Sir Clive Sinclair, the father of the ZX Spectrum, has died

Sir Clive Sinclair
(Image credit: South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

Sir Clive Sinclair, the inventor of the world's first slimline pocket calculator and founder of the groundbreaking consumer electronics company Sinclair Research, has died. A report in The Guardian says Sinclair's death occurred at home, following a long illness.

Sinclair Research was founded in 1973 but didn't come to prominence until 1980 with the release of the ZX80 home computer, which was available in a ready-to-use version and, for a slightly lower price, as a built-it-yourself kit. (This was 1980, remember.) It was a very popular machine, due to both its capabilities and its price—it was the first home computer in the UK to be available for under £100.

Even bigger success followed a year later with the ZX81, and then the ZX Spectrum in 1982, which became the best-selling personal computer in the UK. Various official and unofficial clones and spinoffs followed over the years, and Sinclair was granted a knighthood in 1983 for his contributions to British industry.

Subsequent ideas, including the Sinclair C5 electric trike and the TV80 pocket television, did not catch on, but their basic concepts underlying them—battery-powered vehicles, tiny entertainment screens—ultimately did.

"It was the ideas, the challenge, that he found exciting," his daughter Belinda told The Guardian. "He'd come up with an idea and say, 'There’s no point in asking if someone wants it, because they can’t imagine it.'"

(Image credit: David Levenson via Getty Images)

Ironically, Sinclair apparently didn't make use of the technology he helped create: His daughter said he carried a slide rule with him rather than a calculator, and he claimed in multiple interviews that he didn't use the internet or email—not because he didn't know how, he said in 2010, but because "I find them annoying."

The ZX Spectrum was resurrected in 2015 as the Vega miniature game console; a Vega+ handheld followed, although that deal ultimately fell apart. An updated version of the Spectrum, called the ZX Spectrum Next, was also released in 2017. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.