R.I.P. Clive Sinclair

Fred Cisin cisin at xenosoft.com
Sat Sep 18 15:30:10 CDT 2021

>> Clive Sinclair died at 81 after a long illness (probably not Covid)
>> 'course now he is touted as being "the inventor of the pocket calculator"
>> (as with all "FIRST"s, it leaves out a few predecessors,such as Busicom 
>> (1971, whose contract with Intel led to the 4004), Kilby's 1967 "Cal Tech" 
>> at TI, etc.)
>> I'm not sure, but the HP35 might even have preceded the Sinclair 
>> calculator.
>> As with all "FIRST"s, an entry can be saved by redefining the field. 
>> Sinclair's was probably the first one costing 5 pounds or less.

On Sat, 18 Sep 2021, Jules Richardson via cctalk wrote:
> Pockets in the US were bigger than in the UK ;-)

Yes,  and possibly also deeper.  It was not considered a MAJOR 
expense/struggle to buy a personal computer.  Some of which may have been 
that despite the exchange rate of 1.50 USD - 2.50 USD per GBP (British 
pound), a product costing 1500 USD would be sold for 1500 GBP.

At one point, there was an enormous battle for what would be the "shirt 
pocket disk".  The battle was between 3", 3.25", and 3.5".
Dysan bet the company on 3.25", because they would need the least 
retooling.  They reasoned that it would settle on whichever one had the 
software.  They launched an enormous software distribution venture.  For a 
little while, you could buy most of the biggest products (Lotus, 
Wordstar, dBase, etc.) on 3.25"!
Amusingly, the Seequa Chameleon 325 was the only machine that made it to 
market using 3.25".
When HP, Apple, and IBM chose the Sony 3.5", the battle was over.
During the heat of the battle, George Morrow suggested that we merely cut 
a deal with the clothing industry to make pockets 5.25".

> I do remember the Sinclair products using hearing aid batteries and so being 
> very slimline and compact in comparison to other hand-helds of the era, but I 
> don't know about any claim to "first".

Both BBC and the Grauniad (Guardian) flatly stated it in announcing his 
"Inventor Sir Clive Sinclair, who popularised the home computer and 
invented the pocket calculator, has died at his London home aged 

As usual, all claims of "FIRST" can be argued through the definitions.
"That one doesn't count, because it was over $200; that one doesn't count, 
because we only consider SHIRT pockets; that one doesn't count because it 
couldn't run off of its batteries for more than a few minutes, . . . "

In 1972, my boss, who was French, had a French coat pocket sized 
calculator.  Because it was stored in my desk drawer, I was listed as 
"Head Of Computing Services" when my company bid on guvmint contracts.
While in the field on the EPA contract to study water pollution control 
efforts in the Great Lakes, I first saw an HP35.  On that project, I set 
up a microfilming rig with one of my ancient Leicas, and our report had an 
8,000 page documentary appendix.  (but NO computing)
On our CEQ project, we did some trivial FORTRAN programs, and were the 
FIRST to ever correlate water quality with flow rates, and demonstrated 
that the phosphates were due to agricultural runoff, NOT laundry.

Grumpy Ol' Fred     		cisin at xenosoft.com

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