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ZX Spectrum designers meet again after 30 years

The ZX Spectrum was a landmark device when it released in 1982. The successor to Sir Clive Sinclair's original ZX81 design, it was meant to follow in the footsteps of what was then the world's best selling computer aimed at the home user.

BBC News observes the ZX Spectrum's position in the world meant it really was less than half of the price of its closest competitor, as well as being more powerful. Prices began at £125 for the basic model, with 16 kilobytes of RAM. Dropping an additional £50 bill into the mix would get you the model with a simply massive 48 kilobytes of RAM.

Perhaps the other reason for the Spectrum's enduring success was its design and usage of Sinclair Basic. The design was sleeker than its competitors, being inspired by the German Bauhaus design language, and yet it managed to be cheaper.

In some ways, the history of the Spectrum is similar to that of Ford's infamous GT40. Both were designed in response to being snubbed by a company with more of a legacy in their respective market: the GT40 was a response to Ferrari's refusal to be sold at the last minute.

The Spectrum came about as a response to Acorn Computers' contract for a tie-in computer with an educational BBC television series beginning in 1982.

When you're snubbed by a company which is bigger than you, sometimes taking the fight right to them can work. Ford's legacy came from being the company that made the everyman's Cortina and yet took on Ferrari at what was historically their proving ground, Le Mans.

Sinclair took the challenge right to Acorn, undercutting their prices considerably. The cheapest BBC Micro device price was £299, so the Spectrum genuinely was less than half of the price. The Spectrum was less powerful than the Commodore 64, that much cannot be denied, but due to the lower price point it outsold its more powerful rival.

Later business decisions resulted in Sinclair Research's computer business being sold to Alan Sugar's Amstrad in 1986. Nonetheless, the Spectrum's legacy endures and it is typically seen as an iconic computer of the 1980s, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Although Sinclair himself was the face of the company, though the original designer, Richard Altwasser, and the industrial designer, Rick Dickinson, are both also responsible for helping create a machine with such a memorable style. The interview is viewable at the BBC website, though unfortunately, Sir Clive Sinclair himself declined to partake in the interview.

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