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

Jecel Assumpcao Jr jecel at
Tue Sep 28 14:21:12 CDT 2021

Yeechang Lee wrote on Tue, 28 Sep 2021 10:36:15 -0700
> The US industry thought that the $99 price point needed to be reached, in
> part because of the Timex/Sinclair 1000's example; besides the 99/2 and
> Commodore 16, the TRS-80 MC-10 is another example of the ultra low-cost
> "Sinclair fighter".

Ah, yes - the MC-10. At least that one was actually sold (unlike the
99/2) even if it was only a few months.

In 2014 I helped the local university reboot their computer museum. They
made the MC-10 one of their center pieces. I pointed out that it was so
obscure and short lived that it had essentially no impact on computing
history. On the other hand they had an original IBM 5150 PC which they
kept in storage as "too boring". I tried to convince them that it was
the most significant machine they had in their collection but they
didn't listen.

> The industry did not expect that a) more usable computers would reach
> the $99 price point, including the 99/4A ($49 after discontinuation) and
> VIC-20, and b) the TS 1000 didn't sell very well in the US anyway. Then
> the video game crash of 1983's aftereffects essentially wiped out the US
> home computer industry outside the C64, with Apple II and the PC for
> those willing to pay more.

Jack got his revenge on TI for driving Commodore out of the calculator

Some people like to plot the fall of the 99/4 prices starting with the
original in 1979. That doesn't make sense because that price originally
included a bundled color monitor, which the improved 99/4A didn't. TI
thought that they could sell the machine at a loss and people would have
to buy their expensive software and peripherals. Many videogame console
makers have had success with this strategy, but while somebody buying a
$450 TI99/4A might consider getting an even more expensive floppy disk
drive as well, the person buying a $90 TI99/4A will try to get by with a
free audio cassette and if it didn't work out would just throw the
machine in some drawer.

The $100 computer class violated Bell's law by being a passing fad.
Every new lower cost computer class started out as a toy compared to
previous computers (mainframe vs minis, minis vs micros). But Moore's
law allowed them to grow into useful products. The problem was that
there were no good low cost storage options. Floppy drives stayed in the
$500 range for a long time before going down to $100 in the 1990s and
then dropping to $10 at the end of the 1990s right before they died out.
Adding an SD card reader to any of those old, really cheap machines
makes them so much more usable than they were back in their day.

Sinclair was aware of this, which is why he attempted the "micro drive"
endless tape and the wafer scale integration battery backed RAM. Not to
mention the EPROM programmer of the Z88.

-- Jecel

More information about the cctalk mailing list