S.I.D. : SPECTRUM IS DEAD
Eccentric inventor and genius Clive Sinclair has sadly died aged 81. Sinclair founded Sinclair Radionics (he had wanted to call the company Electronics but someone else had got there first) in 1958 while still at school, and produced transistors. He experimented with tiny radios (the Micro), before promoting pocket calculators in 1972. By using hearing aid batteries, he could make the Sinclair Executive calculator smaller and cheaper than his rivals. Sinclair was determined to produce an affordable calculator and the Cambridge version came out in 1973. These were a massive success, and made the company highly profitable, which Sinclair then nearly lost entirely by trying to come up with a mini digital watch.
This was a recurring trend of Clive Sinclair’s life – a great success followed by nearly blowing his fortune on a critical flop, but many of those critical flops turned out to be decades ahead of their time. He was promoting basic Portable TV in 1966, long before the technology existed to make them commercially viable!
In 1980, Sinclair entered the home computing market, launching the ZX Spectrum in 1982. This was the biggest success of Clive Sinclair’s career, as he brought home computing into the living rooms, but also basic video games. He continued to experiment with computing throughout the early 80s, making the home computer more and more affordable, and giving chances to early video game designers to test their wares. In 1986, after money issues to be discussed in the next paragraph, Sinclair sold Sinclair Research to Alan Sugar and Amstrad for over £5 million, right before Bill Gates and Apple took over the computing market in the UK. That might have been Clive Sinclair’s best deal.
He had money issues at the time because he had chased a dream: the electric car. Ever since the 1950s, Sinclair had been interested in making an electric vehicle. They launched the C5 in 1985. It has gone down as one of the great sales flops, with the ugly low level cart at danger from normal cars. Sinclair had faced opposition from various lobbies (including cyclists who assumed an electric car would have no motor sound and thus wipe out pedestrians like the Reaper when inspired by Gooseberry Crumble) but there was another key problem to the C5. That being, the technology needed to make a feasible electric car wasn’t invented for another 2 decades!
Being ahead of the pack wasn’t unusual for Sinclair, as archive interviews show periods where he was trying to come up with concepts for things we know now as social media, or how when asked about what computing in the 21st Century would be like, he assumed it would be like, well, Alexa.
Clive Sinclair was a visionary and a marketers dream, but through a mix of being well ahead of his time, and dreaming, did not achieve the success of his American counterparts. However, he fundamentally changed Britain technologically, or set the wheels in motion for others. Without Clive Sinclair, there is no Elon Musk. Hang on, that’s damning with no praise, sorry Clive. In the 1980s, satirists used to mock Sinclair for being obsessed with the climate and trying to lower carbon emissions. He lived long enough to see those jokes date incredibly badly.
Rumours Sir Clive is currently working on a prototype micro electric conductor/phone to connect the afterlife to the living cannot be confirmed…
He was picked by 2 teams: Coffin Fit and Trojan Hearse.
30 July 1940 – 16 September 2021