British inventor Cliff Sinclair, who invented the pocket calculator and affordable home computers, died on Thursday at the age of 81, his family told the media.
British media reported that he died at his London home after battling cancer for more than a decade, winning tributes from many who fondly remember their first computer experience in the early 1980s.
His daughter, Belinda Sinclair, told the BBC last week that he was still working on inventions “because that’s what I like to do”.
“He was imaginative and imaginative and for him it was exciting and adventurous, 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 like the Apple II cost much more, and Sinclair was the first company in the world to sell more than a million devices.
Among the models that followed was the 1982 ZX Spectrum, which offered higher power and a more user-friendly interface, accelerating the home gaming and programming revolution.
British director Edgar Wright, whose latest film “Last Night in Soho” premiered in Venice this month, paid tribute to Sinclair on Twitter.
“As someone whose first glimpses of a new world were the horrific 3D Monster Maze + graphics on the ZX81, I would like to salute technology pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair,” he said.
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“He made 21st century dreams possible. I’m going to click the rubber keys on the Spectrum in your honor. Rip.”
“You could say the digital age began for us in the UK with the Sinclair ZX80, when thousands of kids learned to program with 1k of RAM,” tweeted Tom Watson, former British Labor Deputy Leader.
“This man changed my life,” he added.
However, not all of Clive Sinclair’s inventions were a resounding success. The Sinclair C5, a battery-powered recumbent tricycle touted as the future of green transportation, failed widely after its launch in 1985.
“Sir Cliff Sinclair’s impact on the world should not be underestimated,” video game journalist Dominic Diamond wrote on Twitter. “If we all stop laughing long enough to buy C5, that could potentially save the environment.”
Born in 1940, Sinclair dropped out of school at the age of 17 to become a technical journalist. At 22, he set up his first company, making mail-order radio sets, including what was then the world’s smallest transistor radio.
Other projects include digital clocks and the first flat screen television.
He was portrayed on screen in 2009 by British actor Alexander Armstrong in the TV drama Micro Men, which chronicles his rivalry with Acorn Computers founder Chris Carey in the 1980s.
Ironically, in a 2013 BBC interview, Cliff Sinclair revealed that he does not use computers himself.
“I don’t like distractions,” he explained. “If I had a computer, I would start thinking I could change this, I could change that, and I don’t want to.”
“Proud thinker. Tv fanatic. Communicator. Evil student. Food junkie. Passionate coffee geek. Award-winning alcohol advocate.”