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back to article Jim Westwood, home micro revolutionary

We all know Sir Clive Sinclair, the sometimes eccentric British boffin whose early simple, cheap and often kit-assembled devices helped usher in the UK's home computer revolution. You may also have seen the irreverent 2009 BBC drama Micro Men, which chronicled Sir Clive's failed battle with his own ex-employee and Acorn co- …

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WTF?

Really?

I think that referring to any Sinclair product as hifi would require significant redefinition of that word!

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On the contrary

The Sinclair Neoteric 60 was very highly rated by HiFi News and The Gramophone at the time.

I've been trying to find one for ages but not many were made. Apparently they were very difficult to make because of their small size and that caused reliability issues with overheating.

Still. I'd have one if I could find one.

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I had one of those pocket TVs

A device badly crippled by its choice of battery; a flat Li job that was almost entirely unobtainable, and cost a bastard fortune.

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Yes, the fabled

battery was available in one of those cameras that developed the pics there and then, kodak instaprint? Instamatic??

And yes, they were bloody expensive.

But, it was a pocket tv and i remember being in london in the mid eighties with mine in my lonely B&B...

Worked well....

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Happy

Had the one between the one with all the knobs

-and the flatty.

Watched the last episode of Blake's Seven on the bus.

oo- Still got it-! runs on AA batteries- but not much on these days...

Great for Pong, though but the bloody ball is tiny!

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

(Written by Reg staff)

Name game

Mea culpa. Yes, we got Jim's name wrong. Apologies to Jim, to writer Chris Bidmead, who got it right, and to the surprisingly few of you who noticed.

Entirely a slip of the brain on my part. Normal service has been resumed, etc, etc.

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Noticed?

noticed, chuckled, knew you'd fix it, mailed screenshots to a few friends.

Hardware guys don't get bent out of shape about little things like softies seem to.

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Holmes

And if you could now correct the caption too?

As it's not entirely accurate to describe Jim as appearing 'alongside Martin Freeman' when his wife is standing between the two of them!

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I worked with Jim

I had the pleasure of working with Jim at Amino; before they shoved 30% of the workforce out of the door in 2009. He is a very nice guy who, despite always being mad-busy, always makes time for you. He explained the issues around the ZX81 crashing (tin plating and no buffers) and confirmed my standard practice of tonnes of Blu Tac as being the standard most people adopted.

A school friend also had one of Sinclair's flat screen TVs and we used it on a (c. 1986/7) school trip to Loughborough Uni to watch News at Ten. We still don't really have pocket TVs in 2011...

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Boffin

We're not worthy!!!

That is all.

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its

people like this we should be celebrating, not bloody Steve "I'm a good salesman" Jobs

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Unfortunately the bloody marketers are rather better at manipulating what we get to know. Which is exactly why they're marketers.

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Go

Another unsung hero

Could we please, please, please have a similar article on Sophie Wilson ?

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@Dave Lawton

"Could we please, please, please have a similar article on Sophie Wilson ?"

Excellent idea.

having seen one of her presentation on YouTube I'm curious to know more.

Another candidate who helped kick start the process of chip design would be Lyn Conway.

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Anonymous Coward

people like this we should be celebrating, not bloody

Sir Alan "Barrow Boy" Sugar.

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OMG you ignorant lot.

Fags ahoy, think about what you're saying and have some sensitivity about the current feelings towards capitalism El reg. This stuff shoved a nation down the crapper.

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No, what shoved us down the crapper was the never-ending stream of golden yellow emanating from westminster palace and spraying far and wide.

Capitalism is simply the private ownership and use of capital - that is, money, resources and time, expended at the whim of the private owner of those things. Nothing more and nothing less.

What you're objecting to, without apparently realising it, isn't capitalism but essentially a form of fascism, where the state has merged its with monopoly corporate entities that it helped to create through regulation and control of the economy - said regulation being designed to prevent effective competition to the large corporate entities that have made themselves so willingly available to the piss-passers dangling themselves above hoi poloi.

That isn't capitalism. It's statism, which is the opposite of capitalism, and the end result isn't very pretty.

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Sugar

Indeed we should celebrate Westwood instead of Sugar. I often wish people would remember that Sugar's talent was employing bloody good engineers, namely Roland Perry, and Cliff Lawson, as well as people like Richard Clayton at Locomotive.

Like Westwood it was these guys who sat in the background doing the hard work that made their bosses very rich indeed.

So Jim Westwood we salute you, and all the other guys who sat in the background doing all the hard work that gave us so many wonderful computers and electronics. I may now carry around a iPhone, tablet and a laptop but computing just isn't as fun anymore.

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Z88

You'd never get away with making a device like the Z88 today.. which is a shame. If you want to take written notes, it is probably the best possible device.. and the battery lasted forever. There still seems to be quite a lively user community too.

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Indeed

I own a Z88 that was used in 1991 to file reports on the attempted coup against Gorbachev.

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You can't read this...

You can't read this without feeling immense gratitude and humility - thanks guys! And thanks el reg for bringing this to us.

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Stop

The text and font of the headline on that PDF (page 4)

"Now you can watch a little TV everywhere" very similar font and text to Apple's current advertising. Wonder where they got that idea from - imitation is the biggest form of flattery. And wonder if apple's marketing veep ever knew/will know this - what was I reading here earlier about apple and innovation/lack of it hmmm...

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Coat

Sinclair's IC12 Audio amp started life as a Plessey low-wattage audio output chip. Seconds were sold off to Radiospares, who sold it as a 6 watt audio amp; their seconds were passed to Sinclair, who stuck the big finned heatsink on top and passed it off as 12 watts. Can't for the life of me remember whether it was RMS, peak or "music power", though. I had a Sinclair FM radio, which was also matchbox size; it ran on 2 mercury button cells. His calculators were RPN, just like the early HP calculators, I think. Can anyone confirm?

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Sinclair

Sinclair's ability was not only to employ bloody good engineers - but to let them get on with it.

He's quoted in one of the books about British industry that "employs an engineer on a salary of 20,000 but quibbles over buying them a 20quid tool to do their job" .

Unfortunately this attitude eventually sent the TV outfit bust when everybody in the village could apparently bill anything to Sinclair withotu question

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Joke

Beware tall balding ginger Scotsman shopping for a shark tank and something to fill it

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

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Anonymous Coward

RPN - nearly?

It is indeed commonly written that the Sinclair calculators used RPN. I have also seen it written, and find it plausible but can't find the reference again, that the RPN they used wasn't proper formal RPN but some slightly bastardised form of RPN required to work around some limitation or other in the calculator's chippery.

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Sinclair Cambridge

Although pictured there was no mention of the Sinclair Cambridge assemble-it-yourself calculator which retailed, if I remember correctly, for 29.95 pounds.

After several false starts I finally had mine going and - due to an accident of birth date - I was the first person in my school with a real electronic calculator.

Four functions, the possibility of spelling SheLLOIL and BOOBIES, and instructions for iteratively calculating square roots using Newton-Raphson - my fingers generated a motor memory so I could calculate square roots in seconds, just like today's youth can send an SMS faster than I can make a phone call.

Just two or three years later I could buy a CBM calculator that did everything I ever needed at university for about the same price - but the Sinclair was the only calculator I was ever proud of.

Sadly I had no sense of history so although I still have my slide rule - which I must bring out sometime to frighten my children - my Cambridge has long disappeared

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Joke

A giant among Radio 1 DJs

Great friday night listening. <explosionsfx /> UNDASTAND, BABY! <explosionsfx />

Better than X-hibit on Pimp my Ride, as well.

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Boffin

The TV *was* something special

Yes it was small but it was also.

1) Multi-standard. Designed to operate *anywhere* in the world. The core seemed to be some fiendishly clever Ferranti ASIC or PLA (There was speculation but I don't think they ever opened up the design even as far as block diagram level. It seems impossible that it could have been entirely digital and I'm not sure people were producing analogue PLA's at the time.

2) The CRT using a 3rd set of electrodes to bend the picture 90deg which (IIRC) was patteneted by Denis Gabor around the time he was inventing holography.

3) The glass was vacuum formed. This is normally only associated with plastic (probably because the softening temperature of the plastics of the time were about 1/6 that of glass).

People speculated it could be the basis of a *projection* TV as well but that never went anywhere.

On the upside it seems to have given the team PLA (or as Ferranti called them ULA's) which got them set up for doing the ZX80.

Incidentally from some of the comments it would seem his hardware design was sound but (and I think this is a *recurring* theme in UK engineering) the *production* engineering (especially quality control on PCBs and other stuff) was at times a bit s**t.

Note that he had *no* degree.

It seems impossible for *any* future UK generation of engineers to come up as he came up. Essentially hardware hacking *lots* of circuits and studying how they worked by twiddling with them.

Not very *formal* but it seems to have been quite effective.

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