Clive Sinclair, pioneer of inventive computers, dies at 81

With personal computers, Mr. Sinclair applied his creativity to technologies that are emerging for commercialization, such as electronics, semiconductors, and software. The same cannot be said of his next ambitious project: electric vehicles.

Mr Sinclair believed that electric cars were the future of transportation, but that they were far beyond the technology and economics that would one day make them possible. In 1985, he introduced the C5, a vehicle aptly described as a soup-up golf cart. Priced at 9 399, or about 4 450, it had a top speed of 15 mph, a range of 20 mph and pedals to help in the hills. Mr Sinclair called it a step towards a full-fledged electric car. He said that C5 is the first member of the family of electric vehicles.

He had hoped to sell 100,000 of his electric vehicles in 1985. With the sale of Sinclair’s computers halted and the lack of funds, Mr Sinclair sold the computer business in 1986 to Amsterdam, another British personal computer maker.

Mr Sinclair preferred himself in part to the British public because he called a classic English type – eccentric inventor, or “buffan” – an honorary term. His interests and tastes were wide. He collected modern art, but he also loved classical music and poetry, especially William Butler-Yates, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Robert Frost.

His day, described in a 1985 Times magazine article, usually began at 6:30 a.m. with a six- or seven-mile run from Hyde Park in London (he completed several New York marathons). “I can think of a business issue or a lecture, but I can also think of women, weather or poetry,” she said.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her sons Crispin and Bartholomew. Her two marriages ended in divorce, with five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mr Sinclair had been tampering with inventions until shortly before his death, Ms Sinclair said, “because that’s what she liked to do.”

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