Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Y'know, other stuff, Sinclair related.
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Alessandro
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Alessandro » Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am

Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:55 am
Also he may have made a prediction, but that isn't a huge contribution, especially as it was an obvious extrapolation of Moore's Law that has been made by very many people. I predict that one day there will be more EVs on the road than internal combustion engine vehicles, one day the majority of computing will be done in the cloud, one day quantum computing will be widespread. If any of those turn out to be true, I'm happy to come back to collect any applause/prizes/knighthoods. ;)
I don't think this is a fair comparison. Electric vehicles, cloud computing and quantum computers have been around for years by now, are available to the general public (yes, even quantum computers if we take the IBM Q Experience into account), and from what the trends seem to be nowadays, it can be predicted with a good margin of success that in about 10 years or even less they will be prevalent. Nothing of this could be said of solid state data storage in 1987. In addition to that, Sinclair received his knighthood for industrial merits (at least that's what the Italian press reported at the time), not for his reflections on the future.
Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:55 am
Yes, 30 years on, still nothing has happened!
I would not dismiss a recent, well-documented research as "nothing". Moreover, Sinclair would not be the only one to have envisioned technological advancements unfeasible at the time they were imagined. Leonardo da Vinci designed machines that could not be made into real items with 15th century technology, and it took four or five centuries to do that. Even the 3-inches mini-TV was not so far-fetched as an idea as it might seem, considering that nowadays people watch videos and TV live broadcast on their cell phones, which screens are often not so much larger. Of course they have LCD/LED screens, but in 1978 LCD technology did not allow for such an employ, and it was not as clear as today that such smaller cathode ray tubes would not yield enough image quality to justify their cost to the final user. Pretty much the same could be said for the C5, although it was a much braver attempt at a new product than the mini-TV. A much simpler, down-to-earth electric bike would arguably have been a good deal more successful than it was.
Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:55 am
I think this contradictory. Small enterprises and professionals are not the same as consumers. The QL was meant as a business computer, not a consumer one.
I believe you are mistakenly assuming an equivalence between "consumer goods" and "lower end of the market". In marketing science and socioeconomics, professionals and small entrepreneurs are consumers as well as everyone else. A consumer product is any product that an individual purchases on the market to satisfy a certain need. A QL and a Spectrum were consumer goods exactly in the same terms as, say, a Pentax 645Z and a Canon EOS 1300D are. They basically do the same things but are aimed at different segments of the market, i.e. consumers with different needs.

Apart from this, I also believe the whole picture remains unknown to us. At the cost of repeating myself, I'll say it again: my perception is that, with a lesser ego and a more cautious, gradual approach into researching new technologies, Sinclair would have produced more goods and establish a solid brand, avoiding the rapid downfall we all know about. Ultimately however, in the great game of globalized markets, he would have been swallowed by a bigger fish. He simply would have been unable to compete with the large corporations of today.
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Rorthron » Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:17 am

Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
I don't think this is a fair comparison. Electric vehicles, cloud computing and quantum computers have been around for years by now... . Nothing of this could be said of solid state data storage in 1987.
I think it's an entirely fair comparison. Solid-state storage technologies have existed since the 1960s. Moore's Law was first formulated in 1965.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
In addition to that, Sinclair received his knighthood for industrial merits... not for his reflections on the future.
I know. I never suggested otherwise.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
I would not dismiss a recent, well-documented research as "nothing".
You're right. It's not "nothing". But after 30 years, we have... a paper. It's a paltry return.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
Moreover, Sinclair would not be the only one to have envisioned technological advancements unfeasible at the time they were imagined. Leonardo da Vinci designed machines that could not be made into real items with 15th century technology, and it took four or five centuries to do that.
He wasn't the first to speculate on these advances (or even close to the first), and he didn't contribute directly to their realisation. This isn't in my view a very good argument for his greatness. I actually think you are underselling his impact on the industry!
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
I believe you are mistakenly assuming an equivalence between "consumer goods" and "low end of the market".
I really don't think I am. The distinction between consumer, SME, enterprise is subjective, but pretty well established in the technology industry. I believe the QL was generally portrayed as a "business" computer. See The Register's excellent article, which states, for example, it was originally intended for sale to ICL:

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.ther ... nclair_ql/
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
Apart from this, I also believe the whole picture remains unknown to us.
Agreed!
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Pegaz » Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:26 am

Sinclair has his place in computer history, no doubt.
I dont know him personally and cant judge him as a person.
One thing is certain, I've always been a Spectrum fan, but that doesnt mean I have to be Klive Sinclair fan, too.
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Alessandro » Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:08 pm

Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:17 am
I think it's an entirely fair comparison. Solid-state storage technologies have existed since the 1960s. Moore's Law was first formulated in 1965.
I think not. Again, you are comparing technology available to today's average user to something that was maybe conceived, yet unavailable in 1987.
Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:17 am
I know. I never suggested otherwise.
To be honest your answer suggested otherwise to me ("If any of those turn out to be true" etc.).
Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 11:17 am
You're right. It's not "nothing". But after 30 years, we have... a paper. It's a paltry return.
Again, I wouldn't call a "paltry return" a single example of a general rise of interest in a technology, which could be (I guess it in my ignorance) much more at hand now than it was 30 years ago. But to quote Keynes, "in the long run we are all dead" :twisted:
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
He wasn't the first to speculate on these advances (or even close to the first)
I am not stating Sinclair was a genius or a hero or anyhing like that, but the way you depict him, I get the impression that you make him look like a buffoon incapable of doing anything but exploiting other people's ideas and efforts and produce outlandish statements, which seems unfair (to put it mildly) to me.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
, and he didn't contribute directly to their realisation.
The C5, mini-TV etc. didn't come out of thin air. He did contribute directly to them, at least unless you consider "direct" contribution putting pieces together. Yes they were either perceived too expensive for the consumer target they were aimed at (the mini-TV) or affected by design faults (the electric tricycle), but he was the driving force behind all of this. He didn't just sit on a couch watching technicians and designers do their work.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
This isn't in my view a very good argument for his greatness. I actually think you are underselling his impact on the industry!
Again, I am not stating Sinclair was "great". And I am not underselling anything. I even remembered that he was knighted for industrial merits! If that's not a recognition of an impact, I don't know what else could it be.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
I really don't think I am. The distinction between consumer, SME, enterprise is subjective, but pretty well established in the technology industry. I believe the QL was generally portrayed as a "business" computer.
What you call "subjective" is well established in socieconomics and marketing science. "Business", "consumer" etc. are labels meant to classify individuals according to their specific needs (real or not). Please have a look at this essay for a better insight on the meaning of "consumer goods". And everyone could walk into a shop and purchase a QL if they wanted to.
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Rorthron » Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:31 pm

Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:08 pm
Again, you are comparing technology available to today's average user to something that was maybe conceived, yet unavailable in 1987.
I am afraid I don't understand your point here. What are you referring to?
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:08 pm
I get the impression that you make him look like a buffoon incapable of doing anything but exploiting other people's ideas and efforts and produce outlandish statements, which seems unfair (to put it mildly) to me.
That is very clearly not at all what I have said. My statements have been anything but "outlandish", and your accusation is quite unreasonable and unnecessary.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:08 pm
The C5, mini-TV etc. didn't come out of thin air. He did contribute directly to them, at least unless you consider "direct" contribution putting pieces together. Yes they were either perceived too expensive for the consumer target they were aimed at (the mini-TV) or affected by design faults (the electric tricycle), but he was the driving force behind all of this. He didn't just sit on a couch watching technicians and designers do their work.
My statement was not about the C5, portable TV, etc. It was about SSDs, which Clive Sinclair did not directly contribute to.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:08 pm
I even remembered that he was knighted for industrial merits! If that's not a recognition of an impact, I don't know what else could it be.
I really don't think knighthoods settle anything very much.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:14 am
What you call "subjective" is well established in socieconomics and marketing science. "Business", "consumer" etc. are labels meant to classify individuals according to their specific needs (real or not). Please have a look at this essay for a better insight on the meaning of "consumer goods". And everyone could walk into a shop and purchase a QL if they wanted to.
What I am calling "subjective" is something that is subjective. You are quite wrong if you are saying such terms are objective.
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Alessandro » Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:09 pm

Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:31 pm
am afraid I don't understand your point here. What are you referring to?
All right, I will try to explain myself better.

Electric cars have been available on the market for at least a decade, although only in the last few years.
Cloud computing has been widespreadly available since about the same time.
Quantum computing is still at an experimental level but it is publicly accessible, although in a limited way.

Now, let's take a time machine and go back to 1987.
Is solid state data storage an existing technology? Yes but still at an experimental stage.
Can I enter a shop and buy a solid state drive, or a PC equipped with such a device? No.
Is the IT industry actively promoting it? Very little, the marketable current technology is by and far the conventional hard disk with heads, cylinders etc.

Let's go back to the present time. What I didn't get was your comparison between the situation nowadays, when the technology you mentioned is not only already available to the public, but actively marketed (with the exception of quantum computers), and the time when Sinclair made those reflections, when solid state technology was nowhere near as accessible, neither anyone except Sinclair and maybe a few others (I suppose) would believe it would have been the way to go for the industry. Perhaps, were you trying to say Sinclair's reflections were so trivial anyone else could have made them? If that's the case, I don't think so.
Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:31 pm
That is very clearly not at all what I have said. My statements have been anything but "outlandish", and your accusation is quite unreasonable and unnecessary.
I understand I did not express myself clearly. I didn't accuse you to produce outlandish statements, far from it! If I believed that, I would not have taken the time and patience to answer you. I was referring to how I perceived your unfair (in my opinion) portrait of Sinclair. I got the impression that you depicted Sinclair as a buffoon etc. who produced outlandish statements (again, not you). Freakin' language barrier... :x
(Probably I exaggerated in assuming you consider Sinclair like that anyway.)
Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:31 pm
I really don't think knighthoods settle anything very much.
Again, it seems I was not clear enough. I just said that I am not downplaying Sinclair's contribute to the industry. Quite the opposite in fact, as I stated in my previous posts. The knighthood reference was only meant to emphasize this.
Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 12:31 pm
What I am calling "subjective" is something that is subjective. You are quite wrong if you are saying such terms are objective.
It would be quite wrong to believe a classification operated in a certain field of knowledge (socioeconomics) on an objective basis (the fact that different groups of people have different needs) to be subjective. What I am trying to say is that, in purely socioeconomic terms, a product branded as "business" is a consumer good as well as another one branded as a "consumer" one. The technology behind them would be different, but to the marketing department it's just a matter of labeling products according to the primary marketing target.

What is subjective is the single individual's perception instead. The QL itself is an example of this. It was, at least to my knowledge, more successful among computing enthusiasts than businessmen, who were already looking at IBM or Macintosh systems for their needs despite the huge, and much stressed by advertising at the time, difference in price. Anyway, I reckon myself I am way off topic :geek:
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by 1024MAK » Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:33 pm

The QL was aimed at non-gaming computing in the home ("so called professional use"), in offices at home, and in small businesses. I think Sinclair would have hoped that some bigger businesses would have used it as well.

So yes, it clearly at least partly fits in as a consumer item. In the same way that people equipping home offices and small businesses go to retail outlets or online suppliers (that sell to the public) to buy their equipment and supplies.

Sinclair was not the first to go after this market, but the QL was the first (outside Japan) to use a Motorola 68k CPU in this market.

There are numerous reasons why the QL sales were not great. Basically it was not what the market wanted.
  • The microdrives on the QL were in fact far more reliable than on the ZX Spectrum. At the time that Clive came up with the idea (prior to the launch of the ZX Spectrum) they were a promising technology that could span the gap between (cheap) audio compact cassette tape and (expensive) floppy disk drives. But the cost of FDD had been and were still were falling by the time the of the planned QL launch date. So the portrayal of some of the poor performance of microdrives on ZX Spectrums meant that reviewers of the QL started off biased against microdrives.
  • The keyboard needed to be better for an everyday professional computer.
  • The video from the QL needed a special monitor.
  • Non-standard ports and connectors
So, to sum up, the QL may have sold a lot more if it had a single floppy drive built in (a 3" or 3.5" would have been ideal, but a 5.25" would have worked as well), had a much better keyboard, had a standard video output signal, had a standard RS232 port and a Centronics compatible printer port. The cartridge port should have been dropped. And why two joystick ports on a professional computer?

The OS and SuperBASIC are really good. Add a replacement keyboard and a FDD system and it's a great computer :D

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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by 1024MAK » Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:36 pm

Prototype electric cars have been around for over 50 years... The problem was always the battery technology. In the U.K. the electric milk floats were so successful and so reliable that many are still in daily use.

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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Rorthron » Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:47 pm

Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:09 pm
All right, I will try to explain myself better.
I understand your point now. Personally, though, t
I think that your account portrays 1987 solid-state storage and 2018 quantum computing as in similar states. And even with respect to the other technologies, I think there were solutions available and an evident rate of improvement that could be extrapolated. But we should probably agree to disagree. I'm not sure this point makes a big difference to either of our views.
Alessandro wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:09 pm
I didn't accuse you to produce outlandish statements, far from it!
I'm sorry I misunderstood you. Sorry also for accusing you of something you didn't do.
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Alessandro » Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:06 pm

Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:47 pm
I'm sorry I misunderstood you. Sorry also for accusing you of something you didn't do.
No problem, really. Unfortunately misunderstandings occur when one tries to express his/her own thoughts in his/her mother tongue, let alone when the same person, as in my case, is trying to do that in another language :lol:
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