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Sir Clive Sinclair dead: Home computing pioneer dies aged 81 at London home

·4-min read

Home computer pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair has died aged 81, his family said.

The inventor transformed home computing in this country when he launched his ZX81 and the later ZX Spectrum computers.

The computers, which were relatively cheap and easy to understand, kickstarted a boom in home programming and gaming.

He launched the first affordable consumer computer in 1980, costing less than £100, and the earliest models could even be bought cheaper as kits to be assembled at home.

Sinclair became the first company in the world to sell more than a million computers, making Sir Clive’s surname a household word and spawning an entire industry of magazines, games designers and software and hardware developers.

Games - such as Manic Miner, Elite and Football Manager - became wildly popular and led to a whole generation of British gaming talent striking out in what was then a fledgling industry.

Sir Clive, a former journalist, also branched out making miniature calculators and TVs as well as the C5 - an electric tricycle - and although none of these products reached the commercial heights of his computers they laid the foundations for much of the technology used today.

His death - confirmed to The Guardian by his daughter Belinda - sparked an outpouring of tributes on social media with many fans paying tribute to their first computers.

Others made reference to the rather basic graphics and memory of the early Spectrum computers in a series of affectionate tributes.

His daughter said he died at home in London on Thursday morning after a long illness

She told the Guardian: “He was a rather amazing person. Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he’d be chatting engineering with them.”

Business mogul Lord Sugar paid tribute to his “good friend and competitor” on Twitter, writing: “What a guy he kicked started consumer electronics in the UK with his amplifier kits then calculators, watches mini TV and of course the Sinclair ZX. Not to forget his quirky electric car. R.I.P Friend.”

Film director Edgar Wright paid tribute to Sir Clive’s computing achievements on Twitter.

He tweeted: “For someone whose first glimpses of a brave new world were the terrifying graphics of 3D Monster Maze on the ZX81, I’d like to salute tech pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair.

“He made 21st Century dreams feel possible. Will bash away on the rubber keys of a Spectrum in your honour. RIP.”

Tom Watson, former deputy leader of the Labour Party, tweeted: “This man changed the course of my life.

“And arguably, the digital age for us in the UK started with the Sinclair ZX80, when thousands of kids learnt to code using 1k of RAM. For us, the Spectrum was like a Rolls Royce with 48k.”

Sir Clive was knighted in the birthday honours in 1983.

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