Clive Sinclair, the British inventor behind the pocket calculator and affordable home computers, died Thursday at age 81, his family told media.
He died at his London home after battling cancer for more than a decade, British media reported, earning tributes from many who fondly remember their first computer experience in the early 1980s .
Last week he was still working on inventions “because that’s what he loved to do,” his daughter Belinda Sinclair told the BBC.
“He was inventive and imaginative and for him it was exciting and an adventure, it was his passion,” she added.
Among Clive Sinclair’s revolutionary inventions was the first portable electronic calculator in 1972.
The Sinclair ZX80, launched in 1980 and sold for less than £ 100 at the time, helped democratize home computing in Britain and elsewhere.
Other home computers such as the Apple II cost much more, and Sinclair’s company was the first in the world to sell more than a million machines.
Among the models that followed was the ZX Spectrum in 1982, which offered higher power and a more user-friendly interface, which accelerated the revolution in home gaming and programming.
British director Edgar Wright, whose latest film “Last Night in Soho” premiered in Venice this month, paid homage to Sinclair on Twitter.
“As someone whose first glimpses of a new world were the terrifying + 3D Monster Maze + graphics on the ZX81, I would like to salute technology pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair,” he said.
“He made 21st century dreams possible. I’m going to tap the rubber keys of a Spectrum in your honor. RIP.”
– Battery powered tricycle –
“You could say that the digital age started for us in the UK with the Sinclair ZX80, when thousands of kids learned to code using 1k of RAM,” tweeted Tom Watson, former Deputy Leader of the Labor Party. British.
“This man has changed my life,” he added.
However, not all of Clive Sinclair’s inventions have met with dazzling success. The Sinclair C5, a battery-powered recumbent trike touted as the future of green transportation, flopped on an expensive scale after its launch in 1985.
“Sir Clive Sinclair’s influence on the world should not be underestimated,” video game journalist Dominik Diamond tweeted. “If we had all stopped laughing long enough to buy a C5, it probably would have saved the environment.”
Born in 1940, Sinclair left school at the age of 17 to become a technical journalist. At 22, he created his first company, making mail order radio kits, including what was then the smallest transistor radio in the world.
Other projects include digital watches and a first flat-screen TV.
He was portrayed onscreen in 2009 by British actor Alexander Armstrong in the television drama Micro Men, which chronicles his rivalry with Acorn Computers founder Chris Curry in the 1980s.
Ironically, in a 2013 interview with the BBC, Clive Sinclair revealed that he doesn’t use computers himself.
“I don’t like distractions,” he explained. “If I had a computer, I would start to think I could change this, I could change that, and I don’t want to.”