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RichardUK
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R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 5:45 am

R.I.P Sir Clive. Your crystal may have stopped oscillating but your clock cycles with tick on forever.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-58587521

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Pekka
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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 8:30 am

Sad news indeed. Will power up one of my Speccies in his memory tonight.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 8:33 am

Sorry to read that !

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 10:23 am

RIP indeed. But let's celebrate what he did, rather than be sad. We are all mortal, and 81 is a good innings.

It is sad when a young person dies.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 10:37 am

I don't think I'd have spent 40 years working on mainframe systems without the kickstart from building a ZX80 kit with my twin brother. He worked for Alan Sugar for 25 years and on one (significant day) had the pleasure of meeting Sir Clive Sinclair in Amstrad Towers in Brentford.

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m4r35n357 wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 10:23 am
It is sad when a young person dies.
It is sad when anyone dies, the important part is to celebrate their life and remember their achievements that may have had a significant influence on your life. Saying "OK, he was old" is offensive to everyone to whom he was related and everyone who's lives he may have touched.
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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 10:56 am

Yup. I had a ZX81.

Thanks Sir Clive. R.I.P.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:19 am

My first Sinclair product was a pocket calculator when I was in college in the mid-70s. It was pretty basic, but quite extraordinary. Like Sir Clive himself, I did always prefer a slide rule however - and have one even now that obviously lasted a lot longer than the calculator did.

I owned two Speccies, and my daughters both had their first experience of computing with those, and then a QL, which was mightily mocked, but was an excellent system a little ahead of its time, let down if anything by the micro drives, though mine always worked well. A science text book was written on that QL... the Quill word processor was excellent.

I had a Z88 just after they came out, and used it extensively for notes and drafting documents while regularly commuting between Manchester and London. Sadly, as they all seemed to do, it came to an early end with problems which these days we know to be a simple keyboard membrane fault.

My last Sinclair product was another Z88, which I still use because it is quite amazingly well suited to my portable needs.

Sir Clive was not a whole lot of a good businessman, but was a genius innovator and engineer. It's easy to poke fun because of the C5 and his unridable electric bike, but even these were typical of a man who's ideas seemed a bit ahead of what the technology of the time could actually build. He made small electronics devices available to the mass market, got a lot of my generation interested in electronics and then micro computing, and even his failures were remarkably spectacular. His products tended to have quirky faults caused by questionable design choices or implementation, but were unique and very affordable.

One of a kind.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:30 am

AndyO wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:19 am
It's easy to poke fun because of the C5 and his unridable electric bike ...
Part of the problem with the C5 came about because of the Road Traffic Act. That's the piece of legislation that says anything over 15MPH makes you a motorised vehicle (not a power assisted bike) and means you require a helmet (for two wheels), MOT (after three years), emission tax (if you emit CO2 & NOX) and third party insurance.

The other problem with the C5 was that it's recumbent and those things can't be seen by the folks driving their large SUVs. Hence the large stick with the orange pennant on the C5. I've never owned one nor have I ridden one (weirdest bike I ever rode was a modern penny farthing).

I don't know much about his e-Bike, but e-Bikes and e-Scooters are a growing sector of the EV market (albeit they're still restricted by the same rules in Road Traffic Act).
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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:56 am

DougieLawson wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:30 am
AndyO wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:19 am
It's easy to poke fun because of the C5 and his unridable electric bike ...
Part of the problem with the C5 came about because of the Road Traffic Act. That's the piece of legislation that says anything over 15MPH makes you a motorised vehicle (not a power assisted bike) and means you require a helmet (for two wheels), MOT (after three years), emission tax (if you emit CO2 & NOX) and third party insurance.

The other problem with the C5 was that it's recumbent and those things can't be seen by the folks driving their large SUVs. Hence the large stick with the orange pennant on the C5. I've never owned one nor have I ridden one (weirdest bike I ever rode was a modern penny farthing).

I don't know much about his e-Bike, but e-Bikes and e-Scooters are a growing sector of the EV market (albeit they're still restricted by the same rules in Road Traffic Act).
The Road Traffic Act was rather more sparse in regulations for vehicles such as the C5 at the time, though even then, it wasn't;t so much compliance with the law that was its undoing as it was the fact that it was low to the ground (as you say), thus hard to see below the sight-lines of ordinary cars (there were not so much in the way of SUVs then) very slow, so was always likely to be in the way, because even in London at the time, average travel speed was at or above the C5, couldn't go up hill because it had insufficient power, and had very limited range.

And, users of it were exposed to the weather, making it uncomfortable to use for much of the UK's traditional weather. A fact Sir Clive himself came to realize quite quickly when he decided to launch it in winter, on a day when the ground was covered in snow.

It wasn't a well-considered product in any way really, but it was nevertheless an attempt. Also an example of how Sir Clive tended to look beyond what could be viably achieved, to create a product that would one day become ubiquitous.

The bike.... well, the main issue with that was that it had tiny wheels in order that it could be folded up to fit in the space of a suitcase, and was hard to ride because it was not stable, given a very high centre of gravity, and the wheels weren't large enough to ride over surface imperfections - which roads tend to have quite a lot of.

All of his products were dogged by his imagination rather than a focus on good engineering solutions. But boundaries are not often pushed when sticking to the easy or familiar. It is important to see his creations in the context of the time they were in production however.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:05 pm

AndyO wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:19 am
My first Sinclair product was a pocket calculator when I was in college in the mid-70s.
...
Likewise - IIRC I built mine from the kit. The LED display still worked as part of an "early Pi" project: http://www.cpmspectrepi.uk/raspberry_pi ... 05.2103.29
Ended up with a small collection of Spectrums until a post-retirement house move forced their disposal.
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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 1:09 pm

Andy O wrote:

>> It's easy to poke fun because of the C5

I remember a title of a "very thin book":
"The Snclair C5 - the glory days at Le Mans".

I had few if any problems with my first QL and liked it so much I bought a second one when their price dropped.

The software packages provided - Quill, Abacus and so or were solid, easy to learn and made it easy to transition to their PC equivalents when I could get my hands on them.

I think the reason the product failed was that they were targetting it at small businessmen who couldn't handle the delicate microdrives. I treated mine with "tender loving care" and they didn't let me down.
IT Background: Honeywell H2000 ... CA Naked Mini ... Sinclair QL ... WinTel ... Linux ... Raspberry Pi.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Fri Sep 17, 2021 1:29 pm

....means you require a helmet (for two wheels), MOT (after three years), emission tax (if you emit CO2 & NOX) and third party insurance.

And, of course, a driving licence.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 1:15 am

RIP Uncle Clive. As us kids used to call him back in the early 1970's .

I never owned any Sinclair computers but did build his Stereo Sixty amplifier kit as a young teenager: https://andydoz.blogspot.com/2017/08/si ... ifier.html
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 2:59 am

He did some neat things. He tried a lot of things that other people wouldn't. Some worked, some didn't.

For me, his best computer was the Z88. It was the only Sinclair-related computer I ever actually owned. Extraordinarily clever software running on just enough hardware. I had use of a QL when my brother was at Strathclyde University (they had a "every student can loan a computer" thing, unfortunately they picked QLs) and it was fairly awful. My dad used to bring ZX-81s into the house for a few days before he spirited them off to the European Ports and Harbours Technical group meetings: they were the testbed of choice for early ship-tracking experiments.
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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 8:02 am

Making affordable hardware is a goal that Sinclair shared with the idea behind the Raspberry Pi.

My first computer was a Sinclair QL. It was relatively cheap and had quite good software, but the hardware was not very robust. Especially the keyboard and the microdrives, a sort of endless magnetic tape drives, were weak. I fitted a massive 512 kilobyte (!) memory upgrade so I could read the microdrives (only 100 KB each) into a RAM disk and work from that.

I used to watch speed skating tournaments on the television and keep the times in an Abacus spreadsheet so I could predict the overall result ahead of the reporters.
I used a ZX-81 in engineering school to do some temperature control tests, that was fun.
Last edited by buja on Sat Sep 18, 2021 11:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 10:22 am

buja wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 8:02 am
Making affordable hardware is a goal that Sinclair shared with the idea behind the Raspberry Pi.
That is a far more pertinent observation that you may know.

Back when Clive was building stereo amplifiers and tiny radios https://www.google.com/search?rls=en&so ... =961&dpr=1 he hit on a tuning plan to make them really cheap. When transistor manufactures make transistors they make millions of them, they then test and grade all the devices as there was great variability in how each device behaved. The ones that did not meet specification being discarded. Clive figure he could buy those "waste" transistors for almost nothing, retest and regrade them himself, they were not entirely dead after all. He would then design circuits around those specifications and hence make product rally cheaply.

Then came calculators. A big problem at the time was power consumption, hence big batteries, hence big calculators. Clive discovered that one could remove power from calculator chips for a brief moment and they would remember their state. Do that repeatedly fast enough and you have. A calculator that is in a low power stand by mode when not actually crunching on numbers.

The Sinclair Scientific calculator was not an expensive scientific calculator chip like HP and such. No, Clive took a cheap four function calculator chip and reprogrammed it for scientific operations.

I never had a Sinclair computer but I'm sure others here can tell of the corners cut in building those. Starting with the keyboard.

The Sinclair car as far as I understand used a motor designed for washing machines or some such.

So Clive was an uber hacker in the sense of the word we respect most. Repurposing cheap things in brilliant ways to make them to something different and create futuristic products.

So what about the connection the the Raspberry Pi. Well, the original Pi as we know it came about by repurposing old cheap parts from the Broadcom parts bin. The ARM SoC that had been used in set top boxes or whatever it was.

Anyone interested in this history might like to watch "The Micro Men": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXBxV6-zamM.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 12:07 pm

Heater wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 10:22 am
I never had a Sinclair computer but I'm sure others here can tell of the corners cut in building those. Starting with the keyboard.
I examined the circuit diagram for the ZX80 long ago.
It was full of remarkably clever use of the components, "spare" parts of chips being reused for something else, parts being used for things they were never designed for. But it worked and was cheap.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 3:42 pm

Heater wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 10:22 am
The Sinclair car as far as I understand used a motor designed for washing machines or some such.
That myth still persists!

The vehicle - I hesitate to call it a car - was manufactured by Hoover. The same Hoover whose name is now often used a s generic term for a vacuum cleaner. Hoover also made washing machines. Yes it was no coincidence that the 12 volt motor for Sinclair resembled a 240 volt motor for a washing machine. The Sinclair motor was probably designed and manufactured by the same 3rd party electric motor company that supplied washing machine motors to Hoover. So it would not be surprising that two motors of similar power output, but different voltage and current - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_C5 for some alarming details - would have similar appearance.

I worked at Sinclair Radionics, 22 Newmarket Road, Cambridge in the summer holidays before my final year at school. Part of that time Chris Curry (later of Acorn fame) was sitting within arm's reach. Jim Westwood (then working on the original pocket TV - the never launched one with a conventional long-neck CRT - and later the brains behind the ZX computers) was in that same attic room on the second floor (British numbering) of the converted town house.

Just before I left Clive found the time to invite me into his office (front room on the first floor) for a half hour chat. He gave me a bag of hundreds of transistors and a vidicon camera tube. My school provided the funds to buy the necessary components to build a complete TV camera using a design in the Practical Television magazine.

After university I did a lot of work on videoconferencing and videotelephony. Originally all analogue in the early 1970s but increasingly digital and I contributed to the core compression technology that is now at the heart of digital video broadcasting, DVD/BluRay, streaming and the likes of Zoom, Webex, Facetime, Duo etc. So in some way Clive influenced that too.
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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 4:25 pm

drgeoff wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 3:42 pm
Heater wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 10:22 am
The Sinclair car as far as I understand used a motor designed for washing machines or some such.
That myth still persists!
Perhaps I should not have said "designed for".

I would imagine the motor was built from the same chassis and parts as an existing washing motor. All be it with different windings and whatever needed adapting for use in the vehicle.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 4:44 pm

I always got the impression the C5 was produced to push the Government into sorting out legislation for electric vehicles, he didn't want to design and build anything bigger to then fall foul of changes in legislation eg insurance, tax, mot, construction & use regs etc

But of course he was thwarted by the Government doing nothing. Sinclair had bigger more practical designs in the making but it looked like they had to abandon them.

The pocket TV was amazing, I bought one expecting it to be 50/50 gimic/usable and was very impressed - it even survived more than its fair share of knocks as I took it everywhere including a few mountains.

I was ever so thankful for the first programmable calculator, that saved me ploughing through tons of calculations in Physics.

He pushed the markets with new ideas much like Dyson but somewhat less focused on profit and not the same standard of quality (every audio control went noisy).

The world was certainly a better place for his existence, he brought home computing forward a few years.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 4:46 pm

jahboater wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 12:07 pm
Heater wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 10:22 am
I never had a Sinclair computer but I'm sure others here can tell of the corners cut in building those. Starting with the keyboard.
I examined the circuit diagram for the ZX80 long ago.
It was full of remarkably clever use of the components, "spare" parts of chips being reused for something else, parts being used for things they were never designed for. But it worked and was cheap.
And not using parts of chips that were faulty. The 32 Kbyte extra RAM in the 48K versus 16K Spectrum was 8 faulty 64Kx1 DRAMS. Either the top or bottom half of their address space was good. 8 chips all of one sort would go into a 48K Spectrum and a link on the PCB tied the most significant address line high or low to match.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Sat Sep 18, 2021 7:03 pm

drgeoff wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 4:46 pm
And not using parts of chips that were faulty.
As I said, buying loads of failed parts very cheaply and making use of what worked out of them.

A tradition carried on by the likes of Intel. Back in the day they would sell you a 486DX chip or a cheaper 486SX. The difference being that the SX had a failed floating point unit.

When I see piles of electric scooters littering the streets of the city and kids running around on bigger electric scooters I think Clive was just way ahead of the times with the C5 idea.
Memory in C++ is a leaky abstraction .

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Mon Sep 20, 2021 5:38 pm

AndyO wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 11:56 am
The Road Traffic Act was rather more sparse in regulations for vehicles such as the C5 at the time, though even then, it wasn't;t so much compliance with the law that was its undoing as it was the fact that it was low to the ground (as you say), thus hard to see below the sight-lines of ordinary cars (there were not so much in the way of SUVs then) very slow, so was always likely to be in the way, because even in London at the time, average travel speed was at or above the C5, couldn't go up hill because it had insufficient power, and had very limited range.

And, users of it were exposed to the weather, making it uncomfortable to use for much of the UK's traditional weather. A fact Sir Clive himself came to realize quite quickly when he decided to launch it in winter, on a day when the ground was covered in snow.

It wasn't a well-considered product in any way really, but it was nevertheless an attempt.
I remember launch day, the double page adverts, and I can't recall anyone thinking there was anything good about it, any purpose to it, any reason anyone would buy one, let alone dare use it. The not unreasonable fear that recumbents were dangerous was only reinforced by that "optional extra" red flag on a bendy stick supposed to stop an HGV going over the top of you. As soon as it was shown to be utterly useless on the evening news programmes all the nails had been firmly knocked in.

Sir Clive had some brilliant ideas, some great products, but the C5 wasn't one of them. That it even got to be launched given what everyone could see from a mile off is quite amazing. Seen universally as such a bad idea coming from 'Mr Mensa' it is not surprising his reputation took such a hit.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Mon Sep 20, 2021 6:19 pm

hippy wrote:
Mon Sep 20, 2021 5:38 pm
Sir Clive had some brilliant ideas, some great products, but the C5 wasn't one of them. That it even got to be launched given what everyone could see from a mile off is quite amazing. Seen universally as such a bad idea coming from 'Mr Mensa' it is not surprising his reputation took such a hit.
History proved it wasn't a concept nor a design failure, it was a marketing failure. Not only were more sold after Sinclair went bust than Sinclair had achieved, but they were also sold at a higher price than Sinclair sold them at.

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Re: R.I.P Sir Clive

Tue Sep 21, 2021 10:51 am

pidd wrote:
Mon Sep 20, 2021 6:19 pm
hippy wrote:
Mon Sep 20, 2021 5:38 pm
Sir Clive had some brilliant ideas, some great products, but the C5 wasn't one of them. That it even got to be launched given what everyone could see from a mile off is quite amazing. Seen universally as such a bad idea coming from 'Mr Mensa' it is not surprising his reputation took such a hit.
History proved it wasn't a concept nor a design failure, it was a marketing failure. Not only were more sold after Sinclair went bust than Sinclair had achieved, but they were also sold at a higher price than Sinclair sold them at.
I don't believe they would have sold any more of them if marketing had been any different, that the deficiencies in design and concept could have been overcome. Thus I can't see it as merely a marketing failure.

Yes, it did appeal to some, as do DeLoreans, Trabants and Peel P50's. Yes, personal electric vehicles are in vogue and some do like recumbent bikes. But if the C5 were re-launched today I can't see the outcome being any different to what it was. What made people reject it then would have them reject it now.

Setting aside the novelty of getting flattened because some other vehicle did not see you - it failed in one fundamental aspect; not having the grunt to get up hill. Having to pedal to get up hill is entirely the opposite of what makes people inclined to consider such a machine.

If the C5 had been an electric version of a Bond Bug it may have fared better. But it wasn't. It doesn't even compare well to an electric mobility scooter.

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