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O 1997

Last updated
4 Mar 1998

Inventor returns with music in your ear

THE GUARDIAN, 17 May 1997



NO ONE could accuse Sir Clive Sinclair of being a quitter. He invented the first pocket calculator and the first popular personal computer, but things have never been quite the same after the C5 electric car. Yesterday the man whose name has latterly become a synonym for eccentric British failure unveiled his latest gadget to the world. It is small, round and fits in your ear.

The X1 button radio might just be the thing which relaunches Sir Clive's fortunes. Then again, it might not. Powered by a tiny lithium cell and with a built-in aerial, the FM radio is an ''astonishing breakthrough in electronic miniaturisation'', the inventor claims. It has an autoscan facility similar to that in a car radio and you change pre-programmed stations by pressing a tiny button.

While the X1 weighs only half an ounce, you do have to clip it on to your ear. ''Its revolutionary design means that you can walk, run - even dance - without fear of it getting in the way,'' Sir Clive (above) said yesterday.

"Sitting snugly in your ear, it will enable you to listen to your favourite station wherever you are, and so discreetly that even the person next to you will be unaware you are using it.''

And the price? A modest 9.50.

A spokeswoman for his company, Sinclair Research, admitted yesterday the inventor was keen to raise his public profile after a period out of the headlines. ''It's true he's not been doing heaps,'' she said. ''He's trying to relaunch himself at present and prepare for later this year when he is going to unveil something else.'' It is still a closely guarded secret.

Sir Clive has invented radios before. Thirty years ago he achieved success with the Sinclair Micromatic radio, a medium-wave radio smaller than a matchbox. He then turned his attentions to hi-fi and digital watches, made a fortune with personal computers in the early 1980s, but blew it all again with the launch of the disastrous C5 electric car in 1985. Sir Clive predicted 100,000 would be sold each year, but production was stopped at barely a tenth of that. Since then a Zike bike and a Zeta - Zero-Emission Transport Accessory - have come and gone. ''The X1 is a curtain-raiser. There are other things to come,' the spokeswoman said.