Planet Sinclair


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O 1997

Last updated
4 Mar 1998

Leading article: Making games a serious business

THE GUARDIAN, 12 June 1997


Much of the UK's success can be traced back to Sir Clive Sinclair

WHY IS IT that UK companies have completely lost out in the huge market for business software (virtually a US monopoly) yet have managed to corner 33 per cent of the $8.4 billion global software market for games machines? According to yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Britain has 60 games publishers and 150 developers making it second only to the US in global clout. The latest success, Lara Croft, star of Tomb Raider, is made by Eidos Interactive, which is, the WSJ adds, only the latest in a long line of high-flying British games companies.

The roots of this success can be traced directly back to the home computer boom of the early 1980s when teenagers tinkered with BBC Bs, Dragons, Acorns and above all the Spectrum and other products devised by Sir Clive Sinclair, the acknowledged godfather of today's computer games industry. Dave Perry, one of the most successful of Britain's games entrepreneurs is only one of many who freely admit that without Sir Clive's Spectrum it wouldn't have happened for them. The limited memories and technical capabilities of these early machines taught young British programmers how to put a quart in a pint pot with an enthusiasm that still hasn't deserted them. This experience was the equivalent of the garage economy in which some of the early personal computer pioneers were reared in Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile Sir Clive has been ploughing on. His reputation as the world's most famous inventor took a big dive with the failure of his C5 electric car but his enthusiasm for electric transport is undiminished. His current project - a minute 10 radio fitting in the ear - is being advertised in some newspapers and there are other things to come. Good inventors never die, they only lose their ball bearings.