Sinclair's very first commercial
product was the Micro-Amplifier, launched at the end
of 1962. For a mere twenty-eight shillings and sixpence (roughly
£1.42, but representing a lot more buying power in those
days), the hobbyist would receive a kit of parts which could
be assembled "in under 2 hours using ordinary tools"
into "the smallest [amplifier] of its type in the world".
Pictured standing on a half-crown coin in the advert, the
amplifier measured just ¾ by 3/8 by ½ inches
(about 19 by 9.5 by 12.7 mm) - an early example of Sinclair's
long-running fetish for miniaturisation.
The tiny size of the Micro-Amplifier turned out to be a highly
successful marketing gimmick. Several thousand were eventually
sold. This was a remarkable success for a company which consisted
of only one person, Clive Sinclair himself. The key to this
achievement was Sinclair's "farming out" of the
distribution and assembly work. While Sinclair himself was
working in London as technical editor of the journal Instrument
Practice, he gave two Cambridge companies the task of
receiving mail, assembling the products and despatching them.
Cambridge Consultants Ltd (CCL) had been established in 1960
by a Cambridge chemical engineer, Tim Eiloart, who was subsequently
to have a lengthy involvement with Sinclair. Dept C, 69 Histon
Road - actually a disused bakehouse - was also shared with
a small design and printing company called Polyhedron Services,
founded by Rodney Dale (subsequent author of the book The
Sinclair Story). The two firms' involvement with Sinclair
came about simply because Iain Sinclair, Clive's brother,
happened to be working for Polyhedron at the time and knew
that Clive was looking for someone to provide distribution
and printing services for his new company.
© Chris Owen 1994-2003