To anyone who grew up in UK in the 70s and 80s the name Sinclair will bring back fond memories of a tiny microcomputer that was, for a large majority, their first gaming machine. The ZX Spectrum holds a dear place in the hearts of many retro gamers, even those who weren’t alive at the time of its release. With its innovative coloured graphics and easy to program system, it was also a steppingstone into the industry for many now veterans. It’s creator, Clive Sinclair, passed away at the age of 81.
Sir Clive lived an interesting life, from his famous hot temper to his ill-fated marriage to a lap dancer 36 years his junior, and made his fortune thanks to his computer kits and, then, low-cost microcomputers in the late 70s and early 80s.
The huge success of the Spectrum was due to the fact that it was sold, not only as a gaming machine but also as a serious computer for the family. Much like the Commodore 64. It’s low price, (initial) reliability, Sinclair’s promise to replace faulty units and its ease of programming meant that the machine soon became a staple across UK households and that Sir Clive Sinclair could, ostensibly, be called the father of the modern gaming industry.
Game cassettes for the Spectrum were much more affordable for young gamers than their competitors, meaning children could spend their hard-earned pocket money on a game each week without their parents worrying about them spending too much. Also, magazines would publish game code in each issue, many of which were created by individuals who made them in their spare time. There are even games being made for the Spectrum to this day.
Two such creators were the famous Oliver Twins, who created a popular racing game for the microcomputer. The success of the game led them to an illustrious career making more games for the Spekky and other computers, including the Dizzy series.
Sinclair Research ended after Sir Clive’s pet project, the Sinclair C5 (a fully electric “car”) failed to catch on with the public. The idea of driving down busy British roads at the level of car exhaust pipes, with no real protection from other road users or the elements was seen as dangerous and far-fetched by many. Sir Clive’s estimated 100, 000 first year sales only led to 5000 of the machines being sold and the company being put into receivership, then being bought out by Sir Alan Sugar’s Amstrad.