Meanwhile in an Abandoned Warehouse 060

Clive Sinclair, culture & democracy









Owen Kelly



October 1, 2021


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In this bite-sized shorter-than-usual episode Owen Kelly offers two surprises and a look back at Clive Sinclair and the impact of the ZX Spectrum, which ushered in a brief period of democratic bedroom coding.

For a short period the ZX Spectrum, and its rivals the Commodore 64 and the BBC Micro, created an ecosystem of bedroom hobbyists-turned entrepreneurs, cassette-based games, and monthly magazines that advertised and reviewed them. The coders formed the primary audience for each other’s work and offered living examples of what Alvin Toffler referred to as prosumers.

This opened up a range of possibilities that slowly closed again as one-person companies merged until eventually more powerful computers and the emergence of giant companies like Electronic Arts turned the computer games ecology into a “proper” market in which highly paid teams of coders made proprietary games for audiences entirely different from themselves.