Personal Tech

RIP Sir Clive Sinclair: British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81

From pocket calculators to ZX Spectrum and beyond

Sir Clive Sinclair died on Thursday at home in London after a long illness, his family said today. He was 81.

The British entrepreneur is perhaps best known for launching the ZX range of cheap microcomputers, which helped bring computing, games, and programming into UK homes in the 1980s, at least.

This included the ZX80, said to be the UK's first mass-market home computer for under £100, the ZX81, and the trusty ZX Spectrum. And then there was the Sinclair QL, which was Sir Clive's big shot at business.

A whole generation grew up in Britain mastering coding on these kinds of systems in their bedrooms, and went on to build games and applications we use today.

Before all that, Sir Clive founded Sinclair Radionics, which produced amplifiers, calculators, and watches, and was a forerunner to his Spectrum-making Sinclair Research. The tech pioneer, who eventually sold his computing biz to Amstrad, was knighted during his computing heyday, in 1983. Sir Clive also took a run at electric vehicles with the C5, and I think we all know how that worked out.

“He was a rather amazing person," his daughter, Belinda Sinclair, 57, told The Guardian this evening. "Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he’d be chatting engineering with them.”

Dominik Diamond, who in the 1990s presented video games program GamesMaster on Brit telly, was among those who paid tribute to Sir Clive today. "Wouldn’t have had a career without this guy," said Diamond.

"All your UK video game companies today were built on the shoulders of giants who made games for the ZX Spectrum. You cannot exaggerate Sir Clive Sinclair’s influence on the world."

Sir Clive is survived by Belinda; his sons, Crispin and Bartholomew, aged 55 and 52 respectively; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. ®

Obituary: Sir Clive Sinclair, the personal computing pioneer who missed out on being Britain's Steve Jobs

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