British computer inventor Clive Sinclair dies at 81

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LONDON – Clive Sinclair, the British inventor and entrepreneur who arguably did more than anyone to inspire an entire generation of children to embrace computers and games, has passed away. He was 81 years old.

Sinclair, who rose to prominence in the early 1980s with a series of affordable personal computers that gave millions of people their first glimpse into the world of coding as well as the adrenaline rush of screen gaming, has died Thursday morning after a long battle with cancer. .

Although ill, his daughter Belinda Sinclair said, he was still working on inventions until last week.

“He was inventive and imaginative and for him it was exciting and an adventure, it was his passion,” she told the BBC.

Born in 1940 in Richmond, a lavish suburb of southwest London, Sinclair dropped out of school at the age of 17 and became a technical journalist before deciding that he – and the world – would be better off. he used his intelligence to create inventions himself.

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At 22, he founded Sinclair Radionics, his first company, manufacturing mail order radio kits, including the smallest transistor radio in the world. He really rose to prominence in 1973 with the world’s first pocket calculator, before transforming his views and passions into a transition from the world of computers to the confines of the home.

He has become a beloved figure in Britain and around the world, for his successes – as well as his occasional failures. Tributes have poured in from modern equivalents such as Elon Musk as well as countless “normal” people who first got hooked on computers and games through one of Sinclair’s inventions.

Sinclair launched its first affordable mainstream computer in 1980, which cost less than 100 pounds ($ 135). The ZX80, which could then be upgraded to the ZX81 with a bit more memory, might not have been sophisticated in today’s terms, but it broke new ground, opening up a world of new opportunities.

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“The ZX81 was my introduction to computing and I loved it!” Science broadcaster Professor Brian Cox said in a tweet.

In 1982 came the iconic ZX Spectrum, which was certainly a radical departure from its predecessors and wouldn’t seem too out of place today. During the 1980s, it took its place in an increasingly crowded market against models like the Commodore 64, early Apple computers as well as those from Atari.

The Spectrum has become the best-selling computer in Britain. Not only did this help Sinclair become a multimillionaire, but it made him a household name at a time when the British economy was undergoing a radical transformation under then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983.

“RIP, Sir Sinclair. I loved this computer, ”Tesla CEO Musk said in a tweet.

The benefits of the Spectrum – and its peers – were felt everywhere, leading to a boom in companies that produced software and hardware. Not to mention the stores that sold these personal computers and all of their add-ons.

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British business tycoon Alan Sugar, who has been one of the main protagonists of this new era of home technology with his company Amstrad, paid tribute to his “good friend and competitor”.

“What guy he started started consumer electronics in the UK with their amplifier kits and then calculators, mini TVs and of course the Sinclair ZX. Not to mention his quirky electric car. RIP Friend, ”he said on Twitter.

To many people, Sinclair will be best remembered for this “bizarre” Sinclair C5, an ill-fated electric trike heralded as the future of green transportation but which turned out to be a costly flop.

“It’s the ideas, the challenge, that he found exciting,” said Sinclair’s daughter. “He had an idea and said, ‘There’s no point in asking if somebody wants it, because they can’t imagine it. ‘”

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