Home computing icon Clive Sinclair, the man behind the ZX Spectrum, has died

The colorful entrepreneur helped introduce a generation to home computers.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
Clive Sinclair, founder and chairman of Sinclair Research, at the launch of the Sinclair 2-inch pocket television

Clive Sinclair, founder and chairman of Sinclair Research, at the launch of the Sinclair 2-inch pocket television.

PA Images via Getty Images

Clive Sinclair, a home computing luminary who pioneered the pocket calculator and created the iconic ZX Spectrum computer, has died at the age of 81.

Sinclair passed away Thursday at home in London. Despite his having cancer for more than a decade, he was still tinkering with inventions until the end, his daughter Belinda Sinclair told the BBC

Born in 1940 to a family of shipbuilders, Sinclair was an entrepreneur and colorful figure well-known for hits like the ZX Spectrum, and the occasional flawed but fascinating flop, like the overly delicate Black Watch wristwatch and the infamous Sinclair C5 battery-powered electric trike.

In the early 1970s he developed the affordable Sinclair Cambridge pocket calculator, a portable electronic device that could be bought as a kit or fully assembled. Beginning with the ZX80 in 1980, he released a series of home computers that were substantially more affordable than rivals, helping bring computers into homes. In the age of Amstrad and the Commodore 64, Spectrum sold hundreds of thousands of devices. The color model ZX Spectrum 48K inspired a generation to lay the foundations of the British gaming industry with titles like Jet Set Willy, Horace Goes Skiing, Chuckie Egg and Saboteur.

Technology luminaries and computing fans including Elon Musk, Brian Cox and Edgar Wright have paid tribute to this influential and much-loved figure.

Meet the ZX Spectrum, a breakthrough home computer of the '80s

See all photos