Clive sinclair

Home computing pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair dies, aged 81

Image credit: pa

Sinclair founded Sinclair Radionics in 1961, but came to greater public attention when he produced the first slimline electronic pocket calculator in 1972, called the Sinclair Executive.

He later moved into computing, and in 1980 launched the UK’s first mass-market home computer for less than £100, the Sinclair ZX80. This was about one fifth the cost of other home computers at the time and sold around 50,000 units. This was later succeeded by the Sinclair Research, the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum.

He was awarded a knighthood in 1983.

Sinclair's company became the first in the world to sell more than a million computers, making the entrepreneur a household name. His computers were also used for early computer games which came on audio tape and later, 3” floppy disks.

On Twitter, Tesla founder Elon Musk called Sinclair the father of the ZX Spectrum: “RIP, Sir Sinclair. I loved that computer,” he added.

Despite his penchant for invention, Sinclair never made use of his own gadgets – he opted to carry a slide-rule instead of his pocket calculator and he would tell interviewers that he used neither a computer nor email.

According to his daughter, Sinclair had been battling cancer for more than a decade but was still working on inventions up until last week “because that was what he loved doing”.

“He was inventive and imaginative and for him it was exciting and an adventure, it was his passion,” she told the BBC.

While Sinclair’s inventions were successful enough for him to receive a knighthood in 1983, the Sinclair C5 electric trike, released in 1985, proved unpopular and was a financial burden on his firm.

The one-person battery-electric recumbent tricycle was intended to be the first in a series of increasingly ambitious electric vehicles, but its unpopularity meant that the C5’s successors never materialised.

Out of 14,000 C5s made, only 5,000 were sold before its manufacturer, Sinclair Vehicles, went into receivership.

Business mogul Lord Sugar, who founded the rival consumer electronics company Amstrad, paid tribute to his “good friend and competitor” on Twitter, writing: “What a guy he kicked started consumer electronics in the UK with his amplifier kits then calculators, watches, mini TV and of course the Sinclair ZX. Not to forget his quirky electric car. R.I.P Friend.”

His daughter told the BBC that he was a devoted grandfather to her three children, who had helped care for him in recent years.

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