Thursday, 5 March 2020


Launched in the United Kingdom on this day in 1981, Sinclair Research’s innovative, intuitive and inexpensive (kits for self-assembly consisting of a slim and compact keyboard and an external cassette recorder for memory retailed for a mere £49,95) micro-computer was one of the first to be successfully mass-marketed and introduced the public to the idea of having a home computer, outside the bailiwick of business executives and hobbyists. Aside from the tape player, there were no moving parts and plugged into a television set as a display.
Despite perceived technical shortcomings—like the impractically low amount of memory, the unit truly prized open a path to better computer literacy, coding (see previously) and importantly the measure of confidence to see broader applications. Clones and variants soon proliferated—I remember using a Radio Shack derivative in a beige casing and flipping the VHF/UHF switch and felt I was entering programming mode, and the community of enthusiasts the ZX81 fostered was self-perpetuating, the early-adopters creating, sourcing software and hardware compatible with the computer. Founder and business executive Clive Marles Sinclair (*1940) amassed a fortune with this pioneering success and was given a knighthood for it in 1983. Later projects launched by Sinclair have focused on personal transportation and solving the last-mile problem with inventions like his folding bicycle that commuters can easily take on trains, the A-Bike debuting in 2006.