Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born near Richmond upon Thames, Sinclair was fascinated from his teenage years by electronics. In 1961 he started his own company, Sinclair Radionics Ltd, after spending several years as assistant editor for Practical Wireless and Instrument Practice.
Sinclair Radionics moved to Cambridge in 1967. Their most successful products were the Sinclair Microvision, a miniature television set launched in 1966 and the world's first slimline electronic pocket calculator, the Sinclair Executive, introduced in August, 1972. In 1975, Sinclair's Black Watch - a poorly designed digital watch - proved a commercial disaster, forcing the company to accept state funding and management through the National Enterprise Board. This did not prove a happy experience for Sinclair, who set up a "rival" company, Science of Cambridge, over which he had exclusive control. He left Sinclair Radionics in 1979. The company was subsequently renamed Sinclair Electronics and thereafter rechristened Thandar; it continues in existence to this day, as Thurlby Thandar Instruments.
Science of Cambridge achieved a milestone in 1978 with the launch of the MK 14 (Microcomputer Kit 14), a tiny hobbyist's computer with a 256 byte memory and calculator style display. Its success convinced Sinclair that there was a potentially lucrative home computer market waiting to be tapped and in 1980 he founded Sinclair Computers, which was renamed to well-known Sinclair Research in 1981.
Through this company, he came to widespread public attention in the early 1980s, first with the ZX80, the world's smallest and cheapest home computer at the time of launch (January 1980). This successful design, based on the Zilog Z80 microprocessor, was followed in March 1981 by the ZX81, and in April 1982 by the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, a cheap home computer. Both were phenomenally successful, selling millions of units. In 1984, Sinclair unveiled the Sinclair QL computer, based on a 32-bit Motorola 68008 microprocessor. The QL was aimed at the business market but was not nearly as successful as the earlier computers, selling around 100,000 units. It did have one wholly unexpected influence on today's computer industry: Linus Torvalds, of Linux fame, learned advanced programming on an imported QL.
Following several years of development, Sinclair surprised the world in 1985 with the launch of the Sinclair C5, a three-wheeled electric vehicle. A financial disaster, it forced Sinclair Research to sell its microcomputer division and brand name to Amstrad.
Sinclair Research subsequently became a "holding company" for Sir Clive's development projects. The company continued to work on a variety of products, including electric vehicles, computer memory technology and satellite receivers. In 1988, under the name of Cambridge Computer, Sinclair launched a portable computer, the Z88. This was an A4-sized microcomputer again based on the Z80, featuring built-in applications, a full-sized rubber-key keyboard, and an 80-column multi-line contrast-adjustable LCD.
Sinclair produced a variety of electric vehicles between 1992 and the present, with varying degrees of commercial success. These included the Zeta range of electric propulsion units for ordinary pedal bicycles (1992-2000), the Zike electric bicycle (1994), the SeaScooter underwater propulsion unit (2002) and the Wheelchair Drive Unit (also 2002) - the latter two marketed through US-based companies.
- Planet Sinclair on Sinclair and his companies
- BBC article on Clive Sinclair, including "secret plans for another pioneering new personal transporter"
- Sinclair Computers
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