PRESS reaction to the C5 has been less than enthusiastic but, judging from the massive number of order enquiries, the electric trike could be put to some exotic uses.
It has been lampooned in the nationals, criticised by motoring writers and has even become a star of Spitting Image, the Central Television current affairs satire show. Despite that, interest in the buggy has come from some unexpected quarters.
Bill Nichols of Sinclair Vehicles Limited confirmed more than 5,000 orders and 200,000 enquiries. "We have had enquiries from a bulk container line which is exploring the possibility of taking some C5s. At the moment tanker crews have to get around large decks using bicycles. Some tankers are more than three-quarters of a mile long so the C5 would come in very handy."
Land-based uses are just as exotic. Nicholas says, "Some seaside pier companies are showing interest as there is legislation which forbids the use of motorised vehicles on piers. As the C5 is not technically a motorised vehicle, staff could save their legs using it."
Holiday camps and children's summer camps have also shown interest, according to Nichols. The camps could use the trike for both travel and entertainment.
The official C5 dealers are getting their fair share of enquiries. A spokesman for Lightning Distribution says, "We have had a variety of orders and enquiries from coastal towns, bicycle shops and garages. Response is looking reasonably good and we are looking forward to summer sales."
Meanwhile, the first C5 casualty was recorded when 65-year-old Lillian Keen took her grandson's buggy for a test drive and hit a kerb. The vehicle overturned and she broke her elbow.
The high-visibility mast, previously available only as an accessory, will now be part of the standard package. A spokesman for Sinclair Vehicles said the change was 'partly' due to criticism from safety organisations.
THE GOOD times have gone. During the last few weeks, Prism, Oric, Stack Computer Systems and Nordic Keyboards - which took over Fuller only a few months ago - are no longer with us.
A number of factors contributed to Prism's downfall. Last year Prism ventured into several new areas, which included a range of robots - Topo and Fred - which were not as successful as planned.
A large reduction in Prism's share of the Spectrum market, and distribution problems with Oric products, were also contributing factors. Sinclair terminated its distribution agreement with Prism following Prism's decision to appoint a receiver.
Oric has found itself in the unenviable position of owing an estimated £5.5 million, especially to Edenspring Investments - its financial backers.
Oric's UK career has been dogged by bad luck. The Oric 1 was launched to compete with the Spectrum and failed miserably; the Atmos too did not do well in this country.
Nordic Keyboards took over Fuller six months ago when Fuller reported themselves to be in trouble, and with the Fuller range came Roy Backhouse, the man behind the Fuller Keyboard.
It now seems that Roy Backhouse is once again out of a job as Nordic has gone under, although, at the time of writing, finer details are not known other than that all telephones to Nordic are either out of order or have been disconnected.
Stack Computer Systems, manufacturers of the Stack Light Rifle, has also disappeared. No details are known at the time of going to press.
A NATIONAL computer competition, sponsored by the Observer magazine, Sinclair Research and Quicksilva, will be run over four weeks from 3 March in the Observer Sunday supplement.
The competition, open to players of all ages, will be based around Quicksilva's maze game, Xadom. Competitors will be required to answer three questions based on the game each week and to send in all 12 answers at the end of the fourth week.
Sixteen finalists will be chosen and the grand playoff will be held at the Metropole Hotel, London, in April where competitors will have to play two games against the clock.
Says Trevor Grove, editor of the Observer magazine, "We will send the 16 finalists copies of the two games before the finals for hands-on experience."
The winner will receive a QL and a two week trip to the EPCOT Center in the States, part of the Disney World complex. The three runners-up will each receive; a QL, courtesy of Sinclair, and the remaining prize winners will each receive a Spectrum expansion pack and a range of games from Quicksilva.
THE FINAL mystery of Sherlock Holmes has been cracked and this time it had nothing to do with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Brothers Paul and David Cunningham from Morpeth, Northumberland are the first to solve the plot of Melbourne House's intriguing game, Sherlock.
Paul and David - pictured from the left - were taken out to lunch at the Sherlock Holmes restaurant which incorporates a room which is a faithful representation of Holmes' study - down to the dummy which Holmes placed in the window in order to catch a villain!
SOFT-AID the computer industry's answer to BandAid, which has raised so much for Ethiopia, was launched last month at the LET show by Computer Trade Weekly and Quicksilva.
Selling for £4.99 on the Spectrum and Commodore 64, Soft-Aid is a compilation cassette of 10 games, most of which have been in the charts at some time. Beyond's Spellbound, Fantasy's The Pyramid and Elite's Kokotoni Wilf will be among the games featured on the Spectrum version. Bug-Byte's Startrader, Virgin's Falcon Patrol and US Gold's Flak will be featured on the Commodore 64 cassette.
For every game sold about £3.00 will be sent to Ethiopia, the remainder used to offset the costs of producing the game. CTW's editor, Greg Ingham comments, "We expect it to be the biggest selling software title of all time." Sales of the game are expected to reach at least 50,000 copies each for the Spectrum and Commodore 64 which, it is hoped, will earn around £500,000 for the charity.
Micro Dealer, one of the largest distributors in the country, will be distributing the game and already W H Smith have shown support by ordering copies and promising one metre of shelf space in each of their 250 stores.
Bob Geldof has officially endorsed the game and Feed the World from Band-Aid is being used as backing music.
Talking about the original idea Greg Ingham says, "We decided not to release a cassette with a new game on it as the compilation is likely to generate more interest."
He continues with a warning, "If pirating starts on this it will destroy the venture".
However, piracy should not be too much of a problem as the game has been priced low enough to enable most people to buy it.
SINCLAIR is attempting to re-enter the North American market in May by launching the QL onto the unsuspecting American public.
The operation, headed by managing director Nigel Searle, will be based in Boston where the mail order launch will take place.
Sir Clive believes that the QL will offer "the experienced US customer outstanding value for money," and goes on to say, "I believe we have the ideal product, backed by the necessary experience and marketing skills, to spearhead our re-entry." Charles Cotton, overseas business manager, comments, "The current drop in the pound has brought about a sizeable price reduction in the QL abroad - this means the QL is an extremely competitively priced product for the professional, educational and low-end business market."
Further launches in the States will include the introduction of the flat-screen pocket TV and the FM wristwatch radio, which was first shown in the states at the CES show in January.
Sinclair has also recently strengthened its representation in the Middle East. "Sinclair Research now has a complete network of distributors in the Arab Gulf States," comments Alan Miles, Middle East manager. "We are enjoying excellent sales of the Spectrum and anticipate similar sales levels."
Charles Cotton explains further, "With such a wide range of QL software and peripherals coming onto the market, the QL has the potential of out-selling even the Spectrum."
IN A recent unheralded move, Sinclair has slashed the price of microdrive cartridges from £4.95 to £1.99.
The move is designed to encourage software houses to develop programs on microdrive and to that end a special offer of free duplication services at Ablex continues.
Sinclair also hopes that the massive reduction will help to stimulate QL sales and encourage users of both the Spectrum Plus and QL to make fuller use of their micros.
Sir Clive Sinclair comments, "Microdrives have truly come of age now and we anticipate that this technology, exclusive to Sinclair, will continue to be the preferred method of data storage for most Spectrum Plus and QL owners ... and with the new price, software houses and members of the public will be able to exploit this versatile medium to the full."
Not all software houses will be jumping onto the bandwagon as Gordon Reid from Creative Sparks demonstrates, "It becomes a more interesting proposition, but there will be no overnight revolution. The price of microdrives is still many times greater than cassettes."
Even with the new price of £1.99 software houses may think twice about changing to microdrives when the cost of duplicating a game on cassette is only about 40 pence.
"It all comes down to greater capabilities," says Gordon Reid, "but it's the price that is restrictive."
A NEW television programme, 4 Computer Buffs, is being transmitted on Channel 4 on Monday evenings.
Designed to interest the home user, the programme is launching the first ever light transmission of sound, an interactive bulletin board for viewers, telesoftware via audio tones and telesoftware which can be downloaded from the TV using the new 4-Data adaptor maunfactured by OEL.
Aptly named, 4 Computer Buffs is on the air for eight weeks and its regular features will include weekly news and current affairs. Each week the programme shows what computer operators can achieve with a modem and the price of a local telephone call.
A specially adapted light pen is needed to receive software by light transmission and the first few programmes are employed in teaching you how to build it. The light pen's design is published in the March issue of Personal Computer World and the parts are available from Maplin.
OEL's 4-Data adaptor fits neatly under the Spectrum and will allow the user to store teletext on microdrives and print the data.
THE ailing Acorn corporation has been rescued by Olivetti, which has purchased shares priced at eight pence and acquired a shareholding in Acorn of 49.3 per cent, with an option to increase to 50.1 per cent over the next five years.
Acorn's co-founders, Chris Curry and Hermann Hauser have had their shareholdings reduced from 87.7 per cent to 36.5 per cent.
Acorn's problems started before Christmas with poor sales figures for the Electron. Its fortunes took another dive when it had to cut the price of the machine to £130 in line with the Spectrum Plus.
Shortly after the sales figures became known, the company's share price hit rock bottom at 23 pence. It dropped from £1.73 within just one week and rallied slightly to 28 pence before trading on the Stock Market was suspended.
Before the Olivetti offer was made speculation grew about the companies that might want to take on the Acorn mantle. Sinclair Research and Thorn EMI were two such contenders. Both companies deny involvement although Sinclair would like to get his hands on the BBC contract held by Acorn and the development which has been done on a planned range of business machines.
Olivetti's executive vice president, Mr Elserino Piol, comments, "With our backing Acorn will be in a strong position to consolidate its position in the UK and to establish an effective presence in worldwide markets. We are looking forward to working together."
Acorn has announced a reorganisation plan which will split Acorn Computers into four divisions. This move is planned to considerably reduce Acorn's overheads and it is expected that a further 90 redundancies will be announced following the 30 at the beginning of February.
Chris Curry says, "It is distressing that we should have to reduce the size of the company through redundancies and I regret this deeply. However, I believe the combination of reorganisation and re-financing will produce a leaner and more focused company."
THE WINNER of the prize for completing the Ket trilogy, from Incentive Software, is Tom Frost from Montrose, Scotland.
Tom, (right), was given £400 of video equipment by managing director Ian Andrew, (left), at a presentation at the company headquarters in Reading.
Readers might remember Tom as one of the winners in the Sinclair User 1984 Cambridge Awards.
THE STOCK Market flotation of Sinclair Research has been postponed because of a lack of market confidence in the computer industry, due largely to the Acorn crisis.
Michael Richardson of Rothschild, the merchant bank which is handling the Sinclair listing, admitted disappointment on both his and Sinclair's part. He went on to say, however, that Sir Clive was taking the delay very calmly. Even the most brilliant financial turnover and profit would not have changed the postponement.
Sinclair forestalled comments about financial problems by releasing its unaudited management accounts for the nine months ending in December 1984. Those showed that profits were in excess of the previous year. Profits in 1983 were £14.3 million on sales of £77.7 million. Sinclair is on course for a turnover of £105 million with £16.8 million in profits.
The Stock Market listing has been put off for at least six months but the delay could be as long as a year. Sinclair Research wants to be sure that the market is stable before following the route which Acorn embarked on over a year ago.
COMMODORE has cut the price of its Plus Four micro in half to £149.95, following the recent reductions on the Spectrum Plus, Acorn Electron and Atari 800XL.
The Plus Four has 64K RAM, typewriter-style keyboard and a suite of four business programs. It has been hailed as Commodore's answer to the QL.
The price drop has set the retail chains buzzing as there is no cut yet intended for the C16 or the 64. Some chains, such as Dixons, have cut the price of the C16 to £99.95 but Commodore refuses to state whether the 64 is in for the same treatment.
The company has, however, cut the 64 price in the United States so a similar move could be planned for the UK later this year, when the price war gathers momentum.
A COUP planned to strip Acorn Computers of its massive lead in the educational market is planned by the American computer corporation Apple.
The company intends to give a 50 percent discount to schools on its micros which include the Apple II, Apple IIE and, probably, the new Macintosh.
Education is the main target for the BBC microcomputer - Acorn claims 74 percent of the UK market - and Apple wants to bolster its five percent share. The school scheme is the idea of David Hancock, the new managing director of Apple UK. It will also include a package of seminars for teachers which will show the importance of micros in schools and how to use them.
Hancock hopes to forge ahead of Acorn in the market early next year but his targets for this year are just as impressive. He hopes to have 25 percent of the market sewn up by July.