Your Spectrum
Issue 3, May 1984 - SinclairWatch
Home Contents KwikPik
Well, Sinclair Research has done it again - not only has it launched the world-beating QL, there also looks like a near record-breaking delivery delay to go with it.
At the time of the QL launch, assurances were made that the first customers should get their machines by the end of February, and that the 28-day promises on the adverts would be stuck to. Mind you, the launch wasn't without its sceptics, especially when it was discovered that the Microdrives weren't fully working under QDOS - and that not one single machine was available for review. Indeed, it transpires that the Microdrive problem was the reason why the four Psion programs shown were stored elsewhere, and not Sir Clive's tricky little tapes.

Late Again!

The climaxing anticipation had burnt out to a whimper by the end of February. Not a single customer had come even within a sniff of receiving a QL and indeed Sinclair Research hadn't even made enough to allow review machines to be sent out. Unhappy punters received a letter giving reasons for the delay- 'phenomenal demand' it said, but just how demand for a new product can be so great as to halt production is a little puzzling.
The more experienced Sinclairologist among us may remember hearing this particular excuse before - it was also used to explain away the delays for the ZX Spectrum, the ZX Printer, the 16K RAM Pack, the ZX81, the ZX8O and even the Mk 14 - in other words, every single Sinclair Research computer product. Using the same excuse for the same inexcusable delay shows at the very least a profound lack of imagination.
The tragedy is that the QL
disappointment (and, in retrospect, the Spectrum one too) was easily avoidable. If Sinclair Research had launched, but not taken any advertisements (or for that matter, printed any order forms) until the production line was genuinely cranking into action, then customers might have been a lot happier with the odd delay or two. Certainly, it would have been a tonic for Sinclair Research's market image. And as such as the company is quick to assure that the millions of pounds worth of cheques are going to be placed in a trust fund until the transactions are about to take place - in asset terms it's almost as good as money in the bank.
Just how long the delays are likely to be is difficult to assess, but those who ordered their QLs on the launch day have been told they should now get them by the end of April - a nail-biting wait of over three months. The less fortunate ones (Guttersnipe included) who ordered a few days after the launch, and those who replied to the lavish colour ads have been told that the wait could be as long as the end of June. At the current rate, with orders flooding in (at a reported rate of 500 a day) and QLs trickling out, the BBC Micro-style six month delays look all too imminent.

Chip Chat

What of the QL itself? Although with the absence of real machines no-one can be absolutely sure, it looks amazingly impressive - in fact, almost identical to the machine predicted in YS's Sinclairwatch in issue one, with a real keyboard, dual processors and two Microdrives. The lesser eight-bit processor is the Intel 8049, commonly found inside dot-matrix printers, while the main chip is the Motorola 68008, a cut-down version of the
immensely powerful 68000.
At the QL launch Sir Clive was heard to state that "we waited for the 32-bit chip to get the extra memory". Needless to say, the 68008 only addresses 1Mbyte of memory (unlike its kith and kin in the 68000 series which addresses 16Mbytes) - exactly the same as any good ol' 16-bit chip, such as the 8088. Still, the argument over whether it's a '32-bit' chip will rage for some time yet, but Sinclair Research is the first outfit to term any member of the 68000 '32-bit'. Even its manufacturers refer to the 68008 as a '16-bitter'. The keyboard is thankfully pretty good, although with slightly non-standard layout - particularly the symbols above the numeric keys.
The Microdrives on the QL are improved Spectrum types, with the specification printed in the early Spectrum adverts. Some argue that Microdrives are not the ideal storage media for a business machine, not just because of their slow speed and lack of true random access but because of the cartridge cost and the problems involved in their mass duplication.

You Want It When?

The news of the QL launch probably came as a piece of bad news to those working for the Advertising Standards Authority; it's by no means unknown for the ASA to step in over the company's advertising of new products. But it seems the authority's protests in the past have had some effect back at the ranch; this time, the company contacted them first, explaining the problems over the 28-day clause on their adverts.
The result is that the latest ads say "Delivery may take longer than 28 days". This self-evident statement may perhaps ease the situation somewhat, though the ultimate cure would be for Sinclair Research to stop advertising for a while.
Home Contents KwikPik