An American perspective on the late great Sir Clive Sinclair, from Fast Company

Yeechang Lee ylee at
Mon Sep 27 15:14:54 CDT 2021

Liam Proven says:
> I know that Sinclair computers were _so_ cheap that in the USA they
> were perceived as toys, not worthy of any serious consideration.

This was true in more wealthy countries outside the US, too. Sinclair never got anywhere in Germany compared to Commodore, for example. The ZX81 and Spectrum (and clones) did have a presence in Spain and South America.

> *Because* they were so very expensive, what in the home markets were
> perceived as minor flaws -- such as the C64's awful BASIC -- were
> deal-breakers.

You make it sound like the C64 failed in the UK/European market. For others' benefit, the C64 had about as much market share as the Spectrum in the UK (with Amstrad a very solid third place, especially considering its later start, and BBC Micro significantly behind) and beat it in Germany, Finland, and elsewhere. The C64 isn't included in the recent book _The Computers That Made Britain_ for no reason.

> If you were going to spend as much as a new car on an early home
> computer,

If you're going to exaggerate for effect, don't exaggerate so much that your meaning is lost.

> then you wanted something well-rounded: decent graphics, decent
> sound, a decent BASIC, a usable keyboard, and maybe mass storage
> that didn't cost as much as 2 extra cars.


> Therefore things like the C64 were not appealing: terrible BASIC,
> terribly slow disk drives which were _also_ terribly expensive.

Disk drives were so much a non-presence in the UK home computer market until the Amiga/ST in 1985 that there is no point in mentioning them at all. (It's not like Spectrum users were enjoying disk drives while Commodore users were using cassette, after all.)

> We didn't choose things like the ZX-81 or ZX Spectrum because they
> were AWESOME AMAZEBALLS GREAT. We chose them because we could afford
> them, and they had for their time a decent balance of features.

Correct. The schoolyard disputes between Spectrum and C64 owners were between kids whose parents decided to pay a few tens of quid for the more capable Commodore, versus those who paid a few tens of quid less for the less capable (but still quite functional) Spectrum.

The same schoolyard disputes existed in the US, whether between Commodore and Atari 8-bit owners, 2600, ColecoVision, and IntelliVision owners, or slightly later between Nintendo and Sega owners. They still exist today, between PlayStation and Xbox owners.

> I didn't own all of them, but I've played with every single one of
> them. :-)

Most children who participated in those schoolyard disputes have long since moved on (if only to other platform wars, like Emacs/Vi, Mac/Windows/Linux, etc.). You sound like someone still embittered by C64 owners around you bragging about their superior computers.

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