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TS 1000
Timex / Sinclair, 1981

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With the TS 1000, the first transatlantic Sinclair computer, Timex hoped to repeat the huge success of Sinclair Research in the UK. It certainly needed a success; the company was forecast to make a $14 million trading loss in 1982. As the picture above shows, the machine itself was essentially a ZX81 with a rebadged case. The TS 1000 was immediately successful, with over 550,000 sold in the six months from its launch in July 1982. This represented sales greater than those of Tandy, Apple and Commodore combined.

The TS 1000's box proclaimed optimistically that "revolutionary technology makes this computer possible". However, the familiar Sinclair quality control gremlins struck the TS 1000 - some estimates suggested that as many as one in three machines shipped were faulty. This proved disastrous. The American consumer, evidently preferring reliability to idiosyncracity, proved far less patient than the British. The Wall Street Journal described on August 17, 1983 what had gone wrong:

Although [Timex] quickly sold thousands of computers last fall, early Timex Sinclair buyers faced an immediate disappointment. Almost all the programs written for the Timex machine required a $50 memory unit. But Timex didn't supply that unit in great numbers until two or three months after it introduced the computer. Many new owners would take the machine home without software, plug it in and find it didn't do anything useful. 'It was a disaster,' says the computer buyer at a large discount store chain...

The model 1000 is also irritating to use. If it is jiggled when the memory unit is attached, the television screen hooked up to it sometimes goes blank. The keyboard, drawn on a piece of hard plastic, doesn't have separate keys. The computer also can't produce color graphics or sound and isn't much good for playing games. Consumers who wanted to learn about computers were willing to ignore such shortcomings when the unit was the only one selling for less than $100, but now sales have plummeted.

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Chris Owen 1994-2003