Feeds

El Reg's contraptions confessional no.5: The Sinclair Sovereign

You knew you'd arrived when you owned... a calculator

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Cache in the Attic Time was when having a calculator felt about as hi-tech as owning smartphone does these days. Lester Haines relives the experience when these small objects of desire weren't just about doing the numbers, but were even touted as status symbols.

Sinclair Sovereign

Having risked the lives of the specialist team members tasked with penetrating my attic's imposing junk mountain in search of vintage kit, I was delighted that – after several hours working with pit props and caged canaries – they emerged triumphant with a little bit of Brit design history.

Fondling once again the Sinclair Sovereign's slim, elegant form, I was reminded that its pressed-steel body once represented the very pinnacle of the luxury calculator pyramid.

Released in 1976, the Sovereign was Sinclair's pitch at the top end of the number-crunching market. The company had already made its mark with its 1972 "Executive" and 1973 "Cambridge" models, making Clive Sinclair - to British minds at least - the inventor of the pocket calculator.

Sinclair Sovereign calculator

Centre stage is Lester's original Sinclair Sovereign

My calculating collectible is the basic black model, (see pic) cradled in its decidedly retro flock-lined plastic case. I don't recall how much I stumped for it way back then, but Sinclair also knocked out a chrome-plated version at £30, or for the truly flush, a gold-plated marvel at £60 (also pictured).

If a quick net search into the calculator's history is to be believed, a couple of lucky men-who-had-everything found the silver-plated Liz II 1977 Silver Jubilee edition in their Xmas stockings. Legend has it two solid gold Sovereigns were also produced. Presumably, these are still sitting on the desks of Bond-style villains where for almost 40 years they've been used to impress lackeys and calculate the building budget for volcanic lairs.

The Sovereign secured a 1977 Design Council Award for John Pemberton, the man responsible for its sleek lines, although technologically it was on a hike to nowhere.

The calculator boasted a battery-hungry 8-digit LED display, at a time when LCD screens were on the ascendant. Two 1.35V mercury button cells provided the juice - a pretty lamentable supply if I recall correctly. While the batteries did hold out, you got to enjoy percentage, memory, square root and square functions accessed via the Sovereign's minscule plastic buttons.

Since the original cells aren't easy to come by round these parts, I bodged a couple of modern equivalents into the case in the hope I might be able to bring readers a view of the awe-inspiring display.

Sadly, it wasn't to be. Although the 30-something calculator worked for a couple of minutes, the LEDs quickly faded before I could hit the shutter button. Accordingly, I've abandoned further attempts to get the Sovereign working, and decided to enjoy it doing what it always did best: looking sexy. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
Jaguar Sportbrake: The chicken tikka masala of van-sized posh cars
Indian-owned Jag's latest offering curries favour with us
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Here's your chance to buy an ancient, working APPLE ONE
Warning: Likely to cost a lot even for a Mac
Xiaomi boss snaps back at Jony Ive's iPhone rival 'theft' swipe
I'll have a handset delivered. Judge us after you try us...
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
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.