Obituary: Sir Clive Sinclair, inventor and home computing pioneer behind the ZX model


Sir Clive Sinclair demonstrates his C5 electric vehicle in 1985

Multimillionaire Sir Clive Sinclair was the UK leader in the microchip revolution.

The maverick entrepreneur has designed an incredibly shrunken world of tiny computers, televisions, and even cars.

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But the shy new tech guru also had some remarkable plans with his vision for the future of the world – a project where robots would carry out our every order.

He was born to George Sinclair and Thora Edith Ella Marles on July 30, 1940 in a middle class London environment. His father was an engineer and designer of machine tools.

Sir Clive attended a succession of schools – Boxgrove Preparatory in Guildford, Highgate, Reading and St George’s College, Weybridge – before leaving formal education at the age of 17.

He became a technical journalist at Practical Wireless, where he wrote specialized manuals. After four years, at the age of 22, he founded his first company, Sinclair Radionics.

He started the business in 1962 in a house in Islington, north London, with just £ 25 borrowed from a friend.

The company made small radio kits and sold them by mail order, the best known being a matchbox-sized product that was the smallest transistor radio in the world.

In 1967, Sir Clive moved his business to Cambridge, where a “club” of self-taught young entrepreneurs with revolutionary business thinking was beginning to form.

Sir Clive pioneered the pocket calculator, earning him the title of “wizard of electronics,” but faced stiff competition from Japan and the United States in rapidly changing consumer markets.

An expansion into digital watches led to problems, but in 1976 the Labor government’s National Enterprise Board (NEB) invested capital to help it complete the development of its first miniature TV.

It was launched as the world’s smallest TV, only having a two-inch screen, but Sir Clive again ran into trouble with a loss of almost £ 2million.

In 1979, ONE saw the future of Sinclair Radionics in the regular business of selling scientific instruments to known markets, but Sir Clive wanted the roller coaster world of consumer electronics and came away with a £ 10,000 golden handshake.

He founded his current company, Sinclair Research, at the start of the computer boom and in 1980 launched the Sinclair ZX 80 personal computer.

It amazed the world. Just a generation ago, computers cost thousands of pounds and took up special rooms. The ZX 80 measured 9 inches x 7 inches x 2 inches and cost just £ 99.95.

Sir Clive then launched the even more powerful ZX 81 in March 1981.

It sold half a million units with a reduced price to less than £ 50 before competition from the US and Japan could catch up.

In April 1982, he launched the ZX Spectrum, the start of a larger and more powerful line of upcoming Sinclair computers.

By 1983, Sinclair had become the first company in the world to sell over a million computers, making it a household name in the Western world.

Sir Clive also made a radical change in television design with a new version of the Sinclair pocket television, using a single flat screen.

He had plenty of other projects going on, the biggest bet being a very manoeuvrable little electric car.

The C5 was a low tricycle, powered by one person. It was a critical and commercial flop, but it has become a cult item for collectors.

In 1983 Sir Clive bought a 200-year-old mansion near Cambridge and offered top salaries to scientific geniuses to set up his own “think tank”.

He owned 95 percent of his business when ten percent of his shares were placed in the city in 1983. The result then assessed his personal value at around £ 130million, making him one of the most successful men. wealthy people of the country.

By the time he separates from his wife, they have three children.

He was knighted in birthday honors in June 1983 after his many accomplishments were praised as examples for British industry.

Sir Clive had many interests. He has served as chairman of British Mensa, the High IQ company, director of the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra and marathon runner, participating in events in London and New York. He was also an accomplished poker player, appearing in the first three series of the Late Night Poker television show and winning the first Celebrity Poker Club spinoff final, beating Keith Allen.

His great passion was poetry – between thinking about many ideas for future products and the social and economic changes he planned to take place in Britain thanks to the growth of new technologies.

Many of the people who worked for him went on to start their own very successful businesses – a process Sir Clive commended.

His vision for the future was that industry in Britain would be based on small innovative groups of people – not large factories – producing “products of the mind”.

It was a vision that Sir Clive sought to establish, one of his ultimate products being a household robot that would perform household chores on command.


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