DEMANDS for import restrictions on microcomputers are growing. They are based on the fears of British producers of a Japanese invasion similar to that which has resulted in the decline of so many industries in the U.K.
"There are increasing demands among our members for some kind of reaction to the threat from Japan," says David Broad, chairman of the British Micro Manufacturers' Group.
He accuses Japanese producers of unfair competition. "They have help with their development costs from the government and also further assistance to allow them to undercut producers here," he adds.
Broad, who is also chairman and managing director of micro manufacturer Comart, says that although companies in the group are young and growing fast, help is needed to ensure that the British industry continues to grow. No direct help is available from the Government, so some form of import restriction is needed.
BMMG is a group of 21 of the leading companies in microcomputers, including Sinclair Research. As the fears have grown, a number of new machines have been announced by Japanese companies. The latest is Sanyo, which is launching three machines.
The PHC-25 is the biggest and is aimed at the same people who would be considering buying a Spectrum. It has 16K of onboard RAM, can have nine colours on the screen at one time, has touchpad keyboard, and costs £150.
Its 16K has 14K available to the user, unlike the Spectrum, which has only 9K. The RAM required for the display has been reduced because the machine includes a special memory area, called video RAM, which contains the screen display.
Unlike the Spectrum the Sanyo can control a tape recorder directly from a program. It also has extensive Microsoft Basic.
The PHC-10 is a battery-powered £60 training computer with a single-line liquid crystal display and no provision for television display. The other machine, the PHC-20, has 4K RAM with no colour and will cost about £100.
The range is being marketed by Logitek of Chorley, Lancashire. No date has been fixed for the launch but it is expected to be soon.
ZX-81 in the Information Technology Year house at Milton Keynes.
ANYONE still worrying about whether the ZX-81 has any practical uses should visit Milton Keynes. The Development Corporation has built a house for the future and in the kitchen a ZX-81 can be seen helping to manage the household.
The machine controls items such as deep-freeze stocks, recipes and shopping lists.
The house has been opened as part of the Corporation contribution to Information Technology Year. Its purpose is to illustrate the practical uses of information technology in the home.
Apart from the Sinclair machine, a wide variety of other companies have products on view indicating a full range of the technology available for the home.
The house is at The Pavilions, Cottisford Crescent, Great Linford, Milton Keynes and is open from Thursday to Sunday from noon until 6pm until April 4.
THE MESSAGE of Sinclair is spreading quickly all over the world. On the basis of sales of Sinclair User, ZX-81s are being plugged into television sets throughout most of the developed and developing world.
The magazine now sells about 4,000 copies each month overseas. The largest number goes to the Scandinavian countries - Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark - with the next major area of sales being France and the Benelux countries - Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Benelux and Scandinavia are areas where Sinclair User has been read almost from the first issue in April. Much of the rest of the world has been covered by agreements with distributors in the last few months.
The magazine now goes to the Far East, the Middle East - mainly Saudi Arabia - most parts of Europe, North America and South Africa. The major exceptions are West Germany and Australasia.
Terry Cartwright, managing director of ECC Publications, which publishes Sinclair User, says that as yet sales in the U.S. are not very great but he expects them to improve in the next few months as sales of the Timex Sinclair 1000 grow.
A NEW CRAZE for selling competition tapes seems to be growing, with Artic and Automata setting the pace. A £10,000 cash prize is being offered to the first person who completes the new Artic Computing game, Krackit, successfully.
The money is being offered jointly by Artic and a Canadian company, International Publishing and Software, which is organising the competition.
The cassette has rules on side one and the game on side two. It consists of 12 riddles, graded by level of difficulty.
Pimania, from Automata Cartography, is part of the growing mass of adventure software. Christian Penfold, the programmer behind the project, stresses that it is more than a game.
The idea is based on Kit Williams' book, Masquerade.
SPECTRUM order delays are a thing of the past. That is the official comment from Sinclair Research after a summer in which some people have had to wait more than four months for their machines.
A spokesman said that orders being placed at the end of October were being met within 28 days and the backlog from before that was expected to be cleared by the first week of November.
He added that the special offer to readers of The Observer at the end of October would not affect the speed with which the backlog was being reduced.
He added that the company is trying to increase output to be ready for the launch overseas in the early months of 1983.
To help increase output Sinclair has appointed a further sub-contractor, Thorn-EMI at Feltham, Middlesex. The company and Timex in Dundee are said to be making 30,000 Spectrums a month.
Meanwhile, Sinclair's other new products are expected to be on sale sometime in the new year. The most accurate estimate anyone is willing to give is that the Microdrive and the RS232 interface will be appearing in the first three months of 1983.
A NEW microcomputer released every month was the forecast for the end of this year but it now looks as if prospective buyers will have to wait until next year.
The problems began with the BBC microcomputer and spread to the Spectrum. Delays increased to several months and the queues of angry customers grew.
Now the new Oric One computer, which was designed for direct competition with the Spectrum, has run into difficulties. Peter Harding, sales director of Oric Products, says that the ULA for the computer had been designed to circumvent the kind of problems experienced by Acorn and Sinclair. The previous difficulties with ULAs have been overcome but now there is another problem. Oric has found that it has not produced sufficient to satisfy expected demand.
As a result of the delays, the Oric One will be launched in early December - not October as had been expected. Harding says: "I am absolutely confident that our shipping date will be firmly adhered to."
THE MARKET for second-hand ZX-81s is growing rapidly. One small company, Second Hand Sinclairs, has had a rush of orders since placing one advertisement in Sinclair User.
The business is run by Arthur Sampson, of Glos. He says: "Most of the machines have been from people who wanted to upgrade to the Spectrum. I have been making about £15 on each machine and I am selling about three a week."
Sampson's business ran well for a time but soon he realised that demand for the machines was too great for him to handle. "Second Hand Sinclairs is something which I run in my spare time. I soon found that I had very little spare time left."
Second Hand Sinclairs stopped buying microcomputers for a time and Sampson tried to sell the stock which remained. Now he has decided to continue with the business for a period. He says:
"I am not making much profit. I may buy a 16K ZX-81 and 20 tapes but I may sell only the ZX-81 and a few tapes. For some reason the rest will not sell. That is the problem, I sell bits and pieces and the things which don't sell just pile up.
"I will not be advertising any more but I will deal with any custom I receive."
The prices of second-hand machines depend on the quality but, according to Sampson, buying a ZX-81 with RAM pack from a second-hand dealer can be cheaper than buying a new 1K unit from Sinclair.