Sir Clive Sinclair RIP – 10 things about the great man you may not know

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Born in Richmond, London (then Surrey) in 1940, Sir Clive left school at 17, not wanting to go to University. He worked for four years as a technical journalist to raise funds to found Sinclair Radionics. He set up the company in 1962 at a house in Islington, north London, with just £25 borrowed from a friend.

In 1976 the Labour government’s National Enterprise Board (NEB) poured in capital to help Sir Clive Sinclair develop a miniature TV. It was launched as the world’s smallest television set, having only a two-inch screen, but Sir Clive ran into trouble with an almost £2 million loss.

Although famous for the ZX81, it wasn’t his first home computer. That was the ZX80, released in 1980, which retailed for £79.95 in kit form and £99.95 assembled. It was about one-fifth of the price of other home computers at the time. 

Sir Clive Sinclair never used his own inventions. Despite developing a pocket calculator, he preferred to carry around his own slide rule and he never used computers or sent email either. He said I don’t like to have “technical or mechanical things around me” as it distracts from the process of invention.

Launched in 1985, the infamous and ill-fated three-wheeled Sinclair C5 featured a polypropylene body designed by Lotus. It was manufactured at the Hoover washing machine factory in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. 

While most people know about the three-wheel Sinclair C5 electric vehicle – not that many are familiar with the Zike, Sinclair’s electric bike. Launched in 1992, only 2,000 units were ever sold.

Sinclair Research, the part of Sir Clive’s empire responsible for producing computers, was sold to Amstrad for just £5 million. Sinclair Vehicles was placed into receivership in 1985 after only 14,000 Sinclair C5s were produced and 4,500 sold, despite forecasts of 100,000 sales for the first year.

Billed as the successor of the Sinclair C5 and Zike, the Sinclair X-1 was announced in November 2010 and expected to reach market from July 2011 at a price of £595. However, it never materialised. 

You can still buy second hand Sinclair C5s on eBay. Bidding on this one is currently £620, but expect it go much higher now that Sir Clive has died. 

Sir Clive Sinclair was a member of Mensa and its chairman from 1980 to 1997. Another interest of his was playing poker. He appeared in the first three series of Late Night Poker on Channel 4 and won the first series final of the Celebrity Poker Club spin-off.

Chris Price
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