The Sinclair QL is a computer developed in 1983 by Sinclair Research. It was based around a 68008 processor and initially shipped with 128Kb of RAM and two 100Kb microdrive units for storage.

Psion supplied a suite of applications including a word processor, spreadsheet, database and charting package with the machine.

The machine was originally intended to use a Z80 processor like its predecessors.

The operating system was written mostly by Tony Tebby.

IMHO what really killed the QL was two factors:
  1. the microdrive: considered unreliable. Even if they were not, would you trust important data to a very very thin tape speeding in and out of a little black plastic box, controlled by Sinclair quality engineering, always on the verge of turning itself into one thousand Moebius loops ? Anyway, that was the impression it gave.
  2. Software. In those days of darkness and home computer, you could not really count on compatible (or even semi-compatible) software: each home computer came with its own complement of software (speak me not of MSX).
    This depended on the computer maker shipping documentation and prototypes to software houses which had to really believe in the concept, and sink money in it.
    This chemistry apparently failed to work for the QL. At least in Italy for long long months there were about 2 pieces of software available for it.
    Later on some SW appeared, but it was too late: the sales had lost momentum.

The QL failure was a pity because the machine had a very good keyboard (full size, QWERTY, reasonable key travel), good video (80 columns !) and acceptable bundled software.
And the 68000 (even in its cheap version, the 68008) was a good CPU after all.

The system would probably have been a much greater success if Sinclair had put a floppy disk drive in it instead of using an abortion by the name of microdrives. These were a small plastic cartridge with a continuous loop of magnetic tape in them. They were very expensive (five pounds each initially), slow, and unreliable.

The problem was that Sinclair owned the patents for microdrives and decided to use them rather that putting a single 3" or 3.5" floppy drive in (which would supposedly have cost him the same).

There was also a problem that the BIOS was originally planned to be only 32K and so when the operating system (QDOS) required 48K the first QLs shipped with a dongle that plugged in the back and supplied the other 16K of ROM. They did manage to release a version a few months later with no dongle.

It was the shipping of this computer over 3 months late after they had taken orders with a promise of shipment within 28 days that did a lot to damage Sinclair's reputation.

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