Clive Sinclair set to launch new Spectrum microcomputer

The 1980s classic should be welcomed by lovers of all things retro

 

Geeks and gamers with a fetish for all things retro may soon be able to pick up a new model of the Spectrum, one of the first home computers enjoyed by millions of children in the 1980s and often credited with kick-starting the British tech industry.

The initiative marks a return to prominence for Clive Sinclair, Spectrum’s colourful 74-year-old inventor who designed the world’s first pocket calculator and the ZX80, Britain’s first mass-market home computer which was launched in 1980.

Sinclair has unveiled a crowdfunding campaign for the new Sinclair Spectrum Vega, 32 years after rolling out the first ZX Spectrum. It has raised £1,900 and needs £100,000 in the next two months for the initial production to go ahead.

A prototype is ready; it takes advantage of huge leaps in processing power to let users squeeze all 14,000 of the original games on to the device, including favourites such as Chuckie Egg, Horace Goes Skiing and Jet Set Willy.

The new microcomputer will cost £100 and comes with 1,000 games preloaded. Users will be able to download more games for free online and like the original Spectrum with its vulcanised rubber keyboard and cheery rainbow branding, it plugs straight into the television without the need for a traditional screen or monitor.

The first 1,000 devices will be made in the UK and all the proceeds will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. It has been marketed by Retro Computers, a Luton-based start-up in which Sinclair is a shareholder through a corporate entity.

He started his career as a journalist and left to start his own electronics company. His success with Spectrum was followed by a tumultuous period in his personal and professional life, including the disastrous launch of the C5, an electric tricycle, and a string of relationships with actresses and models, one of whom, Angie Bowness, he married in 2010.

The Spectrum was among the first microcomputers enjoyed by a generation of young programmers in their bedrooms and basements, along with the BBC Micro – the device developed by Acorn computers, which later became Arm Holdings, the chip designer that is now one of the UK’s biggest technology groups.

Sinclair’s turbulent relationship with Chris Curry, the brains behind the competing BBC Micro device, was later made into a BBC drama.

“The idea that an inventor can come up with some brilliant idea and somebody else will make it all happen is nonsense,” he told the Independent in 2010. “If the idea is good enough, it’s going to appear pretty crazy to almost everybody. Either you do it yourself or it ain’t going to happen.”

Ian Livingstone, a founder of the Games Workshop company, said the sector “owes a huge debt” to Sinclair for his role in “kickstarting the UK industry”.

But he warned that high-end consoles and free-to-play games on smartphones means “today’s games world is totally different”.

“It’s a $100 billion global industry and highly competitive.

“Consumers have a lot of choice. It’s software that sells hardware, and I hope Sir Clive’s catalogue of games includes ‘must have titles’ exclusive to the Vega.” – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014)

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