Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

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

Post by Ast A. Moore » Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:50 pm

1024MAK wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 1:36 pm
the electric milk floats were so successful and so reliable that many are still in daily use.
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Every man should plant a tree, build a house, and write a ZX Spectrum game.

Author of A Yankee in Iraq, a 50 fps shoot-’em-up—the first game to utilize the floating bus on the +2A/+3,
and zasm Z80 Assembler syntax highlighter.

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MonkZy
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by MonkZy » Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:28 pm

I loved my Spectrum, so for that he is a Hero. The C5 was a cool idea, there is still a fan base who ride around in the vehicles. Much like the 128K Toastrack , C5's fetch good money on eBay due to scarcity of good examples. The handheld TV's...OK they were a doozy.

For me, the biggest error he made was microdrives. A friend had a two drive setup, he got it as a hand-me-down from an uncle who had bought an 'Olivetti'. This thing would eat microdrive cartridges on the slightest movement. I had the extreme misfortune of moving his speccy by no more than 5mm, after a long period of loud whirring the decision was made to pull the 9V. Safe to say he never played 3D Ant Attack from microdrive again. As well as feeling incredibly guilty for not obeying the strict 'no movement' rule, I also came to the conclusion that Microdrives were a hopeless device to trust with your data. I guess he was convinced that people wanted cheap storage. The fact was, families like my own could not really afford microdrives anyway. The wealthier folk would have paid out for a better device, 5.25 inch floppies or some such. So really a lose, lose. I am not convinced that an interface1 with 5.25" floppies would have extended the life of the Sinclair range, but it would have been moving in a better direction.

For me the real Zero for Sir Clive is him picking up 10 grand or more from the ZX Vega+ coffers...not good.
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zxbruno
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by zxbruno » Mon Jun 25, 2018 3:15 am

Without Sinclair computers, we would've been... C64 users! :shock:
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Pegaz
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Pegaz » Mon Jun 25, 2018 9:20 am

No, we wouldnt. ;)
Again, we could choose between expensive US computers or some cheaper British model.
In that case, most likely, Electron or CPC machines would occupy Spectrum place.
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PaddyC13
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by PaddyC13 » Mon Jun 25, 2018 12:56 pm

Rorthron wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 2:55 am
The QL is an interesting case. It falls between the two categories I mentioned in my last post: it democratised existing technologies and used new ones (Microdrives). It's also not clear to me if it just failed because of worse execution than the ZX computers, or because it was a business computer where expectations (eg for reliability, service and support) were higher than Sinclair was used to offering.
Bit of both probably. The delivery/execution of the QL was terrible and meant the product was discredited even before it was readily available. Had the QL come to market properly finished then its history might have been very different. I had the pleasure of using the ICL OPD back in the day and this was an impressive piece of kit. The OPD was well made, reliable, had a proper keyboard/display and the Microdrives worked.

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PeterJ
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by PeterJ » Tue Jun 26, 2018 8:13 pm

There is a nice article about Sir Clive (with lots of great images) here:

https://tech.onliner.by/2018/06/17/sinclair

You need Google Translate switched on in Chrome though!
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beanz
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by beanz » Tue Jun 26, 2018 8:33 pm

MonkZy wrote:
Sun Jun 24, 2018 9:28 pm

For me, the biggest error he made was microdrives. A friend had a two drive setup, he got it as a hand-me-down from an uncle who had bought an 'Olivetti'. This thing would eat microdrive cartridges on the slightest movement.
I had a 2 microdrive setup back in the day and transferred most of my favorite games to them (2 per microdrive)...they got used A LOT...yet I never had any of the issues people report or experienced the bad reputation they have. I have 2 now and after re-sponging the microrive carts they still work 30+ years later.

I seem to recall reading the first drives were pretty crappy but quality improved dramatically later on, guess I had the later ones. GREAT solution back in the day for me along with my mirage microdriver
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Mike Davies
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Mike Davies » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:02 pm

Sir Clive is the face of Sinclair Research and the Sinclair Spectrum. Just like Steve Jobs was the face of Apple, the Macintosh, the Macbook, the iPhone. I can probably name a few people on the original Apple Macintosh team, just as we can name the team that created the BBC Micro (right?).

Though, the impact Sir Clive had on UK Tech wasn't something he planned. We learned to program on these machines, and so when computing became more mainstream in business, we filled the need of organisations needing programmers and various software engineering roles. The Spectrum ignited the games industry, and we can trace game series like Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto, and Command and Conquer to the Spectrum games industry.

Even in Sir Clive's failures it has a significant impact in our modern computer world. The Sinclair QL was a fairly significant step for Linus Torvalds in his exploration of multi-processing, and building operating systems to support that, which lead to Linux which runs the majority of servers, particularly on the Internet.

The thing is, Sir Clive was right about the QL from a technology curve perspective. Switching from the Z80 to the 68000. Where is the Z80 now in mainstream computing? Why did it stop being a viable processor? Hindsight says computing had to evolve. Amstrad realised this too, when they introduced the PCW with the Intel 8088 processor. Intel's path from that 8-bit chip, led the evolution through the 16-bit (80286/80386/80486) and 32-bit computing (Pentium), and eventually 64-bit computing. Companies that didn't have this 8->16->32->64 bit evolution fell by the wayside. Atari and Commodore hung on (Atari ST and Amiga). Acorn died going down the RISC route, except it's tech got resurrected a few times (e.g. PowerPC Macbooks), before the iPhone finally established itself and adopted the ARM chip. Amstrad survived following the Intel curve long enough to be consolidated (Viglen?), until reinventing themselves with satellite boxes.

Is there anything the UK industry could have done to avert the Intel domination? It's only Acorn's RISC route that could have offered a viable alternative. The Motorola route with the 68000 eventually fizzled in the face of Intel's dominance.

In my career, two people were instrumental in creating the industry I've spend most of my working life in: Sir Clive Sinclair, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Sure, Sir Tim's World Wide Web has been the most significant for me.

I had a really favourable impression of Sir Clive, particularly the Z88 is still fascinating to me. But, I became disillusioned after reading Sinclair and the Sunrise Technology, where you get a glimpse at some of the hard-nosed business practices, as well as exposing the multitude of failures of Sir Clive. (Some of those hard-nose and inept practices we are still seeing today with that toxic crowdfunded project, so much for hindsight...).

But, he succeeded enough to give a lot of us very respectable careers in software engineering. He enabled that as a side-effect of pursuing an electric car.

I will note, in the CRT vs LCD, I feel Sir Clive was right at that time. I recall I was still using a 19-inch CRT monitor in 2004, LCDs took a long long time to become the de facto standard. Gosh, I remember trying to play WEC Le Mans on the Z80 emulator on a laptop with a Passive Matrix LCD display in 2002 (one of those £700 Novatech laptops), the ghosting of sprites, far far worse than a trusty CRT.
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Pegaz
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by Pegaz » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:06 pm

PeterJ wrote:
Tue Jun 26, 2018 8:13 pm
There is a nice article about Sir Clive (with lots of great images) here:

https://tech.onliner.by/2018/06/17/sinclair

You need Google Translate switched on in Chrome though!
An interesting picture with the ZX80, especially the TV set.
But, is it possible that the 3D Monster Maze is ZX80 compatible or that tape is there, just by accident? :)
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PeterJ
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Re: Clive Sinclair: hero or zero?

Post by PeterJ » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:13 pm

Hi @Pegaz, I think that image is taken at the computer museum in Cambridge, UK
Go if you get the chance. I think Monster Maze is there just as an example of a cassette tape. That title was never released for the ZX80. That screen is lovely!
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