Sinclair (1973)


Clive Sinclair way back in the 1960’s

Clive Marles Sinclair was born in Surrey on July 30th 1940; both his father and grandfather were engineers. Clive loved swimming and boating and at an early age with the help of his grandfather he designed a submarine. Holidays for Clive were time when he could pursue his own ideas and teach himself what he really wanted to know. Clive went to Box Grove School, and when he was ten the school reported that it could no teach him any more mathematics, so he moved to the second phase of his education.

After this his father suffered a financial setback and he had to start from scratch, still in machine tools. Since the Sinclair family had no finances Clive went to different schools for his secondary education. In 1955 he took his O-levels at High-gate School, and A-levels in physics, Pure applied mathematics at St.George’s College, Weybridge. Clive as a teenager, he also discovered the world of electronics. He was always been fascinated in this area and he carried this interest in electronic designs. His family used to tell him that his bedroom is a mass of wires, but from that bedroom came out amplifiers and radios for his family and friends.

He also built his first Counting Machine using 0’s and 1’s to count, but he was very disappointed when he discovered that it was already invented. At school he worked, hard especially on subjects he liked. While still at school he wrote his first article for Practical Wireless. Just before 18, he left school, and decided not to go at university, because he knew from experience that what he wanted to learn he could find out for himself. His first work was an editorial assistant at Practical Wireless. After a few months, his two superiors failed briefly, one due to illness, and the other had not been up to the responsibility. Therefore, at the age of 18 Clive became the chief of Practical Wireless. The job for Clive was very easy because there were many coworkers and reader forwarding, so he had only to select the most important material and give them an editorial polish. This had to be done ones a week, which left much time for his designs and circuit drafts. However, after a while he was bored, his target was to open a company and in August 1958, he left Practical Wireless to join Bernard Babani Company.

Sinclair Headquarters at Cambridge. The building is still there and not in use.

An Advert of Sinclair’s Mini Amplifier

On 25 July 1961, Clive Sinclair registered his company named Sinclair Radionics Ltd, but to achieve what he wanted he needed another job and joined

for a year United Trade Press as a technical editor of the journal Instrument Practice. As a journalist, he could approach all the semiconductor manufacturers, which was very important for him. In 1962, he published a half page advertisement that appeared in the hobby magazines of November 1962. This advert was for Sinclair Micro amplifier, the smallest of its type in the world. Although his office was at Gough Square, the address of the advert was 69 Histon Road Cambridge. This was because he became involved in the development of Cambridge Consultants Ltd, which was founded in 1960 by Tim Eiloart, and eventually Clive met him when Sinclair Radionics was formed. Clive wanted an organization to receive his mail, assemble sets of components into kits, and dispatch them. With the success of the micro amplifier and adverts, other products followed in the coming years.

In the 70’s, it was the era of computer technology. Clive Sinclair was very fascinated by these machines, and decided to venture in this field. Since computers were very expensive at that time, he wanted to produce computers at lower prices. On January 1980, he introduced the ZX80 the world smallest and cheapest computer. It was sold for $140 as a ready-made device or $115 as a kit.

ZX 80 Fully assembled and original Box

The largest cost savings was obtained by the use of a television set and a cassette recorder as storage devices. Clive Sinclair was convinced that people could buy the ZX80 but the problem was how to convince them. The image of a computer was big rooms filled with reel tapes and air-condition units to cool the machine, so how could people relate such a piece of equipment to the ZX80? Although all these worries the ZX80 was a great success, and on the first 6 months, 20000 machines had already been sold. The successor of the ZX80 was the ZX81 and was launched on March 1981. The ZX81 had a new chip designed by Sinclair Research and manufactured by Ferranti. With this new chip, it replaced 18 Chips in the ZX80 and the price went down to $108 for assembled models or $78 as a Kit. Unlike the ZX80, the ZX81 had a floating decimal point and specific functions. It came in a black case and used a colour TV. It was an improvement on the ZX80. Sinclair also announced that the company would launch a printer for this device later in the year. Among the printer which was sold for $70 Sinclair released Rom packs for $20. Now with an improved machine, Sinclair decided to fight back at the government’s scheme by offering a half price deal. Schools could buy a package of the ZX81 with Rom Pack for $90 and he promised that they will be able to buy the printer half price. With this offer, 2300 schools from England benefited from that scheme. At this stage, Sinclair decided to exporting computers to USA, which eventually sold 15,000 computers per month by mail order, and in Japan. In 1982, Sinclair sold 300,000 ZX81’s and 50,000 ZX80’s.

ZX Spectrum Codenamed ZX82

On April 1982, they launched the ZX spectrum codename ZX82. The hardware was designed by Richard Altwasser, who later formed his own company. There were two versions of the ZX Spectrum the 16K and the 48K Ram. The machine could produce colour images, Sound, high-resolution graphics and a more advanced basic. Clive Sinclair was very disappointed that the ZX Spectrum was used almost and exclusively for playing. Regard this the ZX spectrum was sold over 30 Countries and in England on Easter 1983 they sold more than 15000 units per week.

On the same year, Sinclair released another machine the ZX 128K this computer was designed more for programmers although you can run previous games of the ZX spectrum. The final Machine which was designed under Sir Clive Sinclair was, the Quantum Leap Computer or QL released in 1984. Despite its superiority on other machines it’s main killing factor was that it uses microdrive cartridges as a medium. This was done primary so Sinclair could control the software production and mainly that no games will be produced for it.

The Sinclair QL launched in 1984. It was the last machine released under Sir. Clive Sinclair

Sinclair stopped producing computers in 1986. This happened because other companies start to produce powerful computers for business companies like for example Apple and IBM computers and the QL was a complete failure. Due to this, Clive Sinclair had to sell the ZX Computers Rights to Amstrad and later that year they released the Spectrum +2, which was a modified version of the ZX 128K.

The ZX Spectrum +2 released under the Amstrad administration.

The company has continued to exist, in a different form, in 1992 Sinclair released the ZIKE electric bike was released with only 2,000 units sold and followed the same path of the C5, a complete failure. The worse years were between 1993 till 1995 as Sinclair made continuing losses on decreasing turnover. Worried investors thought that Clive himself was using his own personal wealth to finance the company. By 1990 the only staff employed was  Sinclair himself, a salesman/administrator, and an R&D employee, and by end of 1997 only Sinclair.

Other projects where released under Sinclair but are beyond the scope of this page. The company still exist, and is mainly maintained by Sir Clive Sinclair himself.