Feeds

The Grundy NewBrain is 30

The revolutionary product that came too late

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Under new management

A few months before Sinclair's departure, the NEB sold off Radionics' TV and calculator product lines and development. With Sinclair out of the way, in September 1979, the Board renamed the company Sinclair Electronics. 'Electronics' was deemed more appropriate, more modern than 'Radionics'. The decision to retain the Sinclair name may have been a deliberate attempt to snub the man himself.

In any case, in January 1980, the company became Thandar Electronics and was soon effectively sold off by the new Conservative government by merging it with Thurlby Electronics. It survives today as TTi - short for Thurlby Thandar Instruments - which makes electronic test and measurement instruments.

NewBrain details

NewBrain details

The NEB also had an interest in an electronics company called Newbury Labs, after acquiring a £343,000 stake in the firm in 1977, though in 1978 this share was sold at another company in which the NEB had a stake, The Data Recording Instrument Company. Ownership changed, but the NEB still had oversight.

In between the launch of the MK14, the collapse of Radionics, the exit of Clive Sinclair, and the formation of Sinclair Electronics, the NEB transferred the Wakefield/Smith micro project to Newbury.

Newbury continued the work. It was here that it became known a the NewBrain. Early in 1980, Newbury was ready to show off three prototypes - dubbed the M, the MB and the MBS - and discuss the product in public. Personal Computer World magazine's Dick Pountain would later say of the device shown in 1980: "The design concept was significantly in advance of anything that had been seen in the field of handheld computing."

From Newbury to Grundy

No wonder: the MB was a compact machine with its own display and a built-in battery. The MBS would use low-energy parts to maximise battery life. Newbury advertised all three units in the computing press throughout 1980.

Quite why the NewBrain wasn't released that year isn't clear. Most likely it was a casualty of the changes taking place at Newbury itself. With an anti-nationalisation government now in power, the NEB's role as a government puller of industry strings ran contrary to the administration's privatisation agenda. Its powers were curtailed. In 1991, it would be eventually privatised itself, as British Technology Group, or BTG.

Talking up the NewBrain

Talking up the NewBrain
Click for larger image

During this period, Newbury MD Bob Smith left the company to join electronics firm Grundy. Did that prompt the transfer of the NewBrain to a third owner? It's hard to see the situation otherwise, but whatever the case, in September 1981, Newbury Labs formally sold the NewBrain to newly formed Grundy subsidiary Grundy Business Systems. Many key NewBrain staff - among them Mike Wakefield and Basil Smith - joined GBS at that time.

It wasn't simply a case of flogging the machine off. Newbury, don't forget, was controlled by the NEB, which by now had been merged with the National Research and Development Corporation and been renamed British Technology Group. BTG may have handed over NewBrain to Grundy, along with a £235,000 cash injection, but it got 30 per cent of Grundy Business Systems in return.

Money was always the problem. While Sinclair set price targets which governed what the ZX80 and ZX81 developers could achieve and thus yielded rather basic machines, Newbury arguably promised more than they could deliver - not for the first time in the computer industry.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Next page: The BBC Factor

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the HUMAN WRIST
It's not just a thumb war, it's total digit war
Tim Cook: The classic iPod HAD to DIE, and this is WHY
Apple, er, couldn’t get the parts for HDD models
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring
Back to driving's basics with a joyously legal high
Back to the ... drawing board: 'Hoverboard' will disappoint Marty McFly wannabes
Buzzing board (and some future apps) leave a lot to be desired
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.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
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.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.