Feeds

The Grundy NewBrain is 30

The revolutionary product that came too late

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

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.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Next page: The BBC Factor

More from The Register

next story
Raspberry Pi B+: PHWOAR, get a load of those pins
More USB ports than your laptop? You'd better believe it...
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Now that's FIRE WIRE: HP recalls 6 MILLION burn-risk laptop cables
Right in the middle of Burning Mains Man week
Apple's iWatch? They cannae do it ... they don't have the POWER
Analyst predicts fanbois will have to wait until next year
Super Cali signs a kill-switch, campaigners say it's atrocious
Remote-death button bad news for crooks, protesters – and great news for hackers?
HUGE iPAD? Maybe. HUGE ADVERTS? That's for SURE
Noo! Hand not big enough! Don't look at meee!
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned 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.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.