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Sinclair Radionics, 1974-79

Although they were far from being the most high-profile of Sinclair's products, Sinclair's digital multimeters were the steady-selling bulwark of the company's catalogue in the 1970s and enabled Sinclair to produce his more exotic gadgets. Six digital multimeters, plus one "pocket frequency meter" and an oscilloscope, were produced between 1974-79. They were:

Sinclair himself was not particularly interested in his company's digital instruments and played little part in their development; as he commented to Computing magazine (17 February 1983), "instruments were profitable but dull." His hands-off approach meant that the instruments division was treated virtually as a company within a company. Derek Holley, managing director of Sinclair Radionics at the time, recalled:

There was development going on in instruments, but in a much lower key, and not in the public eye. [Instruments staff] were almost also-rans within the company, people that no one ever heard of, but they'd been reasonably successful and launched two or three instruments which had sold considerable numbers.
(Interview, 13 November 1985)

The men principally responsible for the Sinclair instrument range were John Nicholls, the project leader, responsible for the electronics and his assistant Keith Pauley, who engineered the designs for production. In marked contrast to the rest of the Sinclair range, the instruments gained a reputation for reliable conventionality rather than often unreliable idiosyncrasy. As Norman Hewett (another former managing director of Radionics) has pointed out,

The instruments weren't funnies in the sense of packing stuff in ... the multimeters were fairly routine, with a metal case and plenty room, and anybody in a compentent firm could put them together.

However, the multimeters eventually passed out of Sinclair's hands. In July 1979, Sinclair was eased out of control of Radionics with a £10,000 "golden handshake" and the instruments business was hived off by the National Enterprise Board to form a new company, briefly called Sinclair Electronics (to which Clive himself had no direct connection) but ultimately renamed Thandar. Thandar went on to become a well-regarded manufacturer of digital instruments and is still in business today under the name of Thurlby-Thandar Instruments (see http://www.tttinst.co.uk)

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Chris Owen 1994-2003