The Sinclair Story Hardcover – 7 Nov 1985
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The Sinclair Story: very well written and very entertaining. Many wonderful pictures. As an electronics design engineer I can truly appreciate all the shenanigans from the 1960's. Sir Clive Sinclair is a genius whome stands head and shoulders above the rest. The only negative is that some point I will reach the last page of the book.
I really admire the man and like this book, the detail and pics.
Sir Clive, I salute you!
This is the story of Sir Clive Sinclair. It is not the full story as it ends Sept 1985 just before Sinclair sold out to Amstrad in April 1986. So everything after 1985 is not covered here.
We learn about how circumstances forced him to attend several schools growing up. His education ended after A Levels. He worked for Practical Wireless, wrote books for Bernard Bambini publishing, and started his own company selling kits based upon designs like those he published previously.
We learn about he bought rejected components on mass and tested them himself to source a cheap supply of components for his projects which later caused products to be canned early when they ran out.
We learn about how the kits for radios, followed on into Amplifiers, and later on into Pocket Televisions, Calculators, Instruments such as digital multimeters, The famous Black Watch, and ultimately microcomputers.
Some of these projects just swallowed up resources such as the TV, QL and C5 which never truly rewarded what was invested in them. For Sir Clive success of one product only meant his ability to be able to continue research of another. His market research consisted of inventing stuff he just assumed people would want not actually going out and doing surveys etc.
The Tv’s were eventually made by Binatone (Sinclair Radionics). The Instruments I believe still continue through the name of the company has changed and has nothing to do with Sinclair now. There is quite a lot of info about the QL – about having to send it out with a 16K EPROM Cartridge because the 48K of ROM could not be fitted into 2 x 16K ROM’s. And quite a lot about the development of the C5 which was meant to be only the beginning.
Miniaturisation seems to be the key in Sinclair’s Projects. Making things as small as they can possibly be. And usually smaller than they should be in terms of Quality Control and over hearting components all crammed too tightly together in the case of his HIFI kits.
Also style, he thought little of Acorn’s idea of the brick like design of the “BBC Microcomputer” for example. It is a pity he didn’t have the Spectrum to offer the BBC at the time instead of the ZX80 and ZX81 prototype.
He is a true entrepreneur, if you fail, try try try again. Out of the ashes of Sinclair Radionics, came Sinclair Research which gave us the ZX80, ZX81, ZX Spectrum, QL, C5. Microdrives, ZX Spectrum 128 etc. etc.
The book contains lots of interesting Sinclair Adverts and photos. You may need a magnifying glass to read all of the details. Pity they are all in Black & White.
You might want to check out a Horizon documentary called the Autonomy of an Inventor from around 1989 which continues the story 4 years on after this book ended.
And then of course there was the Micro Men drama from a few years back which showed the battle between Chris Curry of Acorn and Sir Clive Sinclair. (which also seems to end around the time of this book) which at least reminded people or let them know for the first time that the IBM PC CLONE wasn’t always the only real option.
After 1985 from Amstrad we get CPC like Spectrums in the form of the +2 and +3 where we get a Spectrum 128 with a tape deck and a disk drive slapped on the side. And there was also an IBM PC clone in an Amiga/ST like case which seemed to vanish as soon as it appeared around 1988. No innovation here. Sinclair as a brand was dead really at this point.
Sir Clive continued with new projects such as the Z88, and his work on bikes. And various other projects you can learn about on Wikipedia.
Recently, he has been linked to the ZX Vega a retro project which brings us a plug n play spectrum with built in games and SD slot in order to upload more.
Sinclair had it issues with Quality control and management but it amazes me how it’s Sir Alan Sugar we see on the apprentice and not Sir Clive. Sir Alan’s idea of a computer was it’s just a box of electronics. Amstrads quality control was no better than Sinclair. Cheap Shoddy Crap in most cases. Which I have witnessed personally unfortunately. I believe Sir Alan’s own adventures in IBM PC CLONE land came to an end when he got a load of dodgy hard drives.
It is not mentioned in the book but Amstrad’s cheapo all in one Z80 word processing based system with green monitor and printer and his IBM PC Clones would have been the serious competition for Sinclair’s QL which couldn’t compete since it didn’t come with monitor or printer.
I have used and still have a ZX81 and ZX Spectrums. I missed out on a 16K Ram Pack which rather limited what I could do with the ZX81. The Spectrum had its limitations but what it had was sure bulk and quantity of cheap software. Probably more than any system. Long as you didn’t knacker it with a Joystick Interface falling out the back which I think was the most common source of breakdown in those pre-USB days.
The book makes one error saying the Spectrum was the most popular microcomputer ever which is wrong, the Commodore 64 is, but then it was written in 1985, which for the Commodore was not the end of the story, which didn’t end for another decade. The Book states somewhere that Sinclair had a 40% share and Commodore 64 30% around 1984.
For those who grew up in the 80’s this is a very interesting book. If you can find a copy which doesn’t require a mortgage sized loan to buy.
In many I.T books you will read that Apple invented the home computer. Yet, it is people like Sir Clive Sinclair and Jack Tremial of Commodore, supplying computers for the masses not the classes who really brought the I.T age into the home of everyman.
There was another book written about Sir Clive Sinclair which I would not recommend since it is little more than a character assassination job.
Some of the stuff is very interesting now. Talk of 50 Inch TV’s which are now common place. While Sir Clive was trying to do a 2 Inch TV.
It also wonders into “fifth generation” computer talk – some of which may be recognisable now as the voice assisted tools we get on Windows 10 and the Iphone etc. but here is being talked about at a pipe dream level.
Sir Clive Sinclair. Genius. Living Legend.