Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The 21st Century's C5

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The 21st Century's C5

Article excerpt

Byline: gary BAINBRIDGE One man's struggle with the 21st century Follow Gary on Twitter: @Gary_Bainbridge or email him at

IAM not terribly good at predicting the future, which is why I am having to write this now, rather than ruling over you all on my golden throne while my houseboy, Piers Morgan, brings me a Twix straight from the fridge.

As far as I know I have only predicted the future successfully twice in my life, apart from the occasional lucky coin toss.

The first time was when I convinced my parents to opt for a VHS video recorder rather than Betamax, even though the quality of the Betamax images was arguably better.

The second time was when I saw a Sinclair C5 in the wild and realised that it was not going to catch on.

For those of you too young or too old to remember the Sinclair C5, I will explain.

Sir Clive Sinclair was the British Steve Jobs. He made wildly popular computers and then decided to diversify. But rather than going into music devices and phones and things that people want, he went into vehicle manufacture.

He created the Sinclair C5, a sort of low-slung battery-powered bucket on three wheels which could transport a single person - all its owners were single - at breakneck speeds of up to 15 miles per hour, as long as it was going downhill.

If it was going uphill, the driver had to help the battery out by pedalling.

One Friday night, soon after its launch, my cousin bashed on our front door.

"There's a C5 coming down the road! Quick!" he said.

I undid the laces of the shoes I had kicked off earlier, put the shoes on, tied the laces again, looked for my keys, and then ran the hundred or so metres to the main road. In that time, the C5 had made its way from one set of traffic lights to the next.

And that was the moment when I realised that the Sinclair C5 was not going to catch on. I saw that it was a solution to a problem that literally nobody had.

Nobody had ever thought: "I want to go from A to B very slowly, in a way that maximises my exposure to danger, the weather, and ridicule.

"What I really need is an ingenious device which combines all the disadvantages of the milk float with all the disadvantages of the bicycle. …

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