It was reported yesterday that famed technology inventor, Sir Clive Sinclair had died at the age of 81 from cancer. Depending on where you live in the world, that name may or may not have some significance. For U.K based gamers who grew up in the 1980’s, Sinclair home computers may well have been your first experience of video games at home.
Sir Clive Sinclair had a long and varied career in technology. His first notable success was the Sinclair Executive, a pocket calculator released in 1972 – the first at an affordable price. He is also famed for some of his more adventurous (or unsuccessful) inventions such as the Sinclair C5, a small electrical vehicle that struggled with consumers (and hills).
A legend in gaming
It was in the world of home computing though that Sir Clive Sinclair really cemented his reputation and made such a huge impression in the gaming world. Sinclair released the ZX80 in 1980, a small computer that cost less than £100. The follow up ZX81 and its more well-known sibling, the ZX Spectrum have become iconic gaming machines.
The ZX Spectrum, and its subsequent revisions, kept the software flowing from 1982 through to 1992. While early models had some drawbacks for gamers, such as a lack of joystick ports and graphics better suited to text display, it developed an enthusiastic development community. The hardware limitations kept the devs creative and innovative. The Sinclair range of home computers is credited with really driving the UK computer industry in the 1980’s.
The British console alternative
The most important thing to note was cost and design. The machines looked good but were affordable. In fact, so affordable that the Sinclair range (and its rivals with Commodore, BBC Micro and Amstrad range) largely kept the console market at bay in the UK until the 1990’s. While the rivalry between Sega and Nintendo was booming in Japan and the U.S, most UK households were more likely to have a Sinclair attached to the television. Compared to the console world, they provided a huge library of games at a fraction of the cost.
This particular author never had a Sinclair (BBC Micro here) but several cousins did and a lot of time was spent loading cassettes and mashing the rubber keys of the ZX Spectrum in joy and frustration. Ah memories!
RIP Sir Clive
Ultimately, the Sinclair range ran into financial issues after the disastrous C5 and the brand was sold to Amstrad but the legacy of Sir Clive and his range of affordable machines is still felt today. There is a lot of love for the work of Sir Clive Sinclair and even now, the Sinclair scene is still strong with lots of Youtubers and Homebrewers keeping the legacy alive. RIP Sir Clive Sinclair – we here at Any Button Gaming salute you.
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Rudy Manchego has been gaming since the days of the BBC Micro Computer and spreads himself thin with a love of retro, indie and mainstream gaming. He’s one half of the Jambags Comedy Gaming podcast and likes nothing better than kicking back with a nice pot of lapsang souchong, a good game and a background podcast on the intricacies of Spanish cheese making.