Clive Sinclair, whose ZX Spectrum helped birth the UK games industry, has died

One of the pioneers of home computing, Sir Clive Sinclair, has passed away following a decade-long battle with cancer. Sinclair was a pioneer in the field of home computing and electric vehicles, and his affordable ZX Spectrum is credited with sparking an interest in coding among British young people that eventually gave rise to the UK games industry. He was 81.

Sinclair was born 1940 near Richmond. As a child, he excelled in mathematics and took holiday jobs at electronics companies, eventually opting to sell mail order electronic kits by mail rather than attend university. He developed the first pocket calculator in 1972.

While Sinclair would eventually go on to create a pioneering line of battery-powered vehicles in the 1980s, it was Sinclair Research’s ZX Spectrum that proved the most revolutionary breakthrough of the inventor’s career. While home computers were already available when the smart-looking little ZX Spectrum first appeared in 1982, it was one of the first that was affordable for a mass audience, retailing for just £125 for the version with 16kB RAM – although for an extra £50, you could get the model with a whopping 48kB RAM onboard.

The ZX Spectrum would go on to become the most popular computer in the UK, eventually selling more than five million units. It was discontinued in 1992, but not before it had inspired a generation of young coders to start experimenting with game design.

While his computers helped give rise to the modern PC landscape as we know it today, Sinclair himself avoided having one at home, as the BBC notes in its obituary. “If I had a computer, I’d start thinking I could change this and that, and I don’t want to,” Sinclair said in a 2013 interview. “My wife very kindly looks after that for me.”

Sinclair is survived by three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. We’re forever in his debt: without Sinclair and his ZX Spectrum, PC gaming would certainly not be what it is today.

Top photograph by Daniel Ryde, via Wikimedia Commons

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