Excerpt from The PC Pioneers
On this day in 1940 Clive Sinclair was born, innovative radios and calculators,
the ZX80/81, Spectrum and QL computers
Sinclair beat both the Apple Mac and the Atari ST to market with its project initially named ZX83 and then later ZX84. This was planned as a portable with an integral flat-screen CRT monitor.
However when it was launched in 1984 it was switched to being a desktop computer the QL (Quantum Leap). This was the first PC based on the Motorola 68000 series, with a 68008 at its heart, 128k of RAM and two on-board Sinclair Microdrive tape-loop cartridge drives.
It beat the competitors to market because frankly it was not ready – no working prototype existed. Using its normal approach Sinclair first promoted the product as a 28-day delivery mail order proposition, but the first shipments started to trickle through after three months.
By May 1984 the order book for QL had exceeded 13,000 units and £5m yet only a few hundred had been shipped. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rattled sabres at Sinclair as this was hardly the first time that Sinclair had provoked its code of conduct in terms of extended deliveries. The ASA forced Sinclair to open a special bank account where monies received was retained outside the company’s direct control. The company also shipped the delayed units with a free cable by way of apology.
The QDOS operating system was not really ready and this was only resolved by the addition of an EPROM ‘dongle’ to be attached for it to function.
Those who got early units soon found there were problems in the SuperBASIC; the Microdrives proved unreliable too.
Sinclair launched his C5 electric vehicle and was awarded his knighthood in 1985 , the same year that production of the QL was suspended, largely because the IBM PC had by then become the de facto standard for the business market that QL had espoused.