Home FINANCE The games industry pays tribute to Sir Clive Sinclair

The games industry pays tribute to Sir Clive Sinclair

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Sir Clive Sinclair’s contributions to the world extend beyond gaming, so prolific were his inventions.

But as games professionals and enthusiasts alike expressed their sadness at news of his passing last week, it’s clear the impact he had on the industry — especially in the UK — was profound and a key pillar to his legacy.

Best known in the gaming world for his ZX consoles — the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum — Sir Clive Sinclair provided the platform for many a developer to start their career. It wasn’t just their capabilities, but also their affordability, with a ZX80 priced at less than £100. Sinclair believed in a future where every household was home to a computer, and his games consoles helped prove that could become a reality.

Tributes have already been paid across social media, but we reached out to notable developers from the time, industry veterans familiar with his work, and other games professionals to share their thoughts on the life and legacy of Sir Clive Sinclair

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Philip and Andrew Oliver


Philip and Andrew Oliver, aka The Oliver Twins

“We were very sad to hear of Clive Sinclair’s passing, but understand he’d been ill for a very long time.

“In the late ’70’s and ’80s, he made such a massive contribution to computers and technology. This was appreciated by ’80s geeks in the UK, but was well before globalisation, so he was unable to realise the true potential of his inventions and had many financial challenges.

“As with many geniuses, he had flaws, and one was his unwavering passion to produce an affordable electric vehicle. Financially and technically, this was out of his reach, but his prediction of where the future would go has since been proven to be right to a degree. Sadly, his disastrous C5 spelt the end of the road for his breakthroughs, but the teams he brought together in Cambridge would go on to become massive players in the explosive global tech industry and we all have a lot to thank Clive for.

“We wish we could have met him, but sadly never did. He significantly helped make our careers and those of countless others.”

Debbie Bestwick, Team17
“Falling in love at age 12 with Football Manager (by Addictive Software) on my ZX Spectrum is the reason I’m in the games industry. Sir Clive Sinclair was a true pioneer of affordable gaming and helped to set the strong foundations of the great UK games industry we’re so lucky to have today.”

“Sir Clive Sinclair was a true pioneer of affordable gaming and helped to set the strong foundations of the great UK games industry we’re so lucky to have today”

Debbie Bestwick, Team17

Charles Cecil, Revolution Software
“The success of video game development in the UK can be largely credited to the vision of one man: Sir Clive Sinclair. With just 1K of memory the Sinclair ZX81, launched in 1981, was of comparable power to the multi-million dollar computers that controlled Apollo 11 just a decade earlier.

“That generation, my generation, was spellbound by this incredible technology and the games that it allowed us to play and then write. Self-taught British programmers pushed the hardware to the limits and beyond — notable achievements that I remember include Artic’s 1K Chess (it really was a fully functional chess program running in 1K) written by David Horne, and JK Greye’s 3D Monsters Maze written by Malcolm Evans.

“The government of the day responded by adding Computer Science to the National Curriculum, and a generation of youngsters voraciously embraced the subject (a few years later Tony Blair’s government unfortunately replaced Computer Science with Information Computer Technology).

“A cottage industry of UK home computer developers grew rapidly. I wrote a number of text adventures for the ZX81, published by Artic. We held small events — most memorably Quicksilva and Bug Bytes ‘QuickByte’ dinner where Sir Clive statuettes were awarded for the most ludicrous business decisions of the previous year, with Artic winning the award for the most incoherent television advertising campaign.

“RIP Sir Clive. You were a genius, way ahead of your time in so many ways. We all owe you a great debt of gratitude.”

David Braben, Frontier Developments
“Clive Sinclair was a very engaging person, always discussing exciting future opportunities. Clearly he will be remembered for the ZX80, ZX81, and Spectrum, (and the QL computers), but many of his other projects were groundbreaking, like the first pocket calculator, first pocket TV, and the first electric bike (the ‘Zike’). Perhaps not too many people were aware he was working on a full-size four seat electric car, and the C5 was just a stepping-stone to it, but sadly the C5 is another thing people remember. His rivalry with Acorn was a lot more friendly than perhaps people realise, but he was a key player in what was an amazing time here in Cambridge.”

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Ann Hurley, Testronic Labs

Ann Hurley, Testronic Labs
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that the UK games industry would not be where it is today without Sir Clive Sinclair. His Sinclair ZX81 and Spectrum brought affordable gaming to consumers and spawned UK games development and publishing giants such as Codemasters, the Oliver Twins, Ocean Software and many more.

“I never had the pleasure of meeting Sir Clive, but when I joined the industry, working at distribution company Centresoft, our days were busy shipping the Spectrum and games cassettes to independent retailers across the UK. Many, many businesses in the UK games industry owe much to Sir Clive.”

Gary Whitta, screenwriter and former games journalist
“Sir Clive was a true father of the modern computing age. He was the British Jobs and Wozniak — both brilliant engineer and savvy marketer in one — and the impact of his crusade to bring home computing to the masses is still keenly felt today, having inspired generations of computer enthusiasts, programmers, and game developers. Even his failures, like the C5, when viewed through the lens of history show how visionary and ahead of his time he was. He foresaw a future of efficient and accessible electric transit long before it would become mainstream as it is today. We mourn a titan.”

Dr Jo Twist, UKIE
“The modern UK games industry owes much to Sir Clive Sinclair as an iconic early innovator. From the very creation of the Spectrum computers to the Timex Spectrum manufacturing base in Dundee, his inventions spawned a generation of engineers, programmers and players for which he will always be remembered.”

Dr Richard Wilson, TIGA
“Sir Clive Sinclair was a remarkable innovator and entrepreneur. He created the world’s first pocket calculator, developed miniature radios and was named Businessman of the Year and knighted at Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s request.

“That generation, my generation, was spellbound by his incredible technology and the games that it allowed us to play and then write”

Charles Cecil, Revolution Software

“He experienced numerous ups and downs in business and some of his inventions were serious failures. However, his contribution to the UK video games industry was significant: his Sinclair ZX80, the ZX81 and the ZX Spectrum computers introduced affordable personal computing to millions and gave rise to the UK video games industry.”

Stuart Dinsey, Curve Digital
“I joined Computer Trade Weekly as a reporter in April 1986, the same month that Sir Clive sold Sinclair Research to Alan Sugar’s Amstrad for £5m. The Spectrum kickstarted the UK games industry, but had crashed. He was still a big name — the industry awards were once called Clives — but he was also seen as a rather comic figure thanks to the C5 and something of a failure. I interviewed him regularly (even Alan Sugar would pick up the phone in those days), especially when his Cambridge Computer launched the Z88 portable.

“Typical British attitudes I guess, as only now he’s gone do we all reflect on a genius inventor, entrepreneur and loveable eccentric. The ZX Spectrum inspired a generation of games developers, not just gamers. Without him, the UK would not have been such a cornerstone of the global games industry today.”

Andy Payne, The Dairymen
“I met Clive Sinclair once and he was incredibly engaging and kind to me. Without Sir Clive Sinclair, we would not have had access in the UK to really cheap, attainable home computers in the shape of the ZX Spectrum complete with its colour display and lovely rubber keyboard.

“That was the way into games for so many of us and, importantly, it was one of the doors into what we now call the UK games industry. So many of us cut our teeth working in those early days — me included. I started in the industry in 1985 working on ‘educational’ titles such as Ballooning and the totally amazing The Way of the Exploding Fist and have never looked back. Soon after I worked on a game called Yes Minister developed by Oxford Digital Enterprises — which was ironic, given the work I subsequently did with successive government ministers around age ratings, VGTR and getting them to understand the potential of our industry.

“Without Sir Clive, we would never have got the UK games industry off to such an incredible start — pure and simple as that.”

Kelly Vero, Core Game
“As a young girl growing up in the early 80s, Clive was our other dad. He offered people like me an ‘out’ from the kicked out bus shelters and burning mattresses of Thatcher’s Britain. We could be techie and creative, we could learn and enjoy in an affordable way.

“It gave us a bunch of new idols, new reasons to question the status quo through games that gave us an escape. Sometimes these games were amateur and sometimes they were so polished it was worth the pocket money but what Sinclair gave us was a developer community, a place for people who both did and didn’t fit into regular society without judgement. It was something to connect with and as you can tell in 2021, he’s made a real life game developer, dreamer and doer out of all of us who loved him.”

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