IMDb: 7.6 In 1979 Clive Sinclair, British inventor of the pocket calculator, frustrated by the lack of home investment in his project,the electric car, also opposes former assistant Chris Curry’s …
Stars: Alexander Armstrong, Martin Freeman, Edward Baker-Duly
peopled with characters who have imagination,
confidence in themselves, faith in the future
and a very positive attitude to life.
Which means, simply, that they never, ever take no for an answer.
Like Joe Radley, driller of fine holes for the electronics boom.
Like George Taylor, who has turned Ł15 of holiday money
into a 3 million pound business.
Like Clive Sinclair, electronics wizard
who could beat the Japs and the Americans at their own game.
I consider it very much my role to foresee the future.
For example, I anticipate totally automatic personalised cars
powered by electricity drawn from internal batteries or the mains.
That’s a very real goal.
Starting in the early 1960s Sinclair has introduced a world
to a series of remarkable technological advances.
Miniature amplifiers, personal in-ear radios
and his real breakthrough, the world’s first slimline pocket calculator.
Sinclair went on to produce dozens of models
before foreign manufacturers flooded the market.
Undaunted, Sinclair moved on to the world’s first digital quartz watch
but faulty components spelt disaster.
Faced with financial ruin, Sinclair had to turn to the government for help –
selling a share of his company to the National Enterprise Board
in order to fund future projects.
What we’ve brought in is public investment, and business know-how –
and we’re confident that the portable television we’ve developed together
will be a great success.
This is claimed to be the world’s first truly commercial pocket television.
It’s been launched by an English company in London today –
in America, later this week.
This is one of the things we hope will be making money for Britain
this year, and in years to come.
Whether it does or not, you can at least say
that it works, and that it goes into your pocket.
The answer is no.
Have you even looked at these accounts?
We’re in no position to throw away taxpayers’ money on concept products!
This is not a concept product.
It’s dreamland, Clive.
We’re running a proper business here.
Not an amusement arcade!
There is no more research money for the car.
Nothing personal, Clive.
Who are these people?
What do they think they’re running here?
What’s the point of funding an invention if you can’t stomach the inventor?
Jesus Christ! What the bloody hell’s the matter with you?
I don’t give a shit about components. Just get it working!
What the bloody hell do you think I pay you for?
Fuck’s sake, I’m surrounded by incompetence!
The top end, I’ve got people who don’t know their arse from their elbow…
I’ll have a word with him.
…at the bottom end, there are people who can’t even answer a fucking telephone!
Yes, maybe later.
Come on – pub.
I’ve had enough of these Bolshevik penny-pinchers.
And bugger technical instruments!
We’ve taken technical instruments and hi-fis as far as they can go.
I’ve watched the pocket calculator we invented
be hijacked by the Japanese and their ugly plastic grot.
I’ll be damned if they take away my car.
They don’t have the first idea about Sinclair Radionics.
Can’t they see we exist to push barriers?
We won’t be constrained like this.
What’s that line from Browning…?
‘A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’
Who’s that for?
No grudges, you know me.
As inventors, we’re obliged to dream.
To be unconstrained in our quest for progress. Always to be pushing at the barriers.
And we must never forget that allied to innovation is a clear Sinclair aesthetic.
Practicality, simplicity and elegance are the pillars of my vision.
Remember that, boys. Elegance, above all.
Excuse me, Clive. I’d like you to meet a friend of mine – Hermann Hauser.
Hermann, this is Clive Sinclair.
A pleasure to meet you.
I’m Austrian. A common error.
I was just talking about the importance of elegance in innovative design.
As with your Black Watch?
Oh – yes.
But your watch didn’t work properly. Elegance and functionality, no?
Hermann’s doing a PhD at the Cavendish.
It’s on oxidisation.
Yes, well some of us didn’t go to university, did we, Chris.
We prefer the cut-and-thrust of the real world
but I’m sure watching things rust has its interest.
I’m sorry, you’ll have to forgive him.
Chris, Clive here. I’d like to have a word with you in private.
Meet me in the Rolls in five minutes.
We’ve had six months of this state control, and it’s been even worse than I thought.
This interference in my business is intolerable.
I’ve asked you here because I trust you, Chris.
I want you to consider yourself freed from your employment at Sinclair Radionics.
Don’t worry, you’ll still work for me.
I hold another company name:
Science Of Cambridge – it’s a shell, no more than that,
but I want you to start operating it.
I’ve rented a property in King’s Parade – probably start with a couple of small projects.
There are some of those calculator chips down in the store,
do help yourself to those.
Okay. I mean, I have been speaking to Hermann about a basic micro-computing kit.
Yes, yes. What you’ll be doing is preparing the ground
for me to move in when this Stalinist shibboleth crumbles, as it surely will.
You, Chris, will be keeping the flame alive.
He’ll drive you up the wall, but there is something about him.
An absolute belief in what he’s doing, and he’s loyal to his staff like nobody else.
You know, he took me and Jim on when we were just kids.
And this whole thing, starting this company, it’s been great.
A real chance to show what I can do.
He’s coming to see the new computing kit tomorrow.
I think he’s going to like it. Now, whose move?
What is a pawn?
A piece whose only function is to protect the king.
To lay down his life, if necessary, as part of a greater plan.
But the object of the game – this is to kill the king.
Now are you a pawn, Chris, or a bigger piece on the board?
No, it’s not.
Oh, maybe you’re right. I don’t really know the rules.
CPU… RAM chips… 8-digit LED display…
5 volt regulator… It’s a basic micro-processing system.
It’s a kit. To make your own computer, at home.
Right, well – you can find out how chips work, how to program using computer language –
once they’ve got that, they’ll want more powerful computers – computers we can produce.
Hardly going to have IBM quaking in their boots. It’s a bloody ugly thing.
But it’s better than nothing.
Some people like putting these together, I suppose.
Is this the best furniture you could find?
Well it doesn’t exactly smack of the Sinclair brand.
Still, it won’t be long until I’m out of this NEB cage, then I can really get cracking.
Start work on some serious products.
We’ve got to face facts. Sales of the television have been disappointing.
With a little more time, and further investment –
What? More money?
As I keep telling you…
innovation is not something you can pay for in Green Shield stamps.
Excuse me, we’ve pumped nearly 8 million into Sinclair Radionics.
The taxpayer has to get something back for their investment.
There are some areas of the business we can salvage.
It’s time to break this business up.
We’re calling in the receivers.
It’ll be wonderful to be running my own company again.
It’s marvellous. It’s been a terrible time for Clive.
So nice to see him happy and relaxed again.
So a brave new future lies before us.
I’ve mapped out a number of new products the company might set about developing.
Those communists at the NEB have got the instruments and the calculators,
but I’ve held on to the television.
The car is still mine.
I was going to suggest that we try developing a new upgraded micro-computer.
Chris, it’s an amusing little gizmo aimed at a few hobbyists.
No, it’s something I want to pursue.
Well, it’s not exactly the Commodore PET.
No, it’s not meant to be. It’s a brand new-
Did your Prussian friend put you up to this?
I don’t know what you mean.
I don’t wish to discuss it any further.
I wonder why that is?
I beg your pardon?
I’m sorry Clive – but I’ve always believed in what you’ve been trying to do,
now I’m asking for the chance to take this forward.
I feel I can do something with this, it’s a worthwhile project-
It’s pointless! Amateurish! Ugly!
All I’m asking is that you allow me the chance to develop the idea.
Because we haven’t got the funds to waste.
We have to concentrate on developing authentic Sinclair products,
like the television, the electric car.
The car? Christ’s sake Clive, not the car.
Get out of my bloody house.
Is everything all right?
It’s nothing. He’ll be back at work tomorrow morning.
I can’t believe what I said. You don’t know what he thinks of that car.
Christ, what have I done?
You had a taste of being the boss, and you liked it.
There’s no going back.
So what am I going to do?
My father wants to know if I’m coming back to work in the family firm.
What are they in?
They make wine.
Oh really? I didn’t know that.
But I like Cambridge.
I’ve been thinking of starting a business here. Computers interest me.
Maybe you could do with a partner?
Seriously? You’d give all that up to go into business with me?
Have you ever tried Austrian wine, Chris?
If you had, you might understand.
As the Americans would say, a golden handshake.
Good luck with your future endeavours.
Ten thousand pounds, you say?
What sort of business did you say it was?
Oh, I say, how interesting. Very science fiction.
Well, we like to help new concerns where we can.
Just need to check a few bona fides. You know how it is.
Tell me again, which college were you at?
Jolly good. Thought as much, just by looking at you.
A fresh start.
Goodbye, old friend.
Now they say in business that the key to success is to use the resources you have,
well here in Cambridge we have one resource in abundance –
Cambridge Processor Group.
They build computer systems for fun.
Our secret weapon.
Steve – Steve Furber? Could we have a word?
That’s him – Roger Wilson.
Spent the summer holiday building and programming
a computerised cow feeding device for a farm up in Harrogate.
The computer journals you asked for.
You said you wanted all of them.
Thank you, Nigel.
It’s nearly two thousand pounds!
Still too much.
But why so expensive?
We must observe the British tea ritual.
So. We all know the MK14?
Mmm. Sinclair. I saved up for one of his hi-fi kits when I was a kid.
Looked nice. Matt black, System 2000.
System 3000. System 2000 was in silver,
20 watts as opposed to 40 watts in the System 3000.
Whatever it was called. Never bloody worked.
We all want to go with the 6502 processor.
Of course. It’s the only choice.
For the moment.
Plus, a whole new look.
That’s right. We’ll start with kits,
but we want to market this with a proper ready-made moulded keyboard
and built-in assembler.
The products we produce are going to be led by you, the engineers.
And so I’m pleased to announce that Nigel will be heading the new computer division –
not just a division, but an entirely new company: Sinclair Computers.
A new company, gentlemen. A new beginning.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the secret of the Sinclair success.
That is, being first to market.
Letting people know what they want, before even they know about it.
Now the MK14 has been a modest success,
as I knew it would be, appealing to a specialist interest,
And yes, there are companies making more advanced computers
but these are affordable only for use in offices or laboratories.
But is the personal computer not a desirable notion?
Something every citizen would quietly crave if he actually knew what it was?
This is my vision.
A computing device in every home in Britain.
I quote.’Personal computers will become steadily cheaper.
Prices could drop to around a hundred pounds within the next five years.’
Because, gentlemen, we are going to achieve that in a matter of months.
Price is the key.
Whatever happens, I want a computer that we can sell
for the magic sum of ninety-nine pounds.
At that price, the man on the Clapham omnibus will want one
even if he has absolutely no idea what to do with it!
Beg, borrow or steal components.
But one thing is clear in my mind.
It has to look like this.
Now just imagine a future where anybody
could go and buy a computer kit to program at home.
We could sell, what, eight thousand, maybe even ten thousand computers?
What programming language are you proposing?
Which one’s the best?
They all have their limitations.
Then why don’t you write us a better one?
Look, I’ve heard Sinclair might be developing a new computer of his own.
Is that true?
I don’t know. We don’t speak.
Besides, with the team we’ve assembled I’m 100% certain
that we’re way ahead of Sinclair.
Good evening, and welcome to The Money Programme.
Tonight we enter the world of the microchip,
and report on a story of British perseverance and invention.
We ask: will the personal computer be Clive Sinclair’s ticket to a fortune?
It took Sinclair just nine months to develop the ZX80,
and he began to sell it by mail order in March this year.
It costs 99 pounds, measures nine by seven inches
and weighs just twelve ounces.
All you have to do is add an ordinary TV and a cheap cassette recorder.
Eventually there will be some two hundred programs available,
mostly educational; some technical, and many suitable for children.
Jesus, it’s like trying to read Braille through a pair of gardening gloves.
Clumsy programming language – limited.
Z80A processor – big ROM. Nice bit of circuitry there.
It’s like we thought. It’s clever. Done on the cheap, but clever.
So, we know what we’re up against. We produce something better.
Better keyboard – bigger memory. Smarter chip – and improved language.
I know. But the genie is out of the bottle. He’s done it – he’s got there first.
It’s a working computer for less than a ton. It’s brilliant. A clear run on us.
Look at the positive. Clive is playing his hand first.
If he is bluffing, we will know. If he is holding the full house, we will be able
to look through the pack and find the three aces with which to beat him.
You don’t play cards either, do you?
So it goes well, but we still need to push on.
Progress on the ZX81?
Our first specs are done, and we start work on an initial prototype next week.
What about that bloody screen flicker?
Jim, I was wondering if you’d had any contact with Chris.
I’m always in the lab.
I hear he might be going to market with a new product.
Well I have… He hasn’t…
I’m not really sure.
It seems a shame he’s not still with us. He’d have enjoyed this.
2K of RAM, twice as much as the ZX80 –
8K of ROM, again double what the Sinclair computer offers
and a proper integrated keyboard that won’t give you arthritis.
The Acorn Atom is the product that serious computer users have been waiting for.
You seem intent on attacking Clive Sinclair.
That’s not personal. It’s a vastly superior product, that’s all.
You’re attacking him again.
It’s about computers, that’s all.
It pains me to say it, but many of these companies won’t survive this gold rush
in the personal computing market.
There may be many clever people in the industry,
but business acumen is thin on the ground.
Far too much what I call ‘kite flying’ –
that is to say, people announcing products that just aren’t ready.
But make no mistake – I welcome competition.
We are a market leader, but we don’t take our position for granted.
Great, OK. Can I ask you about the new RAM pack attachment?
Yes – well, it was thought that we might do something to boost the machine’s memory.
Yes, right. Because a lot of our readers are saying that the connection’s not that good –
that they fall off.
We are aware of this issue. Our engineers have looked into it –
and I am informed that the use of a piece of blue-tack about the size of a runner bean
will resolve the problem.
Well that’s genius! You see, our readers would love that.
Which magazine did you say?
Ah, yes, well – you have my blessing.
Everything going well?
I’ve given up.
What’s the progress on the new machine?
All the boys in the lab are doing their best –
Well they need to do better. Getting it out quickly is vital.
It needs to trump the ’80, but also to obliterate the competition.
We need to keep our rate. Cynthia, take a memo. To all staff:
In this competitive environment, we cannot afford information to leak out
about our new products.
Be hereby notified that work on the ZX81 is top secret.
Prizegiving at the boys’ school today.
Do you mind? I’m reading.
‘A plan to make Britain the most computer-literate country in the world.’
That’s quite a thought.
They’re making a TV series about computing,
and they want their own machine to use in demonstrations.
It’s the biggest free advertising campaign in history.
Whoever gets the licence to produce it, they’ll make a fortune.
Hello, Acorn Computers.
It says they already have a favourite.
Yeah. The Newbrain.
Newbury Newbrain. But why them? It’s the wrong machine.
What they want is something closer to what we’re doing.
Yes. But the same thought will be crossing the mind of –
Someone on the line for you. Says he’s an old friend. Clive.
Are you well?
Yes, fine. You?
Thriving. You don’t object to my choice of venue?
I like these places. They’re traditional. And honest.
I took the liberty of ordering for you.
Their oxtail soup is warming and nutritious.
Business going well?
Good. I’m pleased there’s room left in the market for niche products.
No, the cream will always rise to the top.
But cream can go sour.
Not if it’s kept cool.
Well let’s hope your cream can withstand the heat of the kitchen.
You wanted to talk?
I don’t know if you’d heard, but there’s this BBC computer project.
That – yes, I think I read something about it somewhere.
I’m sure it won’t amount to much, but I wanted to discuss it
in case you had any concerns.
Clearly it amounts to a breach of their non-commercial charter.
Any machine bearing the BBC logo would carry an enormous advantage.
Their patronage of the Newbury project is intolerable.
At the very least it should be an open competition for the contract.
At the very least.
Well it seems only fair, especially for smaller companies like yours.
Assuming you were intending on bidding?
I hadn’t really given it much thought. What about you?
I think we should both write to the BBC making our feelings clear.
It is in both our interests that Cambridge remain at the heart of the computer industry.
You’re asking for my help?
I’m looking to join forces, for the common good.
This is about doing the right thing.
So he’s sitting there, suggesting that we should – I don’t know –
join forces to stop them – but I can’t believe that he’s not actually pitching for the job.
So there would be competition?
With him as odds-on favourite?
There wouldn’t be time for a competition.
The BBC want this machine ready in weeks, in time for the broadcasts.
And Clive knows that! He’s ready to step in –
And if Clive gets it, he’ll have the whole market in his pocket.
It’ll be curtains for us, and every other computer business in the country.
And he wants me to help him win the bloody contract!
We’ll have to throw our hat in the ring.
But he’s got a huge advantage.
I mean, he’s already manufacturing god knows how many computers a week.
2,076 per week – 8,996 per month.
But the Atom is a superior computer.
Quantity is his strength – quality is ours.
We just have to convince the BBC that they need what we’ve got.
I finessed his real intentions from him –
if there’s a BBC contract in the offing, he’ll bid – I’m sure of it.
Even though he knows he hasn’t got a chance.
Our next machine, gentlemen, will win hands down,
because we know so much better what is needed, and how to do it, than the BBC.
I don’t know if it will be that simple, Clive.
We’re pretty well-advanced with the development already –
the BBC’s specs are quite different to what we’re doing.
Well tell them what they want – not the other way around.
An affordable but elegant machine with a few basic functions –
just as we’re developing.
We are the computer experts.
They can stick to making Doctor Who, and Home With Mother.
Don’t worry. When the Newbury project fails, they’ll come to us.
We are expanding even quicker than anticipated.
Well, things do seem to be going well.
Fifty thousand pounds.
Doing the old college proud, eh?
And so it is with great pride that I take on this role
of president of this organisation of like-minded individuals.
Where to be clever, is to be among friends.
We’d love to congratulate you on your speech.
My name’s Susan, and this is Mindy, and Barbara.
Hello. And you’re enjoying the symposium?
Oh yeah – everyone’s very lovely, and all these clever people.
It’s so inspiring that you can develop so many projects at once.
Quite. Sinclair Research is making significant progress with the portable television,
the home computing system, and – what I’m most proud of –
the personal electric transport.
Well, I’m just full of admiration for any man
that can take care of three things at the same time.
Good, good. That’s good, because as president –
I really want to promote the organisation as being fundamentally social.
What you were saying about being able to put every book ever written
into a machine the size of a sugar cube – were you serious?
Oh, absolutely, yes. This quest for miniaturisation is a major credo of mine –
to reduce the size of something – making it more efficient and convenient –
that’s right at the heart of everything I do.
Still, it’s nice to get your hands on something – big, once in a while.
See you later.
No, I appreciate you calling me back.
It’s not easy to actually speak to someone from the BBC.
Acorn Computers, customer help desk.
Well, quite. What I want to stress is that we’re doing some really interesting work here –
Have you actually plugged it in?
– and all we’re saying is that we should get the same chance that Newbury’s getting to –
When did they pull out?
Ah, yes, hello.
Did the speech go well?
Yes. It seemed to create some interest.
That’s nice. Nigel told me to give you a message –
he said the Newbury Newbrain is out of the race.
I knew it! Have the BBC called us yet?
Yes, they wanted a proposal from us
As I predicted.
And also proposals from Dragon, Oric, Camputer – and Acorn.
Get me Acorn on the phone, now.
This is Clive Sinclair – I’d like to speak to Chris Curry.
He’s bloody where?!
He’s sharper than a serpent’s tooth.
Yes, but he’s nowhere near ready.
How do you know?
Well everyone knows. They’re not like us Clive – they don’t operate in secret.
Cocky like that.
Very well. Let him make a fool of himself,
then these broadcasters will have to come grovelling to me.
They want the programme on the air in the new year.
Christ! I know, but I was standing there with my foot in the door –
what was I supposed to say?
‘Don’t come, because the computer I’m trying to sell you doesn’t actually exist.’
Is there any chance? By Friday?
What will Roger and Steve say?
What do you think they will say?
They’ll say it can’t be done.
Perhaps they just need a little encouragement.
Roger! Hermann. I have a question for you.
Can you adapt the new machine for the BBC spec? We’ve got a week.
He says it cannot be done.
I knew it. Bugger!
So, I ask you Steve. You think it can be done?
No? I’m surprised when you tell me this.
Because Roger told me that he thought it was possible to do it in a few days.
Yes, he seemed to believe so. But I will tell him that you disagree, no?
Roger! Hermann again. Now, I need your advice.
Steve says he thinks he can do it.
No, he really does. He seemed very confident.
No, I didn’t tell him that you said it was impossible.
Do you want me to call him back and tell him that now?
Okay. See you tomorrow.
They’ll fall flat on their faces.
We need do nothing, and the contract is ours.
That’s what we’re going to do? Nothing?
Of course not! Never stand still.
The BBC will be here on Friday morning.
We need to be able to show them a working prototype that fits this spec.
I know you can do it.
I’ll make the tea.
What if we move the space bar to here? We could just lose all of this.
At the moment I can’t see how that’s linking up –
This was the spectacular scene only a few days ago.
Three and a half thousand special guests –
All right – now we need to wire up the whole thing.
Miss one connection, then it won’t work.
Shouldn’t take too long, should it?
Well – I’ve done the first seven.
About three thousand to go.
This time. Come on.
Christ! Dammit. Must be some kind of contact failure, I don’t know.
I thought we had it working?
It must be something –
They’re here. I’ll try and stall them.
We’ve had it.
Well – very good of you to come.
We do really appreciate the opportun- sorry, the opportunity to-
sorry, this thing’s about to break.
This is the wire to the development system?
You’ve used a clock wire for this?
This is a breakthrough for us, I hope, and the BBC as well.
To – have you here.
Sorry, wrong door. This – that can’t be.
I’m so sorry, gentlemen – I feel very embarrassed.
What if the wire is causing a skew on the internal clock?
It’s directly beneath – I’m so sorry.
Why are they going upstairs? It’s absolutely downstairs. Ridiculous.
If we cut this cord –
But that’s its backup life support!
At the moment of birth, if the child is to prosper –
the cord must be cut.
No, no, no!
Here we are, gentlemen. As you can see, we’re only able to show you a –
– Fully functioning prototype.
Marvellous! Let’s see what she can do.
Cynthia – I’m not taking any calls. Except from the BBC.
Ah yes – I was expecting your call.
Bloody fucking hell!
Hey, what are you thinking-
Sorry, that wasn’t my aim.
I’d like to add the government backing to the BBC computer literacy programme,
and I’m proud to announce that the BBC Micro…
will be at the heart of a new government initiative
to put a computer into every school in the country.
The exclusive manufacturers of the BBC Micro, Acorn Computers,
tell me they have already taken twice the number of anticipated orders.
The public is excited by this new technology,
and Britain is at the forefront of it.
Can we just see you using the machine, minister?
Yes, yes, of course.
If you remember, it’s the Return key.
Isn’t that absolutely marvellous?
Why even bother with them?
Demand for the ZX81 has been phenomenal. Our only problem is how to meet the orders.
We’re having to step up production – turnover’s looking like over 30 million –
I want the Spectrum brought forward.
It’s still in the developmental stage, Clive – I’m sorry, I don’t know-
We’ll meet them head on. Acorn may have their friends in government and at the BBC,
but Sinclair understands what the man in the street wants.
Simplicity. Affordability. Elegance. Elegance above all.
This new BBC micro looks like it was invented by a blind Bulgarian bricklayer.
It’s not funny.
The next computer has to do everything theirs does, and more.
And it has to be half the price of theirs.
We start taking orders now.
If Chris Curry wants a battle – well, let’s show him what we’ve got up our sleeve.
High resolution graphics. Up to a massive 48K of RAM.
Sound and full eight-colour capability.
All available from Ł125. I give you, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
Well let’s take a look at a typical office of today,
and what are the first things you see, apart from the man working in it?
It’s the filing cabinets. Now, what’s going to happen to them, Mac?
Well, most of them are going to go, Chris,
along with invoices and bills, those are all going to be sent through by the computer.
What about our old office friend, the faithful typewriter?
Are we going to say goodbye to that as well?
So a secretary’s job will really be enhanced,
as she’s able to help her boss in understanding the speed at which his business is changing
We’ve done 10 CLS? All right – 20 PRINT ‘WHAT IS YOUR WORD
space, question mark –
Does that mean you’re going to do away with paper altogether?
Are the stationery doors finally going to close?
No, they’re not. Because people really do still like to read things on paper and not on screens-
30 INPUT WORD$, return
– A lot of the time they are used for manipulating data – characters, words and letters and so on.
And we can show you some of the instructions on here.
You’ll recognise that –
I’m beginning to recognise what looks like the beginning of a program –
yes, a computer program.
Well the first one is probably new to you –
it’s CLS, which is a very concise way of saying ‘clear screen’.
And that’s a bit of your standard BASIC –
– that’s right, yes –
– computer jargon. Well I think I –
Just do it properly next time, all right.
Since the Department of Industry launched its multi-million pound Micros In Schools scheme
with a great fanfare, there’s now at least one in every secondary school
and one in almost half the primaries.
Britain, it is said, is ahead of anyone else in the world.
You can buy a pet, an apple, an acorn, a tangerine – even a new brain.
In fact, computers suddenly seem to be everywhere.
I’m sorry, did you say –
As you can see, we are experiencing growth at an exponential rate.
I’d have to make a call.
Which college was it again?
In six years, Acorn, who make the BBC Micro and Electron
has grown from a small company to a multi-national
with a turnover of more than 90 million pounds.
I think you’ve been doing computers for six months?
And you’re completely fascinated by it?
My mum can’t keep it under control.
Hello again. People in Britain are at the forefront of the computer revolution
with titles like Manic Miner, Hungry Horace and Chuckie Egg,
computer games have become the latest craze to sweep the nation.
According to a survey today, British children spend more time using computers
than anywhere else in the world.
Sinclair has sold hundreds of thousands of its ZX Spectrum computers.
This is a small home computer.
If you press that button – R –
– it’s a game of chess.
So what can the average user actually do with a home computer?
An exciting variety of useful applications.
So not just games?
No, absolutely not.
What do you use your computer for?
You know, we can’t cope with this demand.
Then take on more people – boost production. Can somebody get that phone?
We’ll need a further cash injection to expand at the rate we are growing.
Exactly – and I know how to get it.
A share issue.
What, we float the company?
Computers. Cutting edge technology. The city will love us!
Come on! What can go wrong?
And then you just delete it by pressing these two buttons here together.
So you press this button here –
And this button here – no, sorry, no, this button –
yes, that’s right, this button here –
and you see the thingy flashes on the screen there, that’s perfectly normal –
then all you need to do is press enter, and it changes – colour. Changes colour.
What else can you do on it?
Me? I can change the border to another colour – let’s try blue.
Can you play games on it?
Yes! Yes you can. Hundreds of games for the Spectrum.
Excuse me. Do you have any games for the BBC Micro?
Yes, somewhere – yes we do.
Making the most of your establishment connections, more like.
Oh yes – so respectable. No games for the Micro.
Damn the BBC – and the government. And all the rest of your lackeys!
People seem to forget that this is just a fad. Nothing else!
All this nonsense about computers replacing shopping.
Saving people a trip to the bank. These things won’t save the world!
It’s nonsense – nonsense!
So that’s the plan.
We pump the money from the share issue
into a pared-down version of the BBC Micro, the Electron –
we drop the price – produce on a big scale –
and go head-to-head with Uncle Clive’s Spectrum.
We go downmarket?
Look. The squeeze is on in this industry, in case you didn’t notice.
There’s a rival machine launching every week – we have to keep growing.
So there we have it, gentlemen – a new strategy.
Alongside an upgraded Spectrum, we launch the Quantum Leap, or QL.
A new computer designed for use in the office.
With a proper keyboard, and functions for business and education.
An upmarket computer. A serious computer.
Do we need to change tack now, Clive?
I mean – the success of the Spectrum has been –
You’ve got a company valued at Ł136 million.
You’re talking about making a computer from scratch.
New hardware, new operating systems – it will take years-
We’re announcing in three months.
And anyway, this spec – I mean, it’s a backwards step for us.
We should be working on improving the hardware.
16-bit technology – our own processor.
Look – computers are for the common man now.
Games. Entertainment. That’s where the money is.
WH Smiths are ready to order one hundred and twenty thousand.
Peripherals like the Microdrive are selling well,
and really, logic suggests that we expand into building our own software
for the Spectrum.
Exactly. I mean, the games market alone-
Games! Games! Everywhere I go, games!
This is what my lifetime of achievement has been reduced to.
Clive Sinclair, the man who brought you Jet Set fucking Willy!
My lad’s up to level eight.
I mean, apparently there’s even a game now
about me trying to get a knighthood, for Christ’s sake!
This is a serious company, dammit, making serious technological advances.
Sorry to interrupt, but I really thought you should see this.
I’ve been –
given a knighthood!
The QL, or Quantum Leap, represents just that in the home and business computer market.
With its brand new operating system incorporating SuperBASIC
and innovative built-in Microdrive data storage system,
and yet another revolutionary keyboard,
it really is sheer professional power in the Sinclair style.
With all these features, you could be forgiven for expecting to pay
quite literally thousands of pounds.
But no – the Sinclair QL will sell for merely 399.
Just before I hand you over to our Head of Computing, Nigel Searle,
just to fill you in on some details –
let me be the first to say,
the future is here – and it’s ready to ship in 28 days.
No I understand that, yes.
Yes – no, that’s no problem.
We’re fully geared up to produce that volume.
Definitely – yes, you have my word.
No, thank you.
Okay. Bye bye.
WH Smiths have confirmed the Electrons. I knew it!
It says here the market might have peaked.
Do we want to run the production lines that hard?
Hermann, they’ve just ordered 120,000 computers.
Does that sound like it’s peaked?
Chris – remember you’ve got meetings with the lawyers and accountants later this afternoon.
Is that the payroll?
No, no, no. Needs more power on the start up.
That’ll drain the battery.
Then spend more improving the battery!
Twelve million quid out of the coffers for this.
Well he’s a genius, remember?
Clive. Sorry to interrupt again.
About the Quantum Leap.
Christ, not again.
We can’t keep advertising it.
The phones are ringing off the hook with people wanting to know where their machines are.
Well get the bloody things out then.
We’re not ready.
The Microdrives aren’t working. Half the memory’s hanging out of the back.
Well employ more people on the job!
Clive! More people isn’t the issue.
We need more time to iron out all the problems.
For fuck’s sake Nigel.
We announced the QL will be shipping in 28 days. It will be!
That was sixty days ago.
Sales of the Spectrum have slumped.
In December 1983 every child wanted one for Christmas.
And by December 1984, every child who wanted one – had one.
There are currently some 600 home computer manufacturers in Britain.
How many of them will still be around by this Christmas?
Well certainly less than 600, that’s for sure.
And the market is very fragmented.
It cannot contain anything like that number over a long period.
The cheapest of all is this one –
made by the newly-knighted Sir Clive Sinclair.
It’s survival of the fittest.
Who’s most innovative – who best meets the end users’ requirements.
It’s a tough marketplace for our rivals, but as far as Acorn are concerned,
an interest in our computers is still in the ascendancy.
At Sinclair Computing, we’ve recently developed
a truly groundbreaking machine – the Quantum Leap.
Just recently we received our biggest ever order for our latest product, the Electron.
We’ve already taken a huge number of orders from eager consumers –
consumers who want the very best.
The QL, or Quantum Leap computer designed for the upper end of the market
has been dogged by production and marketing problems.
From next week, the Sinclair QL – now priced at just under 400 pounds –
is to be reduced by fifty percent.
And although Sinclair originally promoted this machine
as being capable of more serious applications
it failed to make any inroads into the business computer market.
And that’s where Amstrad comes in.
We are business men – we’re not made up by a team of ex-graduates
who are throwing a few electronic components in a plastic box.
To make matters worse, the boom in schools buying computers has also passed –
and it was demand from schools which helped catapult Acorn from being a two-man outfit
to a turnover of 93 million pounds.
I believe with the right products at the right price,
then market demand will just keep growing and growing.
And so for 1985 the most serious computer game of all
is being played by the companies themselves,
trying to turn around the continuing and devastating slide in their industry.
Well you see, the way it works is this.
We send them out, and the shops order them.
And the shops order them when they need them.
The thing is – they needed them three months ago, not now.
Smiths ordered 120,000 Electrons.
Did you get that order in writing?
Now, if it was your CD players – we can’t send them out quick enough this year.
Some people have been waiting three months for their QIs. And they’re the lucky ones –
The ones we’re actually managing to deliver just don’t work.
We can’t keep advertising it, Clive.
People trust Sinclair. They trust me.
If they don’t work, give them another one that does.
Look, stop fretting, Nigel!
Our advertising campaign will guarantee healthy sales.
If Curry wants to muscle in on the Spectrum market with his ugly tat,
then I’ll be damned if we don’t respond.
I’ll chop him off at the knees in his own territory. Here, take this.
Sinclair QL commercial, take 17.
Harrods. Asda and Dixons might be next.
They can’t all be pulling their Electron orders.
Well, not yet.
Jesus, Hermann, I’ve got suppliers all over me for money.
Well, we cash in more of the stock.
No – can’t do that.
Or what about using some of the advertising budget?
No way – that’s vital.
We have to advertise on TV like IBM and Commodore –
we can’t spare a penny of that money.
Going to have to find it from somewhere else.
This is the new Acorn Electron.
It’s powerful. It’s versatile.
And it’s only 199 pounds.
But there’s one feature that will make it particularly welcome
in homes all over Britain –
it speaks the same language as most schoolchildren – BBC BASIC.
The Electron. Now your children can teach you all they know.
The Acorn Electron can be found at local Acorn dealers
and major high street stores.
Just thought I’d check on you.
What are you getting for Christmas, Valerie?
Oh – one of those new CD players.
That’s if Simon can find one in the shop. What about you?
I’ll be happy with an empty warehouse.
I brought something for you to eat.
Oh! Just like old times.
It was fun then, wasn’t it?
Dangerous, walking in traffic.
Keep to the side, if I were you.
That’s the place for pedestrians.
Are you sure? You want to go with the one knocking Sinclair?
Just run it. I want full pages everywhere.
What the fucking hell is all this about then?
You fucking buggering shit bucket!
All right – all right.
Don’t do that again.
Get out, and stay out.
Still got that temper, Clive.
Someone needs to teach you a lesson.
That’s funny. Because everything I learned, I learned from you.
You learned nothing.
You took, and you took – and you gave nothing.
You wouldn’t listen to me. What choice did I have?
We could have been the British IBM, but you wouldn’t listen to me when you should’ve
– and now look at us.
Shares in the Acorn microcomputer company
were suspended on the stock market this afternoon.
It follows rumours of financial problems at the company.
Share prices in Acorn have been under pressure
since the city heard that they had made a big loss in America.
For some months now, it has been known that Britain’s most famous inventor
Sir Clive Sinclair has had financial problems.
His company Sinclair Research brought computers out of the lab and into the home,
and was a runaway success in the early eighties.
But the market has slumped as rapidly as it peaked.
And just before the weather – and you’ll like this Barry –
Will I indeed? I’ll be the judge of that!
It was a battle of the boffins in a Cambridge pub last night
Ha ha! Tell me more.
As two rival computer clever-clogs came to blows over a business disagreement.
Eyewitnesses reported the pair of eggheads having a crack at each other!
Yolk on the carpet, Greg!
It’s official – we’re a joke.
Hope all the people we have to lay off see the funny side.
We’re not a joke, Chris.
The bottom has fallen out of the whole market, that’s all.
It’s the same for everyone.
It’s the same for Clive.
Does that make you feel better?
No, it doesn’t.
I’ll go and start letting everyone know.
What are they all going to do?
They are clever people. They’ll think of something.
Maybe they already have.
Chris. It’s Clive here.
Clive Sinclair. We haven’t spoken in months
and I wondered if – if you weren’t too busy
just wondered if you might like to meet up for a drink.
Like the old days. If you’re around.
I’ve always predicted the computer boom would come to an end.
Now it belongs to ghastly barrow-boys like this Amstrad fellow.
But we adapt, Chris. We move on.
Businesses come, businesses go.
This was but one step on a greater journey.
And you know – ultimately –
The path of the future will always be laid by the amateur.
The quiet chap – scuttling off to his shed
to work on that idea that he and he alone knows will change the world.
That’s the British way.
That’s what made this the greatest country on Earth.
‘A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’
But you know, the future still needs inventing.
I’ve been looking into the possibility –
of a flying car.
Time, gentlemen, please.
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