WELCOME to the first issue of Sinclair User, the independent magazine which aims to help you make the most of your machine. Each month we plan to provide you with as much fun and information as possible. We will always print a good selection of programs, plus news of new products and in-depth reviews of established hardware and software.
There will also be general interest features and applications stories about how other people are involved with Sinclair and ZX machines.
On this page every month we intend to give you an insight into the future.
To begin, let us imagine a Sinclair computer with built-in screen, colour, discs and extended Basic to rival the BBC computer at around &200. Or even a cheap disc system and a Prestel adaptor for the ZX-81.
Rumours abound but the one man who could answer most of those possibilities for certain, Clive Sinclair, is content for the moment to keep us guessing.
First, the Prestel adaptor, which could breathe new life into the flagging British Telecom system, if the 200,000 or so ZX owners around could be persuaded to buy one. BT is reported reliably to be considering at least 20 applications for its £1,000 prize announced three months ago for a workable ZX-81 adaptor. The winner or winners of the competition are expected to be announced in late April. [See the Prestel feature for the full story].
The adaptor makes exciting news for Sinclair users because it would mean they could communicate directly with each other - directly via Prestel, that is. I shudder to think what that could mean in terms of software piracy.
Commercial suppliers may find they need to sell only one program to see it instantly distributed - free - throughout the country.
Rumours of a mass storage device, possibly for the ZX-81, to be produced by Sinclair Research have been circulating for some time. Surely it cannot be a coincidence that he has a research laboratory near to that of IBM at Winchester.
The main rumour is that Sinclair is developing a mini-disc, selling for around £100, and that the development can be expected towards the end of this year and may even be announced shortly. Sinclair said something about discs - across a crowded room - in January. The only problem is that Sinclair seems to have a shopping list of products which he would dearly like to make - provided that the technology is available to enable him to do so at the proper price and we do not know how far up that list ZX-81 discs are.
Again, it would be marvellous news for ZX users. It is just that it seems too good to be true. Imagine, no more slaving over a hot and possibly unreliable tape recorder, or going to make a cup of tea while the 16K program loads-up. You could make use of that huge address/telephone/stamp collection program you wrote because you could probably access the information in a few seconds, instead of the many minutes it takes at present.
Finally, there is the vexed question of the ZX-82. Will he or will he not produce it? My guess, for what it is worth, is that he will not, at least not in 1982, although I would be delighted, in this case, to be proved wrong.
Speculation about the ZX-81 began almost as soon as the ZX-81 appeared and it seemed that the 80 in ZX-80 referred not to the Z-80 processor it used, as everyone had assumed, but to the year of its launch. A ZX-80 in 1980, a ZX-81 in 1981. What could be more helpful than a ZX-82?
Speculation was fuelled further by Clive Sinclair's reaction to the BBC choice of microcomputer last year. He is reported to have said he could have met the specification for around half the price of the model chosen. Sinclair seemed, perhaps understandably, annoyed that the BBC had failed to select the most obvious choice for a beginner's machine, the ZX-81. The question arose at to whether he would meet the challenge and produce a competing product.
Sinclair said last year that he foresaw a convergence of his computer and flat-screen technologies in 1982. More recently he suggested that it would be a later development - "perhaps 1983-84". He may, of course, have been referring to the negotiations with ICL to produce a small computer terminal incorporating the flat screen and using Sinclair Basic.
What now seems certain, especially in view of his recent licensing agreement with Timex in North America and his tie-up with ICL is that he will stay in the computer field. That being the case, there is a tantalising gap in the market between the ZX-81 and the next product up. If you wanted to upgrade where would you go?