WHO’D HAVE GUESSED IT? What a cunning move on the part of Sir Clive — launching a 128K Spectrum in Spain, with a Spanish keyboard and some Spanish firmware.

The timing is interesting, as is the co-operation with a Spanish company, Investronica. According to the press release which confirmed the rumours that a Spanish 128K Spectrum was on the way, the new machine is “the result of a joint programme undertaken by the two companies over the last six months”.

It’s not surprising, given the grief handed out to Sinclair Research by the money men in The City, that the company has entered into partnership with a foreign company. The Spanish-speaking world represents a massive market for computers, and Spain’s eagerness to buy up the Dragon when no-one else wanted can be seen as an indication of the desire for computer technology in Spain. And the deal must have been done at a time when confidence in Sinclair Research was at low ebb back in the UK. Lucky Investronica, lucky Spain!

Now Investronica will be building the 128K Spanish Spectrum, which will no doubt be sold not only in Spain but throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Britain will benefit, but it is the Spanish workforce that will be kept busy, and the Spanish balance of payments that will probably benefit most. Which is ironic, given the way in which Sir Clive was feted by the British Government and financial institutions until comparatively recently. Without being too jingoistic, it’s a shame the Great British Boffin’s 128K Spectrum couldn’t have been financed and manufactured in this country — but then again, a few months ago Sinclair Research was on the verge of total collapse if some commentators were to be believed, and the City was, and probably still is, convinced that the home computer boom is over. The Spanish must view things differently.

But Sinclair is recovering from the summertime blues by all accounts. Apart from the slimming down operation and a few changes at the top, the major act of retrenchment was the abandonment of the Cambridge HQ — an award winning conversion of a Victorian mineral water factory. It’s been a case of ‘back to the Metalab, folks, while we work this one out’.

And it seems the problems the company faced have largely been worked out. The Dixon’s Deal, bundling the Spectrum with a host of other goodies has taken care of the pile of stock that Sir Clive was left with at the start of the year, and the price cut on the QL has had a very positive effect on the level of its sales.

Sinclair Research’s share of the home computer market in this country rose dramatically during August, according to one survey. The Spectrum Plus now accounts for over half the home computers sold — small wonder Sir Clive was reluctant to introduce a 128K version of the machine just yet. A spokeswoman told us that a 128K version might be on the UK market by Spring next year, but insisted there were no firm plans at the moment. And the policy from the PR point of view is to be as unhelpful about the Spanish machine as possible, it seems. English magazines won’t be supplied with 128K machines for review by Sinclair — as far as the company’s concerned, the machine is irrelevant in the UK.

Which it has to be, really. Imagine, if everyone knew that a 128K Spectrum was definitely going to be available in the Spring — for a price that would have to be around the £150/£170 mark to compete with the QL and Spectrum Plus — would the Spectrum Plus be the big seller at Christmas?

So it’s not so surprising that the new machine was born abroad after all. It’s unlikely that even the most enterprising importer will manage to get the Spanish 128K into this country, modify it and be able to sell it at a realistic price. Spectrum Plus sales will be safe over the Christmas period, with the 128K safely on holiday in Spain earning revenue in a whole new marketplace. Everyone at home, meantime, is kept in the dark ages of 48K.


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