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ScuzzBlog: Diaries September 2019

Entry 9th September 2019: Post 01: Cambridge Computer Z88.

Cambridge Computer Z88.

The year is 1988 and Clive Sinclair no longer owned the good name
of Sinclair Research. So what did he do... very strangely whether
by chance or deliberate, literally created a machine that Alan Sugar
would have been very proud to call his own. I know that the Z88
predated Amstrad's NC100 by four years but when someone of
Clive Sinclair's stature who single handedly transformed the UK home
computer world, creates a calculator style computer like this it
just baffles me. I really had never ever known of this computer in
the day and I guess I can see why.

Not sure what the thinking was behind this thing, cus by the end of
the eighties we were about ready to break into the multimedia and
high definition world of colour, video and CD. The days of limited
display and line printer style output had died at the beginning of
the decade. I appreciate that mobility is what he may have been
aiming for but in truth I have never bought into that concept. And
so I look upon the Z88 as a bit of nonsense, much like the Sugar
Notebook computers. In truth just like the hand-helds I showed
yesterday I truthfully do not class these things as computers. They
may have been an asset to specialists in the field who desired the
mobility, it was never going to satisfy the broad stream of home
users that had grown to love the Sinclair brand.

For me computers have always been about pushing the boundary ever
forward and that means full colour displays, high end graphics and
speedy responsive interactive operation. The Z88 was more like the
TRS80 calculator style machine... and that really makes me cringe.
There is a term that I appreciate more than you can ever imagine
and that is ' Are you sitting comfortably '. I have never found a
quicker and faster method of recording notes than the simple use
of a pen and paper. I hate the displays on these types of computer
and I equally hate the limited text area and its location on a flat
surface just beyond the keyboard. I recall many Canon style typewriters
of the day having a similar arrangement. I have never been a fan of

And so the Z88 is a novelty and a bit of nonsense. Even the EPROM is
a pain cus without the power connected to the mains the battery will
run down almost by the minute as it sustains your saved files.

For a collector this computer is the worst nightmare. Basically cus the
rubber style keys attract dust, It just sticks to the surface and is
almost impossible to remove. I dragged it out today just to check that
it still was working. I removed the EPROM and batteries a long while
back. In my days attending meetings, inspecting buildings, carrying
out surveys and taking design briefs etc as an Architect I had one
valued recording mechanism that I carried everywhere. And it was the
humble 'Day Book '. A hard backed bound book that I hand wrote and
drew all my notes and records. And then when I was in the comfort of
my office I would transfer that information to computer. There has
always been a very strong argument in my view of carrying out important
descriptive reporting in suitable conditions.

Anyway... the Z88 from 1988 by Cambridge Computers. It was also the
last outing for Clive Sinclair... Sadly, what with the sale of his
empire to the Hi-Fi king Sugar it brought into question just how much
of a genius this guy really was. I have never been able to reconcile
Sinclair's later dreadful business decisions with his earlier successes
and left me thinking there just had to be another partnering him to
have given him his earlier successes, or he had suffered a very large
blow to the head during the mid 80s.

Sorry for the boring pictures but its difficult in truth to make this
thing look interesting. It doesn't even play Manic Miner !!

Cambridge Computer Z88.

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Last updated 9th September 2019

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