Reading Alan Sugar : The Amstrad Story, I just came across one of those little oddities that initially manifest as 'huh, wait a minute' and sometimes just mean someone has made a typo, and sometimes point out something I have fundamentally misunderstood about historical events.

On page 190:

Sinclair had sold over 5 million computers, including more than 1 million Spectrums, its flagship product.

This was in 1986.

Wait a minute. What other computer could Sinclair have sold the other 4 million of? I was under the impression it sold a few million Spectrums, maybe 100,000 each of the ZX80 and ZX81, and not very many of the QL which was basically a flop.

Maybe it was just a typo and the 1 in the above quote should read 4? Then the figures would make sense; 4 million Spectrums and a few hundred thousand of everything else. Or have I been missing something important about the history of the company?

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    Your ZX81 figures are at least off by a digit: web.archive.org/web/20141223110120/http://www.sinclairzx.com/… claims 1.5M alone for the ZX81
    – tofro
    Dec 11, 2020 at 7:47
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    Yeh the ZX81 was hugely popular. Much more common than the ZX80. And that's not even counting the random clones from everywhere. Dec 11, 2020 at 9:07
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    Looking at different sources at internet, it seems that the Spectrum sold around 5 millions unit by itself. ZX81 somewhere around 1.5 million, ZX80 100000 units and QL 150000 units. So it might that "The Amstrad Story" has got the figures wrong...
    – UncleBod
    Dec 11, 2020 at 9:41

1 Answer 1



Not really sure where this claim of over 5 M computers, including 1 M Spectrum comes from. While still not correct, it would sound more believable the other way around, as 5 M units, including 4 M of Spectrums.

So my guess is, that it's for one a very rough number, but more important the author simply used the wrong label for the additior.


What other computer could Sinclair have sold the other 4 million of?

While I'm not sure that any other computer sold 4 million by itself, adding the ZX80/81 and QL up should end up way higherat least around 1,8-2M

I was under the impression it sold a few million Spectrums,

The Spectrum, all versions combined, did sell well beyond 4 Million (Wiki tells more than 5 Million), so it can't be included (*1).

maybe 100,000 each of the ZX80 and ZX81,

The 100k is fine for just the ZX80 (Wiki). The ZX81 sold at least 1.5M (Wiki) and this might not include the kits.

LaconicDroid mentions 50,000 MK-14 in addition, way less than a million, but a quite surprising number.

and not very many of the QL

Oh, quite contraire. Here again the sells were way past a million (Wiki tells 150k).

which was basically a flop.

Flop it was maybe in relative terms compared to Atari ST's, Amigas, or upcoming (Home) PC. I'd call that quite successful. Its tainted image is rater due delays and early faults.

*1 - Well, it gets fuzzy here, as the question does not point out if the number of Spectrum mentioned (1M) is about total sales of all model, or only until Amstrad bought them.

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    You say the sales of the QL were "way past a million" and then quote Wiki with 150k.
    – Tim Locke
    Dec 11, 2020 at 14:49
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    Not that it adds much to the figures, but the Mk14 also sold over 50,000 units. Dec 11, 2020 at 16:19
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    @LaconicDroid Oh, was it that much? Interesting. That would make it one of the most sold single boarders. Cool.
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 11, 2020 at 19:24
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    @TimLocke Exactly. My knowledge is that it was more than a million, but Wiki say it is 150k. Don't you think it's important to mention that?
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 11, 2020 at 19:26
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    @Raffzahn [citation needed] on that 1M QL sales, please
    – scruss
    Dec 12, 2020 at 1:36

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