishing company I worked for started Your Computer magazine which focused on small, low-cost home computers. For the first few issues I was staff reporter on both titles.
The next two years were a wild roller coaster ride. An entire industry emerged and I was in the centre of it.
For me, Sinclair’s most important product was the ZX Spectrum. It was flawed in many ways, but it could do enough to spawn a generation of entrepreneurs and get thousands of young people into computing. I still have one in my attic.
By the time the later Sinclair QL appeared, low-cost computers with decent keyboards and storage were pushing out the minimal, low-cost options Sinclair specialised in
By now Sinclair was Sir Clive. My last brush with his business was the ill-fated C5 battery powered vehicle. It failed and Sinclair faded from sight, later the remnants of his computer business were picked up by Amstrad.
My main memories of Sinclair were his enthusiasm and his ambitions to build devices that anyone, regardless of budget, could afford.