Timex / Sinclair, 1981
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:
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.
© Chris Owen 1994-2003