THE FIRST computer fair for hobbyists to be held outside London was a "disaster". That was the verdict of the majority of exhibitors at the ZX Microfair in Manchester.
A variety of reasons were advanced, including the visit of the Pope to Manchester the following day; 'the bright warm Bank Holiday weather'; it was held at the wrong time with the Spectrum hanging over the market; and it was staged at the wrong venue with the New Central Hall being on the wrong side of the city, where parking was a problem. The result was that 2,000 people visited the show and spent little money there.
"I think it reflected the state of the market and there were a few things which went against it," said the organiser, Mike Johnston. "We had about 2,000 people compared to between 5,000 and 6,000 at the London shows but we are not talking about the same catchment area and if we had held it only on one day, the attendance would have been reasonable."
A major criticism from exhibitors was that the show had not been given sufficient publicity. Sue James of Microware in Leicester said that in her company's advertisement in Sinclair User in June the Manchester Microfair was mentioned and the company had received many calls from people who had not known about it.
Johnston replied: "It received the same amount of coverage as the previous London shows, when we were criticised for having too many people."
He added that he had not been deterred from organising fairs and would be holding another.
The experience of Manchester does not appear to have influenced companies unduly from exhibiting at shows outside London. The next two provincial shows were both reporting a high level of interest.
Gordon Hewit, a committee member of the Edinburgh ZX Computer Club, which held a fair in July said that many exhibitors disappointed with the Manchester show had turned to them in the hope of doing better.
"They see Scotland as a more fertile area and, with Edinburgh being a good centre of communications, we can attract people from all over the centre of Scotland," he said.
On the same weekend Microfest 82 was held in Manchester. One of the organisers, Dave Hewitt, said that many of the people had wanted to take space because it seemed to be better organised.
ANNUAL subscriptions for Sinclair User and Sinclair Programs are among prizes being offered in a competition for the under-11s. The winner will be the child who does the best colouring of the cover of the Jungle Maths cassette which is produced by Scisoft, the educational software house.
The competition is being run jointly by Scisoft and Microware, the Leicester software and hardware retailer. As well as the subscriptions, the winner will receive a Microware voucher.
Entry forms will be given with a copy of the cassette. Entries close on September 30 and the winner should be announced in the December issue of Sinclair User.
THE ZX-81 is beginning to take off in the States. An agreement between Sinclair Research and the American Express credit card company has resulted in a flood of orders for the machine.
The credit card company sent a direct mail offer to its two million card holders in the U.S. at the end of May. In what Sinclair Research calls "a very positive response", 2,000 orders were received by noon the day following the offer. In the first three weeks more than 25,000 orders were sent to American Express.
Total sales from the offer have been forecast at 50,000 units and it is thought that may be a conservative estimate.
The offer was agreed between American Express and Sinclair Research following a successful test marketing for the ZX-81 at the end of last year. The test market had been requested by the credit card company.
The deal does not affect the plans by Timex to market its enhanced version of the ZX-81, the Timex Sinclair 1000, which has a 2K RAM instead of the normal 1K.
That will not be on sale until this month and Sinclair Research in the U.S. is continuing to sell the ZX-81 until the Timex sales reach a certain level.
Sales of the ZX-81 were 15,000 a month in the U.S. in the early part of the year and it is estimated that 435,000 have been sold throughout the world.
Sales in Britain declined in April but are said to have recovered in May. The machine is being promoted in new markets. Sales are going well in France and reasonably well in Germany and increasing in other markets.
ALMOST two months after the launch in a blaze of publicity at the Earls Court Computer Fair in April, Spectrums at last were being delivered in June. The delivery dates being quoted at the launch were a confident two weeks for the first orders. According to Sinclair Research, the initial delay was caused by the time needed to have production running smoothly.
When the first batch of 16K machines was ready eventually for despatch at about the beginning of June, a design fault was discovered. No-one is saying what the fault was but Bill Nichols, Sinclair Research public relations officer, said: "It was a very obscure fault which would not have shown up 80 or 90 percent of the time."
Once that had been dealt with, there was a distribution dispute at Timex. Nichols added that delays of between six and eight weeks were likely for people who had ordered by the first week in June. After that, delivery should be down to the standard 28 days.
SINCLAIR Research has passed the first hurdle in the planned sale of shares in the company. It has passed the preliminary audit commissioned by the merchant bankers, N M Rothschild, and the sale is expected in the autumn.
Rothschild is arranging the final details, which are likely to involve selling to chosen City institutions 10 percent of the company. It is expected to raise at least £10 million, which would put a valuation of £100 million on Sinclair Research but the figure raised could be £20 million.
A NEW software library has been set up to allow Sinclair users to take advantage of the many items on the market without having to buy the cassettes.
Membership of the Sinclair Owners Software Library costs £5, which includes the hire of the first cassette. Subsequent tapes can be hired at £1 for three weeks.
A quarterly newsletter is also sent to all members, with details of new additions to the range. The subjects covered include games, educational and toolkit programs.