Feeds

Jim Westwood, home micro revolutionary

We salute Sinclair's chief geek

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Enter the computer

The Executive and its successors were market-winners. But Sinclair's heart was elsewhere. Westwood revealed in an interview with the Independent in 2008 that almost from their first meeting Sinclair's central goal had been to build a pocket TV. "We exhibited one at a trade fair in 1966," says Westwood. "It went to prototype, but it was before its time. We could design it, but could we mass-produce it? No."

In 1973, Sinclair attempted to launch a small portable TV for £200, followed by a second, the MTV-1, in 1978 at half that price. Westwood told the Independent: "We needed a price nearer £50."

Sinclair FTV-1 'flat panel' pocket TV

Sinclair's 'Flat panel' TV: the FTV-1
Click for larger image

The devices didn't sell. Undeterred, Westwood's team persevered, designing a novel "flat screen" 2in CRT that bent the electron beam through 90 degrees, and a special chip to control its core functions. In 1983 this appeared on the market as the FTV1 for £79.95. Sir Clive Sinclair - he was knighted that year - confidently predicted sales in excess of a million a year. In total, the FTV1 sold only 15,000 units.

The first Sinclair computer, the MK14, was little more than a reference design supplied by National Semiconductor for its SC/MP processors, but released as a niche hobbyist kit at the suggestion of Chris Curry. Curry had established for Sinclair a new company, Science of Cambridge, while Clive was extricating himself from the by-then government owned Radionics.

Science of Cambridge ZX80 computer

The first sub-£100 computer: Sinclair's ZX80
Source: BBC

The MK14 was launched in 1977 while Sinclair himself was still immersed in the pocket TV. Curry's departure the following year and the foundation of the company that eventually became Acorn Computers jerked Sinclair into the realisation of a market opportunity threatening to slip away. Once again, Jim Westwood came to the rescue, and the result, in 1980, was the groundbreaking ZX80.

Westwood stayed with Sinclair through the 1980s, developing the ZX81 and its successor, the Spectrum. After Amstrad acquired Sinclair Research - as Science of Cambridge had become - Westwood co-founded Cambridge Computer with Sinclair in 1986 to design the hardware for the radical battery powered portable Z88 computer and later to create the Astra set-top box and its associated satellite dish, the "Squish".

Cambridge Computer Z88

Portable 'puter: Cambridge Computer's AA-powered Z88

The pair parted company around the turn of the decade when Westwood left to form his own private consultancy. He later joined set-top box maker Pace, and now, in his early 60s, works as hardware development manager at set-top box manufacturer Amino. ®

Reg Hardware extends its thanks to all the retro computing fans whose enthusiasm and scans helped make this feature possible. The author also wishes to thank Jim Westwood for dotting and crossing the historical Is and Ts

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

More from The Register

next story
Report: American tech firms charge Britons a thumping nationality tax
Without representation, too. Time for a Boston (Lincs) Macbook Party?
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Child diagnosed as allergic to iPad
Apple's fondleslab is the tablet dermatitis sufferers won't want to take
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
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
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.