Rick Dickinson – A retrospective

Rick Dickinson, best known for his work as the in-house industrial designer with Sinclair Computers for their the ZX and QL microcomputers, has passed away following a battle with cancer.

Having joined in 1979, Rick Dickinson became the in-house industrial designer for the company’s range of microcomputers, starting with the ZX80 – the first computer in retail to hit the market at less than £100, continuing onwards with the successor, the ZX81 before hitting the critical success with the colour ZX Spectrum – a machine which Sir Clive Sinclair had hoped would form the basis of the BBC’s push for computer literacy at the time (See the execellent BBC documentary Micromen for more on this), this however was pipped to the post by rival Acorn’s machine.

While the Sinclair QL proved an doomed follow-up to the highly successful Spectrum, Rick’s design ensured it would be an iconic sight, and its keyboard still inspires modern systems today including the soon to be launched ZX Spectrum Next. When Alan Sugar acquired the rights with the team at Amstrad to the Sinclair computers, Dickinson would continue to design systems while also working for Sinclair to design the Cambridge Computers Z88 laptop system. Later on he even put his hand to the Gizmondo handheld games console and the vapourware handheld console the ZX Vega Plus, which has now since been revised removing most of Rick’s attension to detail.

In 2015 Dickinson was diagnosed with cancer, and while treatment appeared to be successful he sadly relapsed in early 2017.

Additional treatment at a specialist clinic within Texas in March this year was sadly unsuccessful, and his wife Lizzy Dickinson confirmed today that he passed away quickly and suddenly in his apartment earlier this week.

“Please take 5 minutes, raise a glass or 10, and think about the beautiful Rick, the one and only Viking and all the good times we have all had with him,” Lizzy Dickinson wrote in an email distributed to his many friends, family members, and colleagues.
“As they always say – but I do believe – he is watching over us and sends love to you all and is only sorry that he was not able to see you all before he left.”

While Rick’s appearances over 2017 at many of the Spectrum and retro community events were missed at the time, it is only now we truly understand the reasons why.

As a legend of the British computing legacy to the world Rick meant more to people than he will ever know, and it’s a nice thought to know than his actions within the industry will continue to make ripples and inspire likeminded individuals to take up the mantle.

Until we all meet again!

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