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Director’s View

By Johan de Villiers

Welcome to our last newsletter for 2021! It is unbelievable to think that the year has flown by so quickly, with most companies already scheduling their year-end functions and starting to plan budgets for 2022.

With the current global logistics crisis, an unthinkable shortage of electricity in China’s industrial provinces and the worldwide lack of semi-conductors, one would think that the perfect storm is about to hit us economically.

Unlike most of previous editions, we decided to not dwell on this, but to rather dedicate this Director’s View to the passing of an amazing entrepreneur and inventor, Sir Clive Sinclair.

Some of you may remember him from your childhood memories of early home computers, but more on that later!

Originally Sir Clive designed the first pocket calculator but became truly famous for popularizing the first home computer in retail stores, call the ZX Spectrum. Most of today’s technological captains of industry, be it Elon Musk, Larry Page or Jeff Bezos, either used a Commodore 64 or a ZX Spectrum as a teenager.

After Sir Clive’s passing last month, Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX chief, commented on Twitter “RIP, Sir Sinclair. I loved that computer.” In terms of some background. Born in 1940, Sir Clive left school at 17 and worked for a number of years as a technical journalist to raise funds to start his company Sinclair Radionics.

The original home computer he invented, the ZX80 was launched in 1980 and costed a whole R 1600! It was one fifth the price of its closest competitor and sold over 50 000 units.

The direct successor, the ZX81 sold over 250 000 and launched the start of the multi-billion-dollar video gaming industry today, with titles such as 3D Monster Maze making him an insanely wealth man in today’s terms with over R 280 million worth of profit in the first 24 months of launch!

Sir Clive finally became a household name in 1982 with the launch of the world’s first colour computer, the ZX Spectrum 48K and earned him a British knighthood in the process.

Unfortunately, his next invention in 1985 was the Sinclair C5, battery-powered electric trike, which turned into a financial disaster for Clive. Nowadays of course, EV or electric vehicles are all the rage, but the C5 was well ahead of its time in terms of invention.

Another invention that pre-dated modern technology today, was the Sinclair TV80, the world’s first pocket TV. Remember that this was nearly 30 years before the invention of the smart phone! His daughter Belinda Sinclair summed it up perfectly by saying: “It was the ideas, the challenge, that he found exciting. He’d come up with an idea and say, ‘There’s no point in asking if someone wants it, because they can’t imagine it.’”

The business mogul Lord Sugar paid tribute to his “good friend and competitor” on Twitter, writing: “What a guy he kickstarted consumer electronics in the UK with his amplifier kits then calculators, watches mini-TV and of course the Sinclair ZX. Not to forget his quirky electric car. R.I.P Friend.”

A final quirk to be observed about this great inventor, was that he never used a calculator but carried a slide-rule with him at all times. He also never used email until the time of his death!

Thank you as always for your support of First Technology and please be safe during the holidays!

Warm Regards

Johan de Villiers


First Technology Western Cape

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