Home > Sinclair > Sinclair Chronology, 1980s

Sinclair Chronology
(Adapted from Sinclair and the Sunrise Technology,
by Ian Kennedy and Richard Kennedy, 1986)

  • Sinclair Electronics becomes Thandar Electronics Ltd, and Sinclair Radionics ceases to exist
  • Sinclair ZX80 launched at 79.95 for kit. Built versions available March for 99.95. Power supplies 8.95. Memory expansions from 1K (28.00) to 15K (276.00) available

  • Science of Cambridge profit 131,000 on turnover of 640,000

  • Work starts on HK BASIC upgrade

  • New 8K ROM for ZX80 with extended BASIC announced at 19.95
  • Science of Cambridge Ltd becomes Sinclair Computers Ltd
  • New ROM for ZX80 withdrawn
  • Clive appointed Chairman of British Mensa
  • 5m, four-year capital investment in flat-screen TV production announced by Sinclair for Timex plant includes 2.6m grants from Department of Industry and SEPD
  • First flat-screen TV production models to be called Microvision 2700, priced 'about 50' and 'expected summer 1982'
  • Clive announces ZX80 will be linked to flat-screen-TV 'some time next year'
  • ZX80 ads announce 16K RAM pack memory add-on and claim 'over 20,000' sold
  • Sinclair Computers Ltd becomes Sinclair Research Ltd
  • Clive denies ZX range will use flat-screen TV. ZX81 launched at 69.95 built, 49.95 kit. 16K RAM pack 49.95. ZX80 discontinued after sales of some 50,000 units. ZX Printer announced for June
  • Sinclair Research pretax profits 818,000 on turnover of 4.6m
  • Clive receives 242,000 in past year
  • ZX81 square root bug discovered
  • Despite Clive's assurances, users still finding faults in RAM packs.
  • Sinclair offer secondary schools the opportunity to purchase one ZX81 and RAM pack at 46 per cent discount
  • '4- or 5-inch flat screen will be incorporated into ZX81,' says Clive
  • Sinclair Browne Ltd publishing company formed
  • ZX81 delivery delays of up to nine weeks reported
  • ZX81 sales exceed 100,000 Mitsui take ZX81 for sale in Japan American Express test-market mail order ZX81s
  • ZX81 sales exceed 250,000 with monthly production of 50,000. Faulty ROMs still being shipped
  • ICL announces plans to use Sinclair BASIC and flat-tube TV for 'One-Per-Desk' terminal/telephone workstation
  • Timex are licensed to manufacture and market Sinclair products in USA
  • Sinclair Research profits of 8.55m on turnover of 27.17m, including 383,000 government grants for flat screen
  • Clive receives 1m 'bonus' on top of 13,000 salary for past year
  • Employees' total salary 400,000
  • ZX81 discounted to $53 by some retailers in US
  • Spectrums start to roll off production lines after initial ULA chip problems resolved
  • Spectrum approved for use in secondary schools under government support scheme
  • Annual three-week holiday at Timex halts Spectrum production
  • Timex launch TS1000 (ZX81 version) in US
  • ZX81 price cut to 49.95. Boots start retail sales of ZX81, Prism Microproducts to start wholesaling ZX81s
  • Sinclair throws in free printer and LOGO language program with every Spectrum bought under government's 'Micros in Primaries' scheme
  • Currys and John Menzies start retail sales of ZX81
  • ZX81 sales exceed 500,000 worldwide
  • Sinclair claims adverts for Dragon computers used Spectrum details in misleading fashion
  • Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upholds complaints against Spectrum ads on grounds of 'appalling delays' in delivery
  • W.H. Smith's agree to take Spectrum on retail basis, order 6,000 but 'only 300 turned up'
  • Spectrum order backlog still three months
  • Sinclair confirms new computer under development, to incorporate 'flat screen' and 'dual microfloppies'
  • Spectrum launched at Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show
  • Sinclair threatens to stop production at Timex Dundee plant if strike over redundancies takes place
  • N. M. Rothschild & Son place 400,000 shares (10 per cent of equity) of Sinclair Research at 34 each with financial institutions, valuing the company at 136m. Clive now owns 85 per cent, gains 13.6m as result of sale
  • Boots, John Menzies and Currys start retail sales of Spectrum, Prism starts wholesaling
  • First Sinclair Prize for Fiction won by Death is Part of the Process by Hilda Bernstein
  • Computer division of Sinclair moves to Willis Rd, Cambridge
  • Sinclair Research profits of 13.8m on 54.53m turnover, including 1.1m flat TV grants. Clive's salary 82,000
  • Spectrum sales 200,000. Searle heads Computer Division, and is MD. Clive heads Advance Products Division. Employs fifty-five staff, but claims creation of 'more than 2000' jobs
  • 14,000 Spectrum faulty power packs recalled
  • Clive wins 'Young Businessman of the Year Award' from Guardian

  • Price cuts: Spectrum dropped to 99.95 (16K), 129.95 (48K), ZX Printer price cut to 39.95, ZX81 to 39.95
  • Kempston launch Centronics (parallel) standard printer interface (£45) and joystick interface (25) for Spectrum
  • Micronet 800 launch Prestel/teletext adaptor for Spectrum
  • 16K to 48K upgrade (60) becomes available one year after promised
  • Plans for official Spectrum Modem scrapped on grounds of lack of profit margins
  • Microdrive launch announced for end of May, and 'ZX84 to be a portable' says Searle
  • Richard Cutting recruited to head 'MetaLab' research centre

  • Clive Sinclair knighted
  • ZX Interface 1 and Microdrives launched. Interface 1 is 29.95 with Microdrive(s), 49.95 without, Microdrives 49.95 each, cartridges 4.95 each - supply is rationed by Sinclair
  • Milton Hall, bought for 2m, becomes the home of MetaLab
  • ZX81 shipments 'in excess of 30,000' a month but W. H. Smith cut back machine and software purchases owing to 'lack of demand'
  • Timex announce TS1500 upgrade of TS1000 with 16K memory at $80, and TS2000 version of Spectrum at $150 (16K) and $200. (48K)
  • Issue 3 of Spectrum board, with redesigned ULA, is shipped, not compatible with some software for earlier issues
  • Sinclair flat-screen pocket TV launched at 79.95. Uses Polaroid battery packs at 3.30 each
  • Interface II joystick and ROM cartridge add-on for Spectrum launched at 19.95
  • Prism produce Spectrum Modem at 99.95
  • Sinclair claims Issue 3 board problems due to 'unprofessional practices' by software houses

  • Clive allocates 400,000 for 'deluxe Knightsbridge dwelling' construction from 1m 'bonus' from Sinclair Research for year ending March 1982. Y/E March 1983 took merely his salary of 82,000

  • Flat-screen TV price increased to 99.95
  • 50,000 ad campaign started for TV, W. H. Smith's order 7000 for Xmas, 'only 300' turn up


  • Timex discontinue computer production in US

  • Sinclair Research profits 14.28m on turnover of 77.69m, including 309,000 government grants

  • First reported delivery of a QL to mail order customer - but returned within a week
  • ASA upholds complaints on QL advertising delivery claims, and Spectrum Chess program advertising
  • Sinclair Vehicles moves to University of Warwick Science Park. Barry Wills is MD

  • QL production reported to be '2000 a week'
  • Corrected versions of QL User Guide due in August. Expects 250,000 QLs to be sold by end 1985
  • Improved Psion software promised for 'later in the year'
  • AB Electronics (South Wales) and Samsung Electronics (Korea) appointed as Spectrum assemblers. Projected 200,000 a month production of Spectrums by end 1984, 50,000 a month for QL, 20,000 a month for flat-screen TV

  • Spectrum LOGO language launched by Sinclair at 39.00



  • ICL's 'One-Per-Desk' workstation launched, using Sinclair Microdrives and SuperBASIC
  • Sinclair predicts record sales of 400,000 Spectrums in fourth quarter. 175,000 Spectrums to be shipped in December
  • Spectrum shipments reach 2m units
  • 4m ad campaign starts

  • 10 Jan - C5 electric tricycle launched at 399
  • 16 Jan - Sinclair shows FM wristwatch radio at Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in US
  • 20 Jan - Spectrum+ price dropped to 129.95, 48K Spectrum discontinued. Upgrade of Spectrum to Spectrum+ offered for 30 (kit 20)
  • 30 Jan - Microdrive cartridge price dropped to 1.99 as cartridge sales reach 750,000. Free duplication and bulk carriage purchase offered to software houses to boost QL software
  • QL production suspended
  • ICL launch 'One-Per-Desk' workstation with microdrives, version of SuperBASIC, Psion packages
  • 7 Feb - Sinclair aborts stock market flotation
  • 9 Feb - Sinclair Vehicles reports 5,000 orders for C5
  • 20 Feb - Sinclair Research restructures into TV and Communications Division (headed by Bill Jeffrey, brought in from Mars Electronics) and Computer Division (headed by Davis Chatten, ex-Sinclair Production Director). Hugo Davenport appointed Engineering Director (ex-Solatron-Schlumberger)
  • Nigel Searle transfers to head US operation for QL, FM wristwatch radio and flat-screen TV mail order
  • Sinclair holds overseas distributors conference, displaying thirty-three software packages and seventeen peripherals available or projected for the QL
  • 22 Feb - Improved Version 2.0 Psion software for the QL announced, to be shipped with new QLs. Free upgrades provided to QLUB members

  • Production faults on C5 halt production for three weeks
  • Unemployed teenagers hired to drive C5s around London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds
  • 12 Mar - Plans to form and seek funding for separate company for wafer-scale chips under Robb Wilmot are announced by Clive. Wilmot appointed a director of Sinclair Research
  • Institutions holding 10 per cent shares told profits to December 7.9m on 89m turnover, stocks held 34m
  • 25 Mar - Intensive TV and press marketing campaign for QL starts. Sinclair states it 'intends' to sell 200,000 QLs this year

  • Figures (not released until November) show pre-tax loss of 18m on turnover of 102m. 22m written off for decrease in stock value and bad debts
  • 14 Apr - Dutch ban C5
  • 16 Apr - Spanish language QL launched
  • 25 Apr - ASA upholds complaints on unsubstantiated claims in C5 adverts in draft report
  • Hoover cut C5 workforce from 100 to 12 and production from 1000 a week to 100
  • Several London retailers discount QL prices in stores
  • Hoover make C5 production controller redundant
  • 14 May - French language QL launched
  • 28 May - Sinclair confirms it is seeking 10m-15m to 'fund long-term growth and restructuring' and a new chief executive to replace Clive in this role, denies Clive intends to relinquish his position as chairman, and counters reports of weak computer market by stating they shipped 300,000 Spectrums in pre-Xmas period

  • 2 June - Sinclair Vehicles confirms it is looking to sell company. 'About 9000' C5s sold
  • 6 June - Timex sell Spectrums directly to Zeta Services to reduce debts owed by Sinclair Research
  • 17 June - Robert Maxwell announces rescue bid for Sinclair Research, which has 15m debts. Deal to leave Clive with 8 percent, chairmanship and consultancy
  • Sinclair announces wafer-scale integration process proven viable for commercial production, to be used in 500K memory add-on for QL
  • Timex lay off 400 workers from Spectrum assembly line, but continue flat-screen TV production
  • Boots say Spectrum+ returns running at 20-30 per cent
  • 13 July - Hoover issue writ against Clive for 1.5m due for work done on C5, but it is not served
  • 17 July - ASA uphold four out of five complaints on misleading C5 adverts

  • 9 Aug - Maxwell aborts Sinclair Research takeover
  • Dixons take 160,000 computers and flat-screen TVs for 10m
  • 13 Aug - Hoover stops C5 production
  • 24 Aug - QL price cut from 399 to 199.95

  • Sinclair Vehicles renamed as TPD Ltd
  • Comet cuts C5 price to 189, including accessories
  • 19 Sep - Digital Research confirms talks taking place with Sinclair over GEM operating system for QL
  • 23 Sep - Spectrum 128K version unveiled at Barcelona Computer Fair, result of joint venture with Investronica and Sinclair Research

  • 14 Oct - Receivers called in to TPD Ltd (ex-Sinclair Vehicles Ltd). Only 4500 C5s sold in total
  • 17 Oct - 'Pandora' '68000-based' portable scheduled for April 1986, at 300
  • 25 Oct - 'Enigma' leaked to Your Computer, May 1986, 3.5-inch discs, mouse, monitor, printer and Psion packages for '500-1000'. 'Pandora' will be Spectrum (Z80 chip) based
  • 'Personal Communicator' L99 portable cellnet phone leaked to pres
  • 6 Nov - TPD Ltd (ex-Sinclair Vehicles) goes into voluntary liquidation with debts of 6.4m.
  • Sinclair Vehicles (Sales) Ltd to continue electric car projects

  • 6 Feb - Timex take over worldwide marketing and distribution of flat-screen TV, with price cut to £79.95
  • 13 Feb - Spectrum 128K launched in UK. New sound chip, video output, improved BASIC editor, full keyboard input, nonstandard RS232 port, keypad interface and no 'dot crawl', with 128K memory for 179.95. Numeric keypad available separately for 19.95. Disc drive promised. Clive says "'Pandora" could just be a CP/M machine'


  • C5s go on sale in the USA, at $595 complete, $395 kit
  • 7 Apr - Amstrad pays 5m for all rights to existing Sinclair computer products, and commits 11m for outstanding orders and work in progress. Sinclair Research becomes research and consultancy, two separate subsidiaries to be formed, one with Timex holding 75 per cent for portable phone project, one with Barclays Bank funding for wafer-scale development

  • 7 July - Anamartic Ltd launched. Seeks to raise 6m to produce waferscale memory device for production early 1987