RIP Sir Clive Sinclair
An Inspiration To A Generation Of Programmers
Sir Clive Sinclair was a pioneer in the early age of personal computing, starting Sinclair Radionics in the 1960s after leaving a career in tech journalism. He started out small, designing transistor radios, Hi-Fi components, and even an early LED digital watch, eventually branching out into small TVs and even an in ear FM radio.
While those designs were impressive, it was his idea to use of button cell batteries to power a new calculator which allowed it to be both smaller and less expensive than the ones currently on the market. He also found a way to reprogram an existing chip used in basic calculators to be able to solve more advanced calculations, which lead to the first truly affordable scientific calculator.
He then leveraged that know how to design the systems which truly made him famous, the ZX80 home computer, which sold in the UK for under £100, the first truly affordable mass-market home computer for under £100. He followed that with the ZX81, and finally the world renowned ZX Spectrum.
While his company was sold to Amstrad in the 80’s after his computers were overshadowed by other competitors, he never stopped inventing things. He designed both an electric car and electric bike in the late 80’s and early 90’s but both were too soon for their time and never really succeeded commercially. Hackaday goes into a bit more detail about those, and other designs Sir Clive Sinclair came up with right here.
Sinclair’s first career in the 1950s was as a technical journalist and writer, before founding the electronics company Sinclair Radionics in the 1960s. His output in those early years was a mixture of miniature transistor radios and Hi-Fi components, setting the tone for decades of further tiny devices including an early LED digital watch
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I’ve mention this in the comments before, but a BBC film called Micro Men is well worth watching. Look it up on YouTube.
I remember my uncle giving me a brand spanking new Timex Sinclair 1000 for my 11th birthday. They were in high demand at release around those parts back then so I was doubly amazed that he managed to get his hands on one. Probably the best birthday gift I ever got.