In praise of... Sir Clive Sinclair

Editorial: Back in the 80s Clive Sinclair was the face of Britain's technological future, one part visionary, one part dotty uncle and one part marketing genius

Anyone who spent the early 1980s rewinding a squealing tape player in an attempt to load Lunar Lander on to a Sinclair ZX81 or Jet Set Willy on to a Spectrum will have been transported back to their youth by the BBC4 film Micro Men, repeated tonight. They will also have been in for a shock. Back in the 80s Clive Sinclair was the face of Britain's technological future, one part visionary, one part dotty uncle and one part marketing genius. Alexander Armstrong, who plays him in the film, says he was seen as a cross between Einstein and Willy Wonka, and that is about right. Now, all of a sudden, the BBC have revealed him to be a telephone-hurling, image-addicted corporate bully whose battle with plucky but boring Acorn computers (and its goody-two shoes beige BBC Micro) ended with both companies crashing to the ground. Sir Clive apparently watched the BBC film before it was broadcast, which says a lot for his tolerance, since, to put it mildly, he comes across as very strange. It is true that he spent his career trying to make things very small (launching an in-ear radio not long ago), or very cheap, or very portable (endlessly trying to build a handheld TV which, when other manufacturers perfected it, no one wanted). He also has a fascination with electric bikes (and made the awful C5). But in 2009, when everyone has all-but-free portable computers in their phones, and every politician promises to make Britain a leader in zero-carbon electric cars, who can say that Sir Clive was wrong?


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