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 she died at her home in London on Thursday morning after a long illness. Sinclair invented the pocket calculator but he was best known for popularizing the home computer, bringing it to British stores at relatively affordable prices.
Many modern titans of the gaming industry started with one of their ZX models. For a certain generation of gamers, the computer of choice was the ZX Spectrum 48K or its rival, the Commodore 64.
Elon Musk, the head of tesla and SpaceX, commented on an article on Twitter calling Sir Clive the father of the ZX Spectrum: “RIP, Sir Sinclair. I loved that computer. “
Belinda Sinclair, 57, told The Guardian: “She was quite an amazing person. Of course, he was very smart and was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers, so he would be talking engineering with them. “
He dropped out of school at 17 and worked for four years as a technical journalist to raise funds to found Sinclair Radionics.
In the early 1970s, he invented a series of calculators designed to be small and light enough to fit in your pocket at a time when most existing models were the size of an old-fashioned store. “I wanted to make things small and cheap so that people could access them,” said her daughter.
Its first home computer, the ZX80, named after the year it appeared, revolutionized the market, although it was a far cry from current models. At £ 79.95 in kit form and £ 99.95 assembled, it was about a fifth the price of other home computers at the time. It sold 50,000 units, while its successor, the ZX81, which replaced it, cost £ 69.95 and sold 250,000. Many veterans of the gaming industry started writing programs on their touch keyboard and got hooked on games like 3D Monster Maze and Mazogs. The ZX80 and ZX81 made it very rich: In 2010, Sinclair told The Guardian: “In two or three years, we made a profit of £ 14 million in one year.”
Business mogul Lord Sugar paid tribute to his’ good friend and competitor ‘on Twitter, writing:’ What guy he kicked started with consumer electronics in the UK with his amp kits, then calculators, watch mini TV and of course the Sinclair ZX. Without forgetting its peculiar electric car. RIP Friend “.
In 1982, it released the ZX Spectrum 48K. Its rubberized keys, strange shocking visual effects and metallic sound did not prevent it from being instrumental in the development of the British games industry. The most beloved games, now in color, that inspired a generation included Jet Set Willy, Horace Goes Skiing, Chuckie Egg, Saboteur, Knight Lore, and Lords of Midnight.
Sinclair became a household name when his products flew off the shelves and he was awarded the knighthood in 1983. But it would also become synonymous with one of his less successful inventions, the Sinclair C5, which would cost him financially. The C5, a battery-powered electric trike, was launched in January 1985, and Sinclair forecast sales of 100,000 in the first year.
But it failed and Sinclair Vehicles found itself bankrupt in October of the same year. The reviews expressed concerns about the safety of driving a vehicle below the line of sight of other drivers, as well as exposure to the elements. The following year, Sinclair sold his computer business to Amstrad.
The Sinclair TV80, a pocket TV, was another device, like the C5, which was unsuccessful, although people now regularly watch programs on their mobile phones. And while they don’t look like the Sinclair C5, which later acquired cult status, electric vehicles are, of course, today.
Belinda Sinclair said: “It was the ideas, the challenge, that she found exciting. He would come up with an idea and say, ‘It doesn’t make sense to ask if someone loves it, because they can’t imagine it.’
But he did not make personal use of his own inventions. His daughter said that he never had a pocket calculator that she knew about, but instead carried a slide rule with him at all times. And he told interviewers that he didn’t use a computer or email.
Outside of invention, his interests included poetry, marathon running, and poker. He appeared in the first three seasons of the television series Late Night Poker and won the finale of the first season of the spin-off Celebrity Poker Club, defeating Keith Allen.
She is survived by Belinda, her children, Crispin and Bartholomew, 55 and 52 respectively, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.