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Clive Sinclair (1940–2021), personal computing pioneer

by Linnea Crowther

Clive Sinclair was an English inventor who helped revolutionize the computer industry with his creation of the first home computer available for less than $200.

Consumer electronics

Among Sinclair’s notable early inventions was the first slimline pocket calculator, the Sinclair Executive, in 1972. He would go on to create small versions of other products, including a wristwatch and a pocket television. But Sinclair is best remembered for computers, beginning with the ZX80 in 1980. It was small enough to fit in the user’s hand, and it became an early example of an affordable personal computer, with a price tag under $200. It was followed by the even cheaper ZX81 and then by the 1982 ZX Spectrum. The ZX Spectrum was a hit with video gamers, who coded their own games for the machine that was an early inspiration for the explosion of video gaming as well as the rival of the popular Commodore 64. Later, Sinclair invented a small electric car, the Sinclair C5, which was not well received but was a precursor to today’s electric auto industry.

Sinclair on the ZX80

“People could tap in a few keys and make the display do some strange things. All very exploratory. We had a little printer, and one guy, right at the start, came out with the program that generated hypothetical dinosaurs. It invented their names, and printed out their pictures, and it could go on doing this indefinitely.” —from a 2010 interview for the Guardian


Tributes to Clive Sinclair


Full obituary: CNN

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