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

Liam Proven lproven at
Wed Sep 29 10:51:02 CDT 2021

On Tue, 28 Sept 2021 at 22:05, Peter Corlett via cctalk
<cctalk at> wrote:
> I went and looked up the numbers. A 1983 Fiat Panda was £3k (list). At the
> same time, the C64 was selling for £345. So it's an order-of-magnitude out,
> but still a formidable sum of money: a factory-new rustbucket (e.g. Renault
> Duster) is about €10k today and I wouldn't willingly drop €1k on a machine
> with similar deficiencies to the C64.
> Any Brit lucky enough to have £345 burning a hole in their pocket in 1983
> would have more likely gotten a BBC Micro for £399. The Beeb had less memory
> and the graphics and sound were less useful for games, but it had a faster
> CPU (2MHz uncontended), much better BASIC, higher-resolution graphics, and
> was generally a rather more well-rounded and serious machine.
> Once you were doing useful things on the Beeb, a dual disk drive and decent
> monitor would beckon, at which point the price quickly creeps upwards to
> that of a second-hand car.

I thank my learnéd friend for the correction.

OK, not a new car -- a 2nd hand, used, car.

So, as Fred says, around 1980, the early all-in-one ready-to-use
machines like the PET & TRS-80 were the cost of a used car in the
States. £-for-$ they cost around _three times_ as much in the UK.

A few years later, the much cheaper 2nd-generation home computers from
Commodore and Atari were *still* in the ballpark of the cost of a
cheap used car in the UK, and easily as much if you added a disk
drive... while a Sinclair was about a third of the price, and even
with the (crappy but *much* better than audio cassettes!) ZX
Microdrive and the interface/controller, were _still_ around the price
of a standalone C64.

Whereas, as Peter says and I agree, if you were hobbyist and not a
gamer, a BBC Micro was a more attractive buy -- capable of 80-column
text, hi-res mono graphics, and with an excellent, fully-structured,
recursion and all,  blisteringly-fast BASIC interpreter which also
supported inline 6502 assembly language.

And also *extremely* expandable -- not only could it have a 2nd 6502
CPU, or a Z80 and CP/M, later it could even have a NatSemi 32016 or an
ARM 2nd processor. Not just able to network, use a hard disk, have
additional ROMs and things, it even talked to Laserdiscs:

Definitely preferable if you wanted a _computer_ and not games.
Although it had great games, too, including the seminal Elite.

I wanted one very much, but my family couldn't afford it... so I got a
Spectrum. 2nd hand, it cost one-fifth the price of a BBC Model B.

Liam Proven • Profile:
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