SINCLAIR RESEARCH has agreed to supply ZX-81s and Spectrums to the Chinese so that they can develop their own microcomputer industry.
The machines will be shipped to China as kits, where they will be assembled at a factory in Guangzhou, the zone in which production of home computer products will be concentrated.
Prism Microproducts, the Sinclair Research main distributor in the U.K., has also won a contract for a series of exhibitions to help British microcomputer companies which produce hardware and software for Sinclair machines to enter the Chinese market.
The Chinese companies involved, the South China Computer Co and the China Electronics Import and Export Corp, are giving an undisclosed amount for the development of the industry.
The Chinese are taking the subject of computers very seriously and companies such as Sinclair and Prism are keen to help. Richard Hease, chairman of Prism Microproducts, hopes to be able to fund the installation of more than 20,000 microcomputers in Chinese homes on a trial basis next year.
Special computer programs are being written to produce Chinese characters on the machines. They are being developed by the Beijing Software Academy.
THERE HAVE been rumours of discontent about the Sinclair Research method of marketing the Microdrive. The company is offering it exclusively by mail order, working in strict sequence through the list of people who bought the Spectrum by mail order last year.
Jeffrey Law bought a Spectrum from a retailer six months ago because of the promise of the Microdrive. He will not be able to obtain one until the full mail order list is satisfied.
"I want to use one for work," he says, "I now will have to wait for a Microdrive longer than people who bought their Spectrum months after I did."
"The system seems unfair to anyone who bought the Spectrum through the retail trade," says Mike Meek, head of the Sinclair User Club. The company disagrees.
"The Spectrum was available solely by mail order from April to November last year," says a Sinclair spokesman, "and it is only fair that people who bought it then before it became widely available should be first served now."
He adds that anyone who bought the Spectrum over the counter can still write to Sinclair Research and ask to be added to the end of the Microdrive mailing list.
It could be several months before Sinclair Research works through the list.
"It depends on the take-up rate," says the spokesman. So far, the response to the Microdrive offer has been very high but demand may tail off when the eager early birds have been satisfied.
KAYDE, a big manufacturer of ZX-81 and Spectrum software and hardware, has been put into liquidation.
The company ceased trading on August 26.
Customers who have replied to Kayde advertisements in Sinclair User should contact the advertising department by letter.
THE SINCLAIR flat-screen pocket television has finally arrived. Following months of speculation about the new leap forward in technology, Sir Clive Sinclair launched his latest product.
Smaller than the average paperback book, the television is thought to be far in advance of other attempts at making a flat screen. It uses a single chip for the circuitry and the cathode ray tube is set at right angles to the screen so that the rays are bent.
The sets will be sold initially by mail order and will cost £79.95. It will be some time before they are readily available and demand is expected to exceed supply. Production of 10,000 models is planned by Christmas. Speaking of the new product, Sir Clive said it is a major breakthrough. "I believe it can achieve for television what the transistor did for radio," he says.
Too small to be used as a computer monitor, the television set eventually will form the basis of a slightly bigger screen to make a properly-portable computer system. That has been tipped widely as a move upmarket into business machines.
IN ITS FIRST year, Prism Microproducts, the sister company of ECC Publications which publishes Sinclair User, has built a turnover of about £10 million on which the pre-tax profit was £234,000.
Most of the turnover is the result of the deal with Sinclair Research giving it exclusive distribution to retailers in Britain of the company's computers and software. Bob Denton, managing director, says that the company is distributing between £500,000 and £1 million worth of Sinclair equipment every week.
Since being set up in June last year the company has expanded into distributing software for other machines, such as the Vic-20 and the BBC Model B. It now provides a rack-jobbing service which was introduced recently into Rumbelows shops and is looking at a revolutionary, electronic distribution system.
It is also part of the group which is involved with Micronet 800, the database on Prestel which can be accessed using home computers with a special adapter. Prism sells the adapter and there are now models for the BBC Model B and Spectrum.
SINCLAIR RESEARCH made a profit of £14.03 million in the year to the end of March, an increase of £5.5 million on the £8.55 million of last year and very close to the forecast given when part of the company was sold to institutional investors in February.
Sir Clive Sinclair said of the result: "For a firm only three-and-a-half years old at the time, the figures are encouraging."
Turnover doubled from £27.17 million to £54.53 million, about £1 million for each person employed directly by the company.
Sinclair saw that as "a testament to the standard of people with whom I am so fortunate to work."
Earnings per share were 207 pence against the previous year's 106 pence but a dividend of only one penny is being paid "because the firm is expanding so rapidly that I believe the interests of the shareholders are best served by internal re-investment of the profits."
Sinclair owns 85 percent of Sinclair Research with another 10 percent owned by a group of institutional investors.
Since the company was formed in 1980 it has sold more than one-and-a-half million personal computers throughout the world. In addition it has an agreement with Timex in the U.S. for selling versions of the ZX-81 and Spectrum, for which it receives a royalty.
Sinclair said that because of the price war in the U.S., sales in money terms had been much lower than expected. "Fortunately the U.K. market proved better than anticipated, which partly compensated."
For the future, Sinclair said that the company will continue to expand with new products in new areas. One of those areas is the flat-screen television which has been launched recently.
UNEMPLOYED people in London's King's Cross area will be able to learn about computers in a newly-converted former butcher's shop. Two 48K Spectrums are taking their place beside sewing machines and other teaching facilities in an informal workshop run by the Centaur Project, a voluntary youth and community venture which aims to alleviate some of the problems of a deprived urban area.
The organisers hope that an interest in computer games will lead workshop members, many of whom have very little formal education, towards more advanced skills, including programming.
Sinclair Research has offered the two machines at a discount and Centaur Project is hoping for similar generosity from software suppliers.
CENTRAL Independent Television is inviting youngsters in the Midlands to join the studio audience for a programme on computers. The six-part series, aimed at seven to 16-year-olds, will be recorded in Birmingham on October 16 and 23 and November 2 and 7.
Applicants have to write describing their micros briefly and for what they use them. There is a chance to win one on the show.
LAUNCHED with a fanfare at the end of August, the latest Acorn product, the Electron, is joining the ZX-81 and the Spectrum, as well as its older brother the BBC micro, on the shelves of 100 branches of W H Smith. It will also be stocked by 300 dealers all over the country.
Selling at £199, the Electron is language-compatible with the BBC and boasts 32K of memory, seven graphic modes, colour and black-and-white TV sockets, and full sound effects. Acornsoft, the Acorn publishing subsidiary, has produced 12 software packages covering games, programming, home education and personal money management.
"We are confident that the Electron's low-cost, yet BBC-compatible design, will make it an essential part of the home and achieve a prominence equal to that already gained by the BBC micro in the classroom", says Chris Curry, Acorn joint managing director.
The company optimism is reflected in the fact that it aims to produce 100,000 machines by Christmas. Nevertheless, supply is expected to fall short of demand in the early stages and some dealers have already reported waiting lists to around Easter.
ONE BLOT on the rosy scene of the Sinclair Research financial year was the disappointing performance of the Timex Sinclair 1000 in the U.S. Two factors seem to have affected sales badly, the raging personal computer price war which brought the selling price of the TS 1000 crashing to a derisory $39 and what some believe to have been a marketing error by Timex - the announcement of plans for an upgraded model, the TS 2000, long before it was ready to appear on the market.
In the intervening months, sales of the simpler TS 1000 fell sharply, taking sales of printers and software with them. A Californian distributor reported in August that people were buying one-third as much TS software as they bought for other computers.
Nevertheless, Sinclair Research is not too worried. "It affects us only insofar as royalty payments from Timex have dropped," says a Sinclair Research spokesman. "We are confident the appearance of the TS 1500 and the TS 2000 will help us regain lost ground."
A more handsomely-packaged version of the Spectrum, the TS 2000 is generally agreed to be a winner.
Since its inception in January, prices of other leading computers, such as the Commodore and the Atari, have fallen considerably, and it remains to be seen whether the TS 2000 selling price of $200 will prove competitive.
THE ULA change in the model three Spectrum, which was intended originally to combat incompatibilities with Japanese and German television sets, has had unforeseen consequences.
Some people with the new machines are having difficulty loading commercial tapes. The reason is that the machine code IN instruction, which enables tape noise to be read into the computer, has been altered.
"The problem seems to occur when the computer is in graphics mode.
"It seems to be a problem with specific, low-distribution tapes and, as far as we know, no Sinclair software or software from our distributors is affected," says Sinclair Research.