Clive Sinclair

POSTED: September 17, 2021

Clive Sinclair died yesterday at the age of 81 and all over the internet people remembered the Zx Spectrum. The Guardian had two articles and an obituary.

I remembered it too. Not only the first computer that I owned, it also started me on the path to coding. Although my forays into Basic amounted to very little at the time they laid the foundations for my deep dive into HyperTalk and Lingo ten years later.

For a short period the ZX Spectrum, and its rivals the Commodore 64 and the BBC Micro, created an ecosystem of bedroom hobbyists-turned entrepreneurs, cassette-based games, and monthly magazines that advertised and reviewed them. The coders formed the primary audience for each other’s work and offered living examples of what Alvin Toffler referred to as prosumers.

This opened up a range of possibilities that slowly closed again as one-person companies merged until eventually more powerful computers and the emergence of giant companies like Electronic Arts turned the computer games ecology into a “proper” market in which highly paid teams of coders made proprietary games for audiences entirely different from themselves.

Sinclair’s much-mocked later invention of the C5 electric car also proved prescient. The electric not-a-car personal transport would turn up again and flood the streets of most European cities in the second decade of the twenty first century.