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AM CS101 Class

That other famous English guy w/ the initials CS

This is a pretty interesting mini-bio on the creator of the Sinclair line of computers (I had one as a wee lad–my very first computer, actually–the Timex Sinclair 10001) which is probably pretty meaningless to you if you aren’t at least my age and also grew up in Europe (which I didn’t):

Clive Sinclair maintains an odd presence in computer history. At his prime, he’s like Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs all rolled up into one person, never missing a chance to bathe in the spotlight yet far more interested in inventions and tinkering than market share and profit margins. In the ’70s and early 1980s, nobody in the European electronics industry was more respected — and reported upon — than he was.

Sinclair got his start producing audio gear in the 1960s and branched out to pocket calculators (1972) and microcomputer kits before kicking off the ZX series of personal computers in 1980. The ZX Spectrum, despite having an abortive and unnoticed launch in America, sold in the millions in Europe — it provided fierce competition for the Commodore 64 and was the 8-bit system that many of today’s game designers and programmers first cut their teeth on. His successes earned Sinclair a knighthood and made him a household name in the UK, but his company was never far from financial ruin and, tiring of having to support a personal-computer business, he sold it to a rival in 1986 and went back to inventing. He’s still at it today, nearing 70 and working on fold-up bicycles and such, although you can’t help but think he’s a little daft when he talks with the press about how he doesn’t handle his own email.

At the height of his public career, in mid-1982, Sinclair gave a speech to the British chapter of Mensa where he discussed his vision of the future. The speech would’ve been perfect as a TED Talk if such a thing existed back then. Reading the article about it (above, from the October ‘82 issue of Sinclair User) is pretty neat just to see how tuned-in and far-out he was, nearly three decades ago:

The key contribution of Sinclair to gaming esoterica was the ZX Spectrum (known as the “Speccy” to aficionados) and was, iirc, the first computer some rather famous names cut their initial programming chops including Dave Perry and the gents that started up Codemasters and Rare, amongst many others.

Thus, in some strained way, that makes Sinclair the godfather of such games as Earthworm Jim, Battletoads/Donkey Kong Country and…uh…whatever it is Codemasters publishes.

1 While I can’t say I ever did much of anything w/ it, it did play a pretty mean game of Frogger (on cassette tape, no less).

  1. 04/14/2010 at 10:07

    It seems to me my father had a Timex Sinclair which could be me at chess. Of course, I’m not very good at chess.

  2. Chi
    04/14/2010 at 10:10

    We had one of these in fourth grade along with the 1500. I have no recollection of what we did with them but I remember them fondly.

    • ECM
      04/14/2010 at 12:12

      I’m straining to recall when my Dad actually bought one of them but, since we’re the same age, it was probably right around then, too.

      I also recall, vaguely, that it didn’t hold anyone’s attention for very long (including me, oddly) and ended up in our dank (literally) basement, sitting on a concrete slab for a decade after that, before just disappearing after I went off to Buff.

  3. Chi
    04/14/2010 at 13:57

    Everyone in my class stopped caring about it when we got an Apple IIe and Oregon Trail.

  4. kog3100_edw
    04/14/2010 at 20:23

    I hold Clive largely responsible for clogging up my issues of RetroGamer with UK computer shit I have no interest in.

    I’m kidding of course.

    But not really.

  1. 04/14/2010 at 10:26

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