Mr Peter Carroll, left and Mr Tony Sweet of Prestel with the Martochoice prototype
PRESTEL is hoping to boost its small domestic business by the development of an adaptor for the ZX-81, which may also work with the ZX Spectrum. The adaptor would give access to all usual Prestel facilities such as databanks and the ability to do shopping at home, and also a large store of programs.
The winners of a competition to find an acceptable are now negotiating with Prestel and looking for backers to put their products into production.
The first prize of £1,000 was shared between Martochoice of Watford and Lion TV of London. The Martochoice entry altered the ZX-81 display, which has 32 characters to a line, into one with 40 characters, so that the Prestel display can be shown. The Lion entry retained the same display but allowed it to be scrolled from side to side.
Peter Carroll of the Prestel software development division said it is hoped that production of the adaptor would start before the end of the year.
The competition attracted 162 enquiries but there were only three entries. The third was from two Dutch schoolboys who were awarded a special prize of £100. Carroll said that they were so keen that they visited Britain twice to test their ideas.
ACORN COMPUTERS, maker of the BBC computer, is to launch a new micro similar to the ZX Spectrum in the next few months. The Electron is expected to cost between £120 and £150 and have 32K of working memory and 32K of storage. It will be launched in a version which can be used in both Britain and the U.S.
The Spectrum costs £175 for the 48K RAM version which has 16K of working memory and can be used as yet only on British or similar colour television systems.
It is thought that the Electron will have scope for better and more flexible picture definition. The Spectrum should have more programmable functions, the ability to show a greater amount of text, and faster loading and retrieval of information.
TIMEX is learning from its close association with Sinclair Research and introducing its own low-cost microcomputer in the States.
Selling at $99.95, the Timex Sinclair 1000 is a 2K RAM version of the ZX-81 and is the first computer to sell for less than 100 dollars. The ZX-81 costs slightly less than 150 dollars.
Sinclair will continue to sell the ZX-81 by mail order until sales of the Timex machine reach a certain level, which is expected to happen before the end of the year. Sinclair will then concentrate on sales of its flat-screen television set.
Timex will pay Sinclair five percent royalties on all hardware sales, five percent on Sinclair-originated software and two-and-a-half percent on Timex-originated software.
The new computer will be on sale through l00,000 Timex retail outlets from July.
SINCLAIR Research had pre-tax profits of £10 million on turnover of £27 million in the year to the end of March. Turnover is expected to double this year.
Sales of the ZX-81 are now about 400,000, with production at 60,000 a month and expected to rise to 150,000 by the end of the year. By then output would be supplemented by the Spectrum, which would start at about 20,000 a month.
In addition there would be the sales of the new Sinclair range of software.
Last year between 60 and 70 percent of output went overseas, with the main markets being in the U.S., Germany and France.
To help fund the company's development plans, Clive Sinclair is considering reducing his 95 percent stake by a private placing of shares. Although the company has good cash reserves, the computer business is expected to grow so fast that it will need all the funds. Sinclair is also developing other products, including an electric car and a flatscreen television.
"We do not want to be in a position of choosing between computers and other projects." Sinclair says.
The size of the placing is not known but it is thought it will be about 10 percent of the company. Sinclair said he did not know how much would be raised but expected the placing to be made in September.
The merchant bank, Rothschild, is arranging the placing and has sent a firm of accountants to report on Sinclair Research finances and prospects as a basis for valuation.