Feeds

Jim Westwood, home micro revolutionary

We salute Sinclair's chief geek

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Unsung Heroes of Tech We all know Sir Clive Sinclair, the sometimes eccentric British boffin whose early simple, cheap and often kit-assembled devices helped usher in the UK's home computer revolution.

You may also have seen the irreverent 2009 BBC drama Micro Men, which chronicled Sir Clive's failed battle with his own ex-employee and Acorn co-founder Chris Curry to secure the contract for the influential BBC Microcomputer.

Jim Westwood

Micro Men: (L-R) Nigel Searle (Derek Riddell), Clive Sinclair (Alexander Armstrong) and
Jim Westwood (Colin Michael Carmichael). Source: BBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

If you saw that film, you saw Jim Westwood. Not one, but two of him: the character played by actor Colin Michael Carmichael, and the real Jim Westwood, appearing as an extra retiring behind a newspaper in WHSmith's as Martin Freeman, playing Chris Curry, enquires about games for the BBC Micro.

The newspaper is typical Jim Westwood. He likes to stay well out of the limelight. Always shy of publicity, he was the engineer tasked with making many of Sinclair's wilder dreams come true though much of the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, Clive saw pricing as the secret of market success, and the budget restriction was a challenge Westwood particularly enjoyed. Like Apple's Steve Wozniak, Westwood delighted in twisting the existing features of a low-cost component to unexpected new capabilities.

Jim Westwood

Will the real Jim Westwood step forward? JW in a cameo appearance in Micro Men alongside
Martin Freeman as Chris Curry. Source: BBC/Darlow Smithson Productions

In 1983, Westwood told an interviewer from Sinclair User magazine: "It's a challenge managing to achieve something without using expensive components and I like that challenge."

A favorite among his early designs, was the ZX80, the first home computer sold anywhere in the world for less than £100. "It was a real breakthrough in the use of cheap components," says Westwood. "It's something which ought to be in the Ark by now but I am still proud of it."

Sinclair ZX80

The kit that kick-started the home computer revolution in Blighty: Jim Westwood's ZX80

Although the ZX80 and its successors, the ZX81 and the Spectrum are what Sinclair is mostly remembered for today, computers were almost a sideline. His first ideas had centered around hi-fi and wireless products. His grandly named first company, Sinclair Radionics, had grown up as a one-man electronic component vendor, bulk-buying Plessey transistors that had failed quality control tests, which Sinclair then assayed himself and re-rated.

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets
Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Seventh-gen SPARC silicon will accelerate Oracle databases
Uncle Larry's mutually-optimised stack to become clearer in August
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.