Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor of the world’s first slimline pocket calculator and founder of the groundbreaking consumer electronics company Sinclair Research, has died. A report in The Guardian says Sinclair’s death occurred at home, following a long illness.
Sinclair Research was founded in 1973 but didn’t come to prominence until 1980 with the release of the ZX80 home computer, which was available in a ready-to-use version and, for a slightly lower price, as a built-it-yourself kit. (This was 1980, remember.) It was a very popular machine, due to both its capabilities and its price—it was the first home computer in the UK to be available for under £100.
Even bigger success followed a year later with the ZX81, and then the ZX Spectrum in 1982, which became the best-selling personal computer in the UK. Various official and unofficial clones and spinoffs followed over the years, and Sinclair was granted a knighthood in 1983 for his contributions to British industry.
Subsequent ideas, including the Sinclair C5 electric trike and the TV80 pocket television, did not catch on, but their basic concepts underlying them—battery-powered vehicles, tiny entertainment screens—ultimately did.
“It was the ideas, the challenge, that he found exciting,” his daughter Belinda told The Guardian. “He’d come up with an idea and say, ‘There’s no point in asking if someone wants it, because they can’t imagine it.'”
Ironically, Sinclair apparently didn’t make use of the technology he helped create: His daughter said he carried a slide rule with him rather than a calculator, and he claimed in multiple interviews that he didn’t use the internet or email—not because he didn’t know how, he said in 2010, but because “I find them annoying.”
The ZX Spectrum was resurrected in 2015 as the Vega miniature game console; a Vega+ handheld followed, although that deal ultimately fell apart.