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Clive Sinclar

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Michael Gilligan16/09/2021 22:23:23
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He’d come up with an idea and say, ‘There’s no point in asking if someone wants it, because they can’t imagine it.’

End of an era !

MichaelG.

Martin Kyte16/09/2021 22:40:04
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Not quite as good as creating something no-one knew they wanted and then convincing them they cannot live without it. Even I had to give in in the end and buy a mobile phone. It's almost at the stage where you can't even park a car without a mobile to pay the charges.

Seriously if they are giving prizes for firsts Clive must be up with the front runners.

regards Martin

Michael Gilligan16/09/2021 22:49:22
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Sorry … I should have credited the quote

It’s from his Daughter, Belinda … as reported by the Independent

MichaelG.

Ady117/09/2021 01:37:14
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The first thing I ever programmed was one of his pocket calculators with those mad clicky buttons they did back then

A true icon

Rest in Peace

Andrew Johnston17/09/2021 08:15:37
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When I was working in the university engineering labs there was a debate at the 3rd floor coffee breaks as to whether Clive Sinclair was a technical genius but a poor businessman, or vice versa. I'm inclined to the latter, many of his electronics products, including the computers, were designed by Jim Westwood, who was a brilliant designer. But Clive Sinclair saw gaps in the market and exploited them.

I met Clive Sinclair a few times, he matriculated at college in the same year as me. I sat opposite him at a formal dinner and we mingled at other parties. He was doing a PhD in some sort of small business studies, although I don't know if he finished. The obituary in The Telegraph strangely missed out the infamous punch up outside the Baron of Beef pub in Cambridge.

I also knew Jim Westwood, as he was a member of the Cambridge Flying Group at the time I was learning to fly. He had his own aircraft and I flew with him a couple of times, just to go somewhere for a tea and cake.

Andrew

Mike Poole17/09/2021 08:34:01
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I built my scientific calculator from a kit then had to adjust to RPN (reverse Polish notation) for entering the calculation. The trig functions left a bit to be desired. I was one of the first to adopt a calculator in my tech group and the slide rule soon got abandoned. I am sure Thandar were started by Sinclair to produce affordable test instruments. Sir Clive was fortunate that his successes allowed him to indulge in his pet projects that the public didn’t get into at the time. His innovation was outstanding but sometimes let down by the execution and even by the available technology. RIP Sir Clive.

Mike

Nick Passmore17/09/2021 09:22:58
19 forum posts

I met him once. It would have been about 1978. I went with someone to interview him for the student paper. I was taking pictures and failed to sync the shutter to the flash so I ended up with 36 unusable narrow stripes . . .  

I remember his house being pretty grand.

I also lived next door to a man who had been his chief accountant. He told some stories about how the company was run that rather support Andrew's view!

Nick

Edited By Nick Passmore on 17/09/2021 09:23:23

Circlip17/09/2021 09:47:37
1353 forum posts

X 20 amplifiers, Surface Barrier transistors AND "Coming soon, a 2" home build TV set." Now that one took many years, a bent crt and an obscure battery pack ans wasn't home build. Surprised he didn't come up with a genuhine Snake Oil recipe.

Regards Ian.

Mick B117/09/2021 11:09:12
2018 forum posts
116 photos

I first heard of him at Uni in 1969 or thenabouts - a few were trying his Z12 amplifier to put together decent sound systems. Opinions varied, but then surrounding equipment such as decks, cartridges and speakers did too, to the point that fair assessment was effectively impossible.

Didn't really come across him again until '76 - ish when quite a few machine shop workers I knew bought his scientific calculator kits and Black Watches. There were endless issues with missing LED display lines IIRC. I was using an early LCD 4-function calculator and a set of printed trig tables for much better reliability and battery life.

I didn't buy a ZX81, but by '83 had more-or-less forgiven him the calculator kit/Black Watch debacle that had cost colleagues quite a bit of hard-earned, and got a 48k Spectrum. That wasn't without its problems - most especially getting it to load programs from cassette recorders - but started both my (then small) sons on the path to developing careers in software and related industries. Perhaps it was his most successful piece of market-leading.

His Quantum Leap really wasn't, and was soon hugely outgunned by the Apple Mac and the great UI changes it brought about industry-wide.

I think the C5 was the Big Mistake - he seems to've thought he could create and lead demand irrespective of practicalities.

He was certainly clever and energetic, but both his technical and business sides had flaws. Perhaps he needed someone who could've advised him better, but then again, maybe he'd've ignored that anyway.

RIP Sir Clive.

Speedy Builder517/09/2021 12:53:17
2407 forum posts
191 photos

I believe he had an off shoot company called Cambridge Scientific who developed and sold a micro computer £40 , which had a 7 segment display and was programmed in machine code. It had 256 bytes of programmable ROM (seems inconceivably small these days) and ran tri state logic (High, quasi zero and Low) on the 6502 chip ? That was before the Acorns and ZX 80 etc. The attached shows a development model with production units with a membrane keyboard, smaller memory and more compact.

MK14 Micro

Russell Eberhardt17/09/2021 15:03:40
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Anyone else built one of these. A class D amplifier with a claimed 10 W output from the early 1960s. You were lucky to get 2 W out of it and it produced copious amounts of TV and radio inteference:

Sinclair X10

About ten years later I was working on low power circuitry for a portable TV using a special channel plate CRT at the Mullard Research Labs and was given a Sinclair MTV1 television to test. In one word, rubbish!

Sinclair MTV1

However he did do a good job in popularising cheap home computers.

Russell

Edited By Russell Eberhardt on 17/09/2021 15:07:58

Speedy Builder517/09/2021 15:42:41
2407 forum posts
191 photos

EDIT, The Sinclair MK 14 used the nat Semi SC/MP chip (INS 8060).

Boob !!

Mike Poole17/09/2021 15:46:20
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Tracking down Mallory AAA batteries was a bit of a mission as they were still a bit of a specialty for the camera market at the time, with the rapid adoption of calculators the batteries soon became widely available.

Mike

Clive Brown 117/09/2021 16:02:29
706 forum posts
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Posted by Russell Eberhardt on 17/09/2021 15:03:40:

Anyone else built one of these. A class D amplifier with a claimed 10 W output from the early 1960s. You were lucky to get 2 W out of it and it produced copious amounts of TV and radio inteference:

Sinclair X10

I purchased an X10 when they were introduced. The price was about a £fiver. I don't remember it being available as a kit. My main recollection was that the performance was poor with very obvious audio distortion. When it came to the end of its fairly short life it was "dissected" at my workplace. The transistors all proved very much out of spec. Probably manufacturers' rejects. In those days Sinclair clearly built his equipment using the cheapest components that he could source.

Michael Briggs17/09/2021 17:25:05
217 forum posts
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I too built the scientific calculator kit and learned to use rpn input. Rpn is still my preferred choice using a couple of vintage HP calculators.

Built the ZX81 with the memory extension that plugged in the back, it crashed for fun as you typed your code in. The problem was that the connectors were only tinned, so with a little oxidation the contact failed. The official fix was to smear the connector with Vaseline, a bit messy but it did solve the problem.

It was all a bit flaky but it helped stimulate my early interest in electronics.

RIP Sir Clive

LG17/09/2021 17:32:02
14 forum posts
Posted by Speedy Builder5 on 17/09/2021 12:53:17:

I believe he had an off shoot company called Cambridge Scientific who developed and sold a micro computer £40 , which had a 7 segment display and was programmed in machine code. It had 256 bytes of programmable ROM (seems inconceivably small these days) and ran tri state logic (High, quasi zero and Low) on the 6502 chip ? That was before the Acorns and ZX 80 etc. The attached shows a development model with production units with a membrane keyboard, smaller memory and more compact.

MK14 Micro

ISTR that he ran a back-bedroom company " Technical Supplies Ltd." which maybe started his commercial ascent.

They sold cellophane wrapped micro-alloy transistors (bullet shaped goldies with a radial seam about 1/3 rd the way along the metal body) designated MAT101 and MAT102 through corner-shop radio stores.

These were allegedly retested floor-sweepings from Plessey. I spent many shillings and hours failing to get them working. CS wrote a couple of books for Bernard Babani using them for micro radios - I should meanwhile have been swotting for A-levels.

Happy days segueing into Acorn, Nascom computers etc.

Regards, Les

Russell Eberhardt17/09/2021 18:47:08
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Posted by Michael Briggs on 17/09/2021 17:25:05:

Rpn is still my preferred choice using a couple of vintage HP calculators.

My preferred choice as well, no need for brackets. I still use my HP 32s or, if I haven't my calculator at hand, the RealCalc app on my Android phone.

Russell

Mike7617/09/2021 19:57:29
3 forum posts

There was an interesting drama based on Clive Sinclair / Jim Westwood on the BBC around 10 years ago called Micro Men. I thought it was good, although not sure how accurate it was.

Andrew Johnston17/09/2021 21:26:36
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This thread has brought back some memories. I was never seduced by the matchbox radio, digital watch or calculator kits, although a number of my school friends built them, with varying success. The Sinclair approach to QA was to let the customer do it. In the 6th form I had a Sinclair Oxford calculator, which was ok until the LED display failed.

I remember the Acorn Atom and Sinclair MK14, along with a myriad of other offerings. I think Acorn had an office in Market Square in Cambridge while Sinclair had an office nearby in King's Parade. About that time I had a college set in King's Parade, above Campkins Cameras and looking out over college. At this time I bought a Tangerine computer kit as it was more 'professional' in the sense that it had a series of Eurocard boards such as memory and disk controllers which fitted into a 19" rack with a backplane. Tangerine were based in Ely, where I visited when I couldn't get the processor board to work correctly. It turned out to be a duff IC socket. Oddly their chief designer became my manager for a short while some years later when I was working in the mad world of motor racing.

A friend of mine bought the ZX80, ZX81, then a Spectrum and finally the QL. The first three were innovative designs albeit with some faults. If you knocked the memory pack on the back of the Spectrum it momentarily lost power along with anything in the memory. The QL was a disaster, the original manual had most of the pages missing, ie, not yet written. Nobody in their right mind would trust business records to a mini cassette player. It's ironic that Sinclair failed in his bid to go up market with the QL at the same time as Acorn failed to go down market with the Electron. My friend visited the Sinclair "repair centre" to get his ZX81 fixed; it was a man in his shed in a back garden somewhere in Cambridge.

I think Clive Sinclair used to live in the second house in Madingley Road in Cambridge. it's a large house built in a lovely honey coloured stone backing onto college playing fields. It's now offices.

I never had a HP calculator so didn't really get into RPN, although I did have a brief fling with Forth, which is a similar stack based programming language. In my first job after leaving academia we managed to convince some of the secretaries that reverse polish was a technique so advanced that it didn't appear in the Karma Sutra.

The punch up in the Baron of Beef was mentioned in a retrospective in The Telegraph today; the other protagonist was Chris Curry, a founder of ARM. In the late 80s I was a regular drinker in the Baron of Beef as it was round the corner from the above mentioned company. In those days it was a proper spit 'n' sawdust pub.

We used a QL in the above company as it contained a 68000 processor, which was the family I was using in the design of active noise control systems. So the QL allowed the software creator to do basic testing before I'd got the hardware finished.

I watched Micro Men a good while back and really enjoyed it. No doubt there's some exaggeration, but I suspect the story line is basically true. it's really annoying that it never seems to be repeated.

Man, i must be getting old what with all these trips down memory lane. embarrassed

Andrew

Grindstone Cowboy17/09/2021 21:41:24
708 forum posts
58 photos

You can watch Micro Men on YouTube here.

Links to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXBxV6-zamM

The only time I saw a C5 on the road was on a dual carriageway coming out of Preston. Going up an incline, in the rain. The driver did not look happy.

Rob

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