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Sir Clive Sinclair

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WoodchipWilbur

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I never went down the ZX route, instead, BBC Micro.
My start in modern computing was with BBC too. But my real start was "Merlin" - a school-build in 196?3/4. We think it was the first digital "computer" in an English school. Bedford were ahead of us - but theirs was mechanical, using telephone switching gear.
No keys, membrane or wobbly rubber. Just punch tape. You fed in a long strip with a calculation. It replied with a shorter one that said, "ERROR".
And it consumed around 1.5kW. Mostly by the fans we put in to blow away the heat generated by... the other fans!
Happy days.
 

slavedata

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I would argue that Sugar is vastly superior at branding & marketing and employed vastly more capable 'Electronics' engineers who developed his (and their) ideas - notably, Roland Perry - in the UK but naturally getting the product mass produced in the far east - mostly Malaysia.

AMSTRAD is a contraction of Alan Michael Sugar Trading - not Amstrad Trading - and he initially sold various electrical parts including Car Radios & Hi-Fi as well as TV aerials.
Well you choose Sugar I'll choose Sinclair. Intellectually Clive Sinclair made a much greater contribution to the world in my opinion.
 

Geriatrix

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I met Clive Sinclair in 1981 before he was knighted. I was working with an aircraft sales and chartering business at the time and helping out at a sales event at Cranfield Aerodrome. A lady came to our stand and asked if someone could show her boss around an executive aircraft on display. I got the job and her boss turned out to be Clive Sinclair. I forget what type of aircraft it was, but as we were both standing erect in the cabin, I imagine it was an HS-125. One of the few bizjets at the time where that was possible. He was very interested in the aircraft, but I got the impression he was more curious about it rather than being a serious buyer. He seemed to be quite a reticent man but of course I was in awe of him. The event was later overshadowed by a crash on the airfield with four fatalities in a ball of flame. That's what I remember most and I've only recently recalled our meeting. RIP Sir Clive.
 

J-G

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in my opinion
And you are entitled to it :) If you do a little research you see that Amstrad computers sold at least twice as many as Sinclair. This makes me believe that Sugar had a greater influence on the dissemination of Computer knowledge.

Personally I didn't own a ZX (any flavour) and I only used Amstrad 464, 664, 6128, PCW, PC1512 etc. due to selling them. When I bought my own it was the best available at the time - a NASCOM II.
 
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Richard_C

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Good to be reminded of the calculator - I bought one c. 1972 when still a student, I guess in relative terms it cost about the same as a basic laptop today. It was the second Sinclair Calculator, the first was a basic 4 function red LED display, a bit longer but slimmer, deep black, styled a bit like the monolith in the film 2001 which came out in 1968. Cost about £80. In styling terms perhaps it was the Apple of its day. A fellow student worked in a bookies office on Saturdays, was flush with money and bought one. I never knew why - his mental arthmetic was legendary: 2/6 to win at 7:2 ...answer in seconds. I wonder if currency decimalisation in 1971 was the big opportunity for calculators and for Sinclair, we did all the money stuff in 10's, not 12's and 20's after that.

I was on a science course with a fair bit of statistics involved: we could book and hour in the calculator room (a very special place with a few big desktop 4 function 4 memory machines, no printer so you wrote thinsg down), use a clunky mechanical adding machine or use pen, paper and a pale blue book of mathematical tables, logs and so on. That £50 calculator revolutionised all that, and not many months later you could buy cheap equivalents for less than £10.

If you are interested in such things, in Cambridge (off Coldhams Lane, not in the centre) is a museum of computing, lots of it 'hands on'. Worth a visit to bring back memories - or if you are younger, to marvel at how we managed to achieve anything with just 2k of RAM and no internet.


My view of Sinclair/Sugar is that Sinclair was a bit more of a 'blue sky' creative, Sugar was an adaptive creative who could develop existing ideas and market them. Each has their place.

(Someone mentioned Psion programmes, it was Psion Exchange: basic spreadsheet, word processor, charting programme and one or two other things, print module so you could churn out your report on a dot matrix printer - we didn't email pdfs back then)
 

paulrbarnard

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I had a Spectrum 48K. The year I was discharged from National Service.
Spent the whole summer playing pirated games on cassettes .
J, Shift PP. That's how you load a game. :)
I hope those games weren’t any of mine. It would explain why I never made my fortune.
My first Sinclair was the ZX81 built from the kit when they first came out. I had built my own computer before that but quickly switched to the commercial computers and went through pretty much of them.
 
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Doug71

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This brings back so many memories for me, like most I had a ZX81 then a Spectrum. It's not just the computers either, who else had a Kempston Competition Pro joystick with 2 big red buttons followed by a Quickshot Pro which had four suckers to hold it to your desk and an auto fire switch :love:

I downloaded Jet Pac to my 11yr olds Xbox, he did a few levels without losing a life and asked "Is this it or does anything else happen?" 😒
 

flh801978

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It’s well worth watching “micro men” on YouTube a 2006 film about Clive and acorn computers
 

John Brown

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I have no desire to badmouth Clive, but he's always spoken of as an inventor. What did he actually invent? As far as I can remember, he marketed some small things and some cheap things, and some small cheap things. Plus the C5, neither small nor cheap, but pointless. None of these were inventions, were they?
I concur that he probably would have been a nicer person to meet than Mr Sugar, but that's damning with faint praise...

Personally, my first computer experience was the SWTP 6800 system. Controlled by a 32 column green screen serial terminal. 4k bytes of RAM, and later upgraded to 32k for a few hundred pounds. My boss sent me on a two day(IIRC) course at some university in London to learn about programming microprocessors, and I loved it.
Fantastic fun to be somewhere near the vanguard in the micro revolution.
 

Jonm

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I recall buying one of his stereo amplifiers kits in about 1973. I made it exactly to the plans and it hummed terribly, took the power supply out and put it in a separate box and that cured the humm. Used it for about 10 years and it still worked fine. Think I must have thrown it away at some point.

I then bought the scientific calculator which was again in kit form. It used “reverse polish logic”, supposedly the same as Hewlett Packard but actually the Sinclair version was not as user friendly. As I recall the Calculator was not much use, not that accurate and difficult to use.
 

J-G

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It used “reverse polish logic”, supposedly the same as Hewlett Packard but actually the Sinclair version was not as user friendly. As I recall the Calculator was not much use, not that accurate and difficult to use.
It is RPN - Reverse Polish NOTATION - and my recollection is quite different. I remember it being a great boon in solving triangles - saved many hours of pouring over trig tables!
 

Jonm

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It is RPN - Reverse Polish NOTATION - and my recollection is quite different. I remember it being a great boon in solving triangles - saved many hours of pouring over trig tables!
It is a long time ago but I was using it to calculate co-ordinates, so basically triangles. We had main frame computers for the main number crunching but needed “hand“ calculations as well. We had a Hewlett Packard programmable calculator in the office but it was heavily used and often a wait to use it. Accuracy needed was ideally a mm in say 300 metres. My recollection is that the Sinclair calculator was not sufficiently accurate, hence I did not use it very much.

We later had some desk top computers, possibly apricot? They initially had the same problem of accuracy but the computer section did something to them to improve accuracy and then they were ok.

I think it is down to what you are comparing it to, or requiring it to do. It was the Casio fx81 which came out in about 1980 that ticked all the boxes for me. I had one for years until the on off switch became unrepairable.
 

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Accuracy needed was ideally a mm in say 300 metres
That is asking for 6 significant figures - so you are/were not comparing like-for-like.

The Sinclair had only a 4 figure mantissa so the best you would ever get would be 5 figures (It did hold another digit in memory so the last one displayed would be accurate). The HP-35 had 10 significant figures but of course cost nearly 3½ times as much.

My needs at that time were household & model-making so seldom greater than 2m.

It's interesting to realize today's cost equivalents --- Sinclair £566 - HP-35 £1905
 

Jonm

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That is asking for 6 significant figures - so you are/were not comparing like-for-like.
I did say “ideally”. In many case less significant figures would have been ok. I would have looked at the number of significant figures before purchase and looking at a video it appears to be five displayed figures (plus exponent) which would have been been fine, if they were accurate. It is far too long ago for me to remember the details but I never used it for calculations at work because of the accuracy. Wikipedia says “Significant modifications to the algorithms used meant that a chipset intended for a four-function calculator was able to process scientific functions, but at the cost of reduced speed and accuracy. Compared to contemporary scientific calculators, some functions were slow to execute, and others had limited accuracy or gave the wrong answer

Looking on the internet I have found a 1975 advert giving a kit price of £9.95 which is probably what I paid. About £85 in today’s money. Perhaps we are looking at different Sinclair scientific calculators if yours was £556 in today’s money.
 
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