Clive Sinclair, creator of the ZX Spectrum, dies aged 81

17 Sep 2021

The ZX Spectrum. Image: ©

The home computing pioneer created the ZX models, the first slimline pocket calculator and an early electric vehicle venture.

Clive Sinclair, the British inventor and entrepreneur who developed the ZX Spectrum, has died at the age of 81.

Sinclair has been credited with helping to bring computers into people’s homes. He developed the ZX80, the first mass-market consumer computer costing less than £100.

As the personal computing industry boomed in the 1980s, the entrepreneur released several more ZX models.

The ZX Spectrum, released in 1982, became the best-selling personal computer in the UK. For a generation of gamers and computing enthusiasts, the choice was between a ZX Spectrum and a rival Commodore 64.

While he is perhaps best known for developing the ZX models, Sinclair made other strides in consumer electronics. His company, Sinclair Radionics, produced the first slimline electronic pocket calculator in 1972.

He was also perhaps ahead of his time in the area of electric vehicles. In 1985, he launched the Sinclair C5 – a single-passenger electric vehicle. The tricycle design used a battery and motor combination to assist pedalling, but users complained about its limited range and slow speeds, and the venture was a commercial failure.

Members of the tech community have been paying tributes to Sinclair and his innovations.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on Twitter that he vividly remembers his first computer, a ZX80. “Your innovations democratized [sic] computing and inspired so many, including myself,” he added.

Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted in response to an article calling Sinclair the father of the ZX Spectrum: “RIP, Sir Sinclair. I loved that computer.”

Over the years, many tech professionals have told how the ZX Spectrum sparked their interest in computing – from a data engineer to Workhuman’s director of engineering.

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Sarah Harford is sub-editor of Silicon Republic