British home computer pioneer, Sir Clive Sinclair, passes away at 81

Clive Sinclair holding a home computer
Image via The Times

Sir Clive Sinclair, famous for the creation of affordable home computers such as the ZX series, has passed away at the age of 81 according to his daughter, Belinda Sinclair who spoke to The Guardian. Sinclair’s daughter said that her dad had been living with cancer for a while, according to a BBC report.

In the 1980s Sinclair managed to launch several home computers including the ZX80, ZX81, and the ZX Spectrum. At the time, personal computers were very expensive but Sinclair managed to sell his machines for around £100, making them something everyone could buy. All of these machines were popular but his later venture, an electric vehicle called Sinclair C5, was a flop and cost him financially. Subsequently, he sold off his computer business to Alan Sugar’s Amstrad.

Commenting on the C5 and its failure to catch on, Belinda Sinclair said:

“I think sometimes he was a bit too early [with his inventions]. He was very good at imagining things that people might like or might need, even though they didn't know they wanted them.”

Before his popular home computers, Clive Sinclair also developed the Sinclair Cambridge Electronic Pocket Calculator. The Sinclair Cambridge was expensive when it was first produced in the early 1970s but by 1975 the price had fallen to £15. According to the Science Museum Group, the calculator did have a serious flaw; after a certain amount of use, the calculator couldn’t be turned off due to oxidation of the cheap components used in the economical product.

While the inventor definitely paved the way for cheaper home computers that we take for granted, he himself never used his products day-to-day. He told interviewers over the years that he doesn’t use a computer nor email and his daughter claims he never carried one of his calculators, opting instead for a slide rule.

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