Thanks, Sir Clive Sinclair, from Reg readers whose careers you created and lives you shaped

Sir Clive Sinclair’s contributions to computing and business are well known, and we have done our best to celebrate his life in our obituary of the electronics pioneer, who passed away last week at age 81.

To mark his life, it seemed appropriate to consider also his impact on Reg readers.

Like many others, his correspondent’s first computer was a ZX Spectrum. The machine led to my presence on these pages, because I finally joined the Australian ZX Users Association (AZUA), which published its own magazine and invited contributions.

He was lucky.

I tracked down AZUA co-founder David Vernon, who told us, via email, “We all loved Clive. We loved his foresight, his eccentricity, and his desire to bring computing to the masses.”

Referring to the ZX80 and ZX81, Vernon added: “But we found it equally frustrating. Why did he give us such a crappy touch keyboard to save us a few pounds? Why doesn’t he give us 4K RAM and not 1K?”

“But even these irritations had a silver lining. They showed us that we didn’t have to put up with what a manufacturer gave us, but that we could improve it. And this is perhaps Clive’s legacy to my generation: we could do things we never imagined. Clive It gave us the confidence that we could do smart things too. And we did. “

“It’s honestly thanks to Clive that I now run my own publishing business. Without my initial experience of writing and publishing computer programs and help pages, I would not be doing what I do today.”

Author of the classic from the 80s The Hobbit I didn’t know the game was a hit


Similar stories came from all over the world as comments on our appreciation of the life of the great man.

“For me it was the ZX 48K” wrote commentator Mozzie.

“It was updated with a Saga 1, it had an amazing Saisho cassette player that never failed to load anything except LoTR. Chuckie Egg, Dizzy, Wriggler, Harrier Attack, Target Renegade and even HiSoft Pascal … thank you Clive for giving me the means to feed my family for the past 16 years. “

“So many aspects of my life are directly or indirectly related to my love of coding and electronics and technology in general, and it all goes back to those heady days of the early 80’s, sitting in my room in front of my Speccy ” wrote another forum member, ChrisC.

Linus Torvalds was a Sinclair user: Among those influenced by Sir Clive was Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, who worked on a Sinclair QL before turning to his most famous work. From 00:30 in the video below, he remembers his time using the QL.

Youtube video

A commenter named Allwallgbr shared his experience working for Sir Clive for two years in the 1970s and described the time as “amazing years, full of fun and hard work, servicing audio products and demonstrating at hi-fi exhibits.

“I enjoyed the work and the enthusiasm of the company so much that no other employer came close to it in my entire working life.”

Readers also recalled that Sir Clive possessed a strange charisma.

“An absolute genius with just the right amount of barminess to be a true British boffin”, opined a commenter with the identifier John Brown (no body). “He even had baldness and the right glasses.”

Others shared their experiences putting the Sinclair kit to work.

“I wrote a D&D game based on text graphics and used all the D&D statistics to help automate the games.” wrote to Reg forum member named Danny 2.

Then he tackled something harder. “I tried and failed to write a conversation simulator to pass the Turing test: more difficult than I expected.”

“I think I scared my mother when she heard noises at 6 am. It was just my seven year old me who was desperate to know if SIN and COS would let me CIRCLE my birthday present ZX81. ” wrote another commenter, using the strange identifier 0x80004005. (We assume it is a Windows error code).

An email announcement from Telecom Australia's Computerphone

Sinclair’s FORGOTTEN mic revealed for Australia only!


Sir Clive’s passing has affected some of you greatly.

“I am currently crying like a baby here. This has affected me much more than I thought. This marks the end of the line for most of my formative years and possibly the biggest influence on my career entry that I have. ” wrote commentator Stumpy.

“RIP to a hugely flawed genius,” added our reader. “A man with ideas often way ahead of his time. I’ll leave you a decent glass of malt tonight.

Some readers offered something from Sinclair BASIC as a tribute:

GOTO Valhalla, wrote Dr. G. Freeman

10 PRINT "RIP Clive you'll be missed"
20 GOTO 10

… came from a netizen named Dazzling.

The legacy lives on: One measure of Sir Clive’s contribution was that emulators for their computers are still available to this day, even if some tributes like the one Vega Spectrum + went wrong.

Classic games developed for the ZX Spectrum are still available in many forms, not just as image files for emulators. Manic Miner is now an app, How is it Midnight lords. Some other Spectrum classics have even been ported to Microsoft’s XBOX.

One of the people we contacted for a souvenir of Sinclair was Shane Muller, an Australian tech entrepreneur who threw a very good party in 2019 to celebrate his thirty years in the tech business. At that event, he brandished the ZX81 that started it all.

Shane’s response to the news of Sir Clive’s death was to write him a letter:

Okay, Sir Clive. ®

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