Sir Clive Sinclair Looks Forward

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Category: Famous or Interesting People

Thirty years ago he popularized the personal computer. So why doesn't he do email?

The Observer, February 2010

At the beginning of 1980, Clive Sinclair launched a computer that he hoped would change the world. In the majority of cases it only changed the way people played primitive computer games, but it also turned a bespectacled, prematurely balding man into a hero for our times.

In those dark days before Windows 7 and the iPad, the Sinclair ZX80 represented the pinnacle of affordable domestic computing. It was a flat box without a screen or proper keyboard, it had the memory of a hamster and at the back of it was something that looked like a radiator grille but was actually a strip of plastic designed to look like a radiator grille. It promised it could do "quite literally anything, from playing chess to running a power station", which was good value for something costing £79.95 in kit form and £99.95 assembled, about one fifth of the price of other home computers.

Sir Clive, who was knighted for services to industry at the age of 43, will be 70 later this year. He lives in an apartment overlooking Trafalgar Square, and from his adjacent office he has a magnificent view of tourists and lions (recently he also had a view of people performing on Antony Gormley's fourth plinth, but that "got a bit boring really"). He was a household name before Sir Alan Sugar, and for a while was the unlikely future of modern electronics: a bright, hi-tech uncle rejuvenating British industry blighted by decay, unions and Thatcher.

to read on download the Adobe PDF

Download Adobe PDF reader