Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Currying Favour

If you have even the slightest passing interest in the story of home computers you can still catch the wonderful Micro Men on I-player - brilliant entertaining stuff and great performances by Alexander Armstrong as Sir Clive Sinclair and Martin Freeman as Chris Curry of Acorn Computers.

I confess to being a long time fan of Sir Clive Sinclair and always held his achievements in high esteem .... yes, even the C5 which was an "epic fail" yet a visionary experiment at the time (half the population over 60 now appear to ride around on electric trucks). He always seemed brave enough to attempt the near-impossible and when his ideas worked, such as his first pocket calculator, they were truly ground breaking.

I remember staying up all night playing with my first Sinclair Calculator in the early 1980's and later the Sinclair ZX80 with its fabulous 1k of memory which is almost enough storage capacity for this sentence. I was one of the first people to order a ZX81 and therefore one of the first to be queueing up at his service bay in Cambridge to have it repaired. In the early 1980's I was probably the biggest Sinclair Nerd in Norfolk.

The Micro Men Drama didn't quite chime with my own understanding of the characters and events. I hadn't realised that Chris Curry of Acorn originally worked for Sinclair and was very surprised to see Sinclair himself portrayed as the "baddy" with a bullying temper and an inability to see the full potential for home computers early on.

Perhaps because this programme was made by the BBC they were somehow influenced to make "their" man come out looking better? I need to read up some background.


KAZ said...

The Amstrad was my Muffin the Mule of the eighties.
I wish Bill Gates had taken note of some of its features.

Dave said...

I had a ZX81. I wrote many essays on it when I was studying to be a preacher. Many of them I wrote twice, when it failed to save them.

Eventually I got an Amstrad PCW for my birthday. Now that was a machine.

Rog said...

Kaz: Ah, it's the Alan Sugar fan club, eh? Bill Gates doesn't seem to have done too badly though, does he.

Dave: I hope you tried the flight simulator in between your preacher essays. Sinclair always left you on a wing and a prayer.

Billy said...

I was hoping that Alan Sugar was going to turn up at the end and go mental, rather than just being represented in archive footage.

That bit with Sinclair and the three Mensa groupies was very weird.

Geoff said...

That picture doesn't do Sir Clive justice. He's a bit of a babe magnet after all.

Scarlet-Blue said...

And I was so relieved to be able to take a calculator into my maths 'O' Level. I still failed.

Rog said...

Billy: It was very weird. I think Chris Curry must have written it.

Geoff: You'd be surprised!

Scarlet: I was allowed a slide-rule myself....

Richard said...

My Dad had Sinclair's first effort, the World's Smallest Radio. Didn't work and remained in his bench drawer for ever. Good point about the electric chairs though.