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Clive Sinclair : biography

30 July 1940 -

Sir Clive Marles Sinclair (born 30 July 1940) is an English entrepreneur and inventor, most commonly known for his work in consumer electronics in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

After spending several years as assistant editor of Practical Wireless and Instrument Practice, Sinclair founded Sinclair Radionics in 1961, where he produced the first slim-line electronic pocket calculator in 1972 (the Sinclair Executive). Sinclair later moved into the production of home computers and produced the Sinclair ZX80, the UK's first mass-market home computer for less than , and later, with Sinclair Research, the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum; the latter is widely recognised for its importance in the early days of the British home computer industry. Sinclair stated in 2010 that he does not use computers himself, using the telephone in preference to email.

Knighted in 1983, Sinclair formed Sinclair Vehicles and released the Sinclair C5, a battery electric vehicle that was a commercial failure. Since then Sinclair has concentrated on personal transport, including the A-bike, a folding bicycle for commuters that weighs and folds down small enough to be carried on public transport.


Sinclair Radionics

Sinclair's Micro Kit was formalised in an exercise book dated 19 June 1958 three weeks before his A-levels. Sinclair drew a radio circuit, Model Mark I, with a components list: cost per set 9/11 (49½p), plus coloured wire and solder, nuts and bolts, plus celluloid chassis (drilled) for nine shillings (45p). Also in the book are advertisement rates for Radio Constructor (9d (3¾p)/word, minimum 6/- (30p)) and Practical Wireless (5/6 (27½p) per line or part line).Dale 1985, pg.6, 7

Sinclair estimated producing 1,000 a month, placing orders with suppliers for 10,000 of each component to be delivered.

Sinclair wrote a book for Bernard's Publishing, Practical transistor receivers Book 1, which appeared in January 1959. It was re-printed late that year and nine times subsequently. His practical stereo handbook was published in June 1959 and reprinted seven times over 14 years. The last book Sinclair wrote as an employee of Bernard's was Modern Transistor Circuits for Beginners, published in May 1962.Dale 1985, pg.11 At Bernard Babani he produced 13 constructors' books.

In 1961 Sinclair registered Sinclair Radionics Ltd. His original choice, Sinclair Electronics, was taken; Sinclair Radio was available but did not sound right. Sinclair Radionics was formed on 25 July 1961.

Sinclair made two attempts to raise startup capital to advertise his inventions and buy components. He designed PCB kits and licensed some technology. Then he took his design for a miniature transistor pocket radio and sought a backer for its production in kit form. Eventually he found someone who agreed to buy 55% of his company for £3,000 but the deal did not go through.

Sinclair, unable to find capital, joined United Trade Press (UTP) as technical editor of Instrument Practice. Sinclair appeared in the publication as an assistant editor in March 1962. Sinclair described making silicon planar transistors, their properties and applications and hoped they might be available by the end of 1962. Sinclair's obsession with miniaturisation became more obvious as his career progressed. Sinclair undertook a survey for Instrument Practice of semiconductor devices, which appeared in four sections between September 1962 and January 1963.Dale 1985, pg.12

His last appearance as assistant editor was in April 1969. Through UTP, Sinclair had access to thousands of devices from 36 manufacturers. He contacted Semiconductors Ltd (who at that time sold semiconductors made by Plessey) and ordered rejects to repair. He produced a design for a miniature radio powered by a couple of hearing aid cells and made a deal with Semiconductors to buy its micro-alloy transistors at 6d (2½p) each in boxes of 10,000. He then carried out his own quality control tests, and marketed his renamed MAT 100 and 120 at 7s 9d (38¾p) and 101 and 121 at 8s 6d (42½p).Dale 1985, pg.13

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Living octopus

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