By the end of 1980 the Sinclair ZX80 was clearly a success by the terms of the market of the day. It had sold over 20,000 units, a massive 16K RAM expansion had been released, and with no effective competitors in its price bracket continued success was almost assured. It was in this position of dominance that Clive Sinclair heard that the BBC - Britains huge state-run broadcaster - intended not only to produce an educational television series about computer programming, but to promote a BBC branded personal computer to go with it. To Sinclair’s horror, he learned that the BBC intended to launch the Newbury NewBrain, a computer that had been designed by Sinclair but sold to Newbury Electronics.
The Newbrain was a design concept from 1978 that Sinclair had believed too costly to develop and sold to the government controlled National Enterprise Board (NEB) along with other Sinclair assets. The NEB had handed the design to Newbury electronics to complete, but Sinclair knew that none had been built and it was expected that production wouldn’t begin until late 1981. With the BBC planning to begin broadcasting their new series in October 1981, Sinclair saw an opportunity to lobby.
Sinclair immediately wrote to the BBC questioning their choice of the NewBrain and pointing out the many advantages he saw should the BBC select a Sinclair computer instead. Chris Curry, former trusted Sinclair employee and now head of competitor Acorn Computers, was also lobbying the BBC hoping they’d choose to partner with his company. The lobbying worked, and soon before Christmas 1980 the BBC announced its plans and invited British computer manufacturers to submit proposals for the “BBC Microcomputer.”