Feeds

Jim Westwood, home micro revolutionary

We salute Sinclair's chief geek

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Nexus 7 fandroids tell of salty taste after sucking on Google's Lollipop
Web giant looking into why version 5.0 of Android is crippling older slabs
All aboard the Poo Bus! Ding ding, route Number Two departing
Only another three days of pooing and I can have a ride!
Heyyy! NICE e-bracelet you've got there ... SHAME if someone were to SUBPOENA it
Court pops open cans of worms and whup-ass in Fitbit case
Official: European members prefer to fondle Apple iPads
Only 7 of 50 parliamentarians plump for Samsung Galaxy S
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Space Commanders rebel as Elite:Dangerous kills offline mode
Frontier cops an epic kicking in its own forums ahead of December revival
The IT Crowd's internet in a box gets $240k of crowdcash for a cause
'Outernet' project proposes satellite-fuelled 'Lantern' WiFi library for remote areas
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.