THE SPECTRUM is to be discontinued and the Spectrum Plus to be priced at £129.95 in a series of massive price cutting moves by Sinclair Research.
The shock moves come only weeks after the announcement of an upgrade kit which turns the Spectrum into a Spectrum Plus for £50. Kits will now cost £30.00 if installed by Sinclair Research and £20.00 in do-it-yourself form.
Reasons for the cuts, which could lead to a new price war, were given by Sir Clive Sinclair. "The home computer market is currently entering a very vigorous phase and we anticipate strong competition from US manufacturers in particular".
As a result, Acorn Computers has brought the price of the Electron in line with that of the Plus, to £129.95.
All is not well, however, in the add-on business. Companies such as DK'tronics and Saga Systems could lose business in the keyboard market. David White of Saga says: "We have brought down the price of our Emperor keyboard from £55.95 to £49.95. We think that people will still want to put a good keyboard onto their machines."
The one piece of bad news in the package concerns the Six-Pack sold with the Spectrum Plus. Customers will now have to pay a promotional price of £14.95 to obtain the six titles, worth £67.00.
Celebrations of Sinclair's success in the computer market continued at the Which Computer? Show in Birmingham. A competition was held in which the five millionth computer was up for grabs. In typical Sinclair style it was a gold coloured QL.
THE HOME computer boom is over, according to recent reports in the national press.
Except for the Sinclair Spectrum and Commodore 64, computer sales last Christmas did not live up to expectations and it is doubtful whether the predicted one million units were sold.
Of all the hardware manufacturers, Sir Clive Sinclair is the happiest, describing the Christmas season as "extremely good and way up on last year".
Gary Lockwood, PR agent for Commodore, comments, "the Commodore 64 has exceeded our expectations", and on the subject of Commodore's sales over the Christmas period, says, "we have not got our exact sales figures at present and I am not going to pick a number out of the air - which is what Sir Clive has done".
Acorn suffered its worst Christmas ever. The Sunday Times reported that despite a £4.5m pre-Christmas advertising campaign, Acorn's sales fell far short of its target of 30,000 machines.
Dealers overstocked and, when the Christmas rush didn't happen, were lopping as much as £40.00 off the BBC price.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the lack of MSX hardware. Although the Japanese are eager to corner a large section of the UK market, there were only a few thousand MSXs for sale, mostly from Toshiba, Sanyo and Sony.
There have been predictions of doom ever since the computer industry evolved. 1985 will be the turning point for many but competition is still fierce.
CURRAH will never speak again. The company which made the speech synthesis products for the Spectrum and Commodore 64 has been bought recently by DK'tronics for a substantial but undisclosed sum. Says David Heelas, head of DK, "The purchase of Currah is a natural complement to our existing range."
DK'tronics has bought the sole rights to manufacture and sell Microspeech, Speech 64, Microslot and Microsource and will be manufacturing those products at their factory.
However, John Herrin, chairman of Welwyn Electronics - which manufactured the Currah products before the takeover -stated in the Standard, "Welwyn will be taking over sales as well as manufacture ... we expect to treble production to some 250,000 units this year." Apparently, Welwyn are looking for a turnover of some £7,500,000 from sales in the first year and have formed a sales and marketing team to sell the products direct to retail outlets and distributors as agreed under the original contract.
David Heelas was not pleased with the news. "Welwyn has no right to sell anything after it has disposed of its stocks." He added, "we have all the tools for the injection-moulded cases". Those will be supplied to Welwyn under the terms of the contract and in that way, Heelas reckons he will be able to monitor the number of units Welwyn will be producing.
Under the terms of Welwyn's contract with Currah was a clause stating that if Currah went into liquidation, Welwyn would have the rights to sell the products remaining in stock and to manufacture a stated number of units.
Richard Philbrick from Welwyn says "Our output is limited to the terms of our contract, we will be selling and manufacturing around 120,000 units". That differs considerably from the 250,000 units stated by Welwyn's chairman in the Standard.
Welwyn's future in the home computer market seems to be limited unless it produces a product under its own name. Philbrick thinks that is a possibility and adds, "120,000 units is a lot of units in the speech market". DK'tronics will also be producing speech synthesisers but Philbrick is not worried, "DK'tronics hasn't many units and will have to start production from scratch."
SIR CLIVE'S electric buggy -the Sinclair C5 - was unveiled at Alexandra Palace on January 10, almost a year after the launch of the controversial QL.
Before the assembled and sceptical press Sir Clive announced his latest revolutionary product - a battery-powered tricycle, the result of 10 year's research and development, and over £7m of investment.
With a top speed of 15mph and a range of only 20 miles, the vehicle is termed a 'pedal-assisted cycle' and can be driven by anyone aged over 14, without needing a driving licence, road tax, insurance or helmet.
The open top, single-seater is steered by handlebars placed, surprisingly, underneath the driver's thighs. It is nevertheless easy and comfortable to drive. The battery is recharged by connecting it to a domestic power socket for eight hours; its range might be considerably less than the 20 miles stated, depending on road conditions and manoeuvres.
The basic machine costs £399. It is available through mail order only at first, with an additional £29 for delivery, though retail outlets are planned by the summer. Optional extras, considered by many to be essential, include wing mirrors, indicators, horn, seat cushions and weather-proof clothing. Those push up the price to more than £600.
The C5 has met with widespread criticism in the press and on TV: the British Safety Council, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Automobile Association have also expressed reservations about its safety on the roads. The AA says, "It could, due to its size and inconspicuousness, present a hazard to its occupant and other road users."
Sir Clive is dismissive of critics, claiming that the trike is safer than any conventional two-wheeled transport, but admitted at the launch that it had not yet been test-driven in daytime traffic on public roads.
Sinclair Vehicles is hoping for sales in excess of 100,000 in 1985. Orders were taken at Alexandra Palace, and sales approached 1,000 in the first week.
THE PRICE of the Prism VTX-5000 communications modem for the Spectrum has been cut from £99.95 to £69.95.
Paul Streeter, the sales director of Prism, is confident that the move will create more interest in computer networks such as Micronet 800. He says of the VTX: "The drop in price will clearly help it to appeal to a broader range of Spectrum owners who are keen to get into communications as long as the price is right."
The modem has been available for two years and was designed to work only with the Spectrum. It gives access to computer networks which provide users with telesoftware, viewdata services such as Prestel and electronic mailbox facilities on which messages can be left and answered.
The modem may undergo design changes in the future as a result of the discontinuation of the Spectrum. Such a move is being considered, claims Prism, but is unlikely in the near future.
THE RIVALRY between Sir Clive Sinclair and former employee Chris Curry, now head of Acorn Computers, developed into open warfare over the Christmas period.
Having commissioned a survey on the reliability of micros which appeared to demonstrate the superiority of the BBC over the Spectrum, advertisements were placed in two national newspapers on behalf of Acorn, implying that Spectrums bought as Christmas presents would soon be taken back to the shops, and their owners would do better to buy BBC computers instead.
The advertisement so angered Sir Clive that he attacked Curry in the Baron of Beef, a Cambridge pub where both are regular customers. Sir Clive walked up to Curry and slapped him about the head, then argued with him about the advertisement. There was some shoving and jostling, and the two men later began fighting again in Shades, an upmarket Cambridge wine bar.
Such strong passions amazed the national press, which appear to have believed that the world of technology is populated by cold fish with few emotions. Sir Clive even fell victim to the notorious columnist Jean Rook, who said in the Daily Express that she thought the fight gave him sex appeal.
The two leaders of British home computing are now said to have made up their differences, and Chris Curry was a welcome guest at Sir Clive's New Year's Eve party.
Sir Clive's brother Iain Sinclair comments, "It's nice to know our captains of industry are just as capable of letting their hair down and making complete idiots of themselves as the rest of us."
RETURN of the Jedi and Deathstar Battle form two major software releases from Sinclair Research.
The games, both for the Spectrum Plus, follow the adventures of Luke Skywalker and bear more than a slight resemblance to the events portrayed in the George Lucas Star Wars film trilogy.
The two packages will be part of the Spectrum Plus six pack, available free with the machine, replacing two other titles.
WHAT, you might wonder, is the well-dressed computer user going to wear this Spring? What better than the Microshield VDU Smock?
Surprisingly, that is not as funny as it may seem at first. There is great controversy as to whether or not radiation from VDU screens is harmful. Your 14in portable TV gives off far more radiation than a commercial VDU so if your bits start slipping you will know why.
As yet, the question of TV radiation affecting home computer users has not been raised, possibly because it appears mainly to affect pregnant women and there are few female users.
Details from Rolenworth International Ltd, West Sussex.
ELITE has suffered a small setback with its latest game - Fall Guy. A few days after its launch Fall Guy stumbled, damaging the game's turbo load facility in the process.
Five thousand copies of the game were initially released with the turbo load facility which refused to load the game at all. Fall Guy has since been recalled.
Steve Wilcox from Elite comments, "We immediately remastered the tape to produce the game without the turbo load. Anyone experiencing loading problems should return them to us for a replacement."
The fault can be rectified by adjusting the alignment of the cassette heads.
SINCLAIR has just launched the official Spectrum Plus upgrade kit - so if you are feeling hard done by, having just bought a Spectrum 48K, cheer up because you can upgrade it for a mere £20.00.
The kit provides you with the new keyboard - complete with 58 hard, moulded keys including a space bar - an 80-page user guide and companion cassette which provides you with three arcade games and an 'interactive tour of the new keyboard'. You will, however, lose out on the free pack of software which comes with a new Spectrum Plus.
According to Sinclair, you need no knowledge of electronics to tackle the upgrade, only a soldering iron and a steady hand.
If you do not feel up to the job, Sinclair will do it for you for £30.00 and return your computer within a record-breaking 10 days.
The Spectrum Plus upgrade will accept all peripherals in your Sinclair system. All future Spectrum peripherals are being designed with the Plus in mind.
DUE to some unfortunate type-setting errors in last month's free booklet four of the programs contained errors in syntax.
We apologise to readers for these errors and hope that they are finding the booklet useful.
FRONT RUNNER, the K-Tel software subsidiary, appears to be tightening its belt in 1985.
K-Tel entered the software market in 1983 and its first batch of releases included It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, which proved a minor success. The company name, Front Runner, was launched less than a year ago and its recent releases include Boulder Dash and Space Professor.
However, the recession seems to be hitting even major record companies like K-Tel and a decision was taken recently to withdraw Front Runner from the LET show - a trade show at which almost every software house will be present.
According to a company spokesman, Front Runner is, at present, taking a close look at the market. Asked if that meant that Front Runner would be pulling out of the market altogether, the spokesman replied, "Not necessarily so", but did not specifically deny the suggestion.