Rick Dickinson

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The ZX81 personal computer

Rick Dickinson (c. 1957 – 24 April 2018) was a British industrial designer who developed pioneering computer designs in the 1980s.[1] Notable examples of his design work include the ZX81 case and touch-sensitive keyboard and the ZX Spectrum rubber keyboard.

Early life[edit]

Dickinson graduated from Newcastle Polytechnic in 1979 with a First Class Bachelor of Arts honours degree in Design for Industry.[2] The "Design for Industry" degree was the first of its kind, formerly a three-year "Industrial Design" degree. The new course, with two additional terms for industrial placements, extended the degree to four years and popularised the term "sandwich course".[3][4]

Sinclair[edit]

Dickinson joined Sir Clive Sinclair's Sinclair Research Ltd in December 1979,[5] replacing John Pemberton who was leaving Sinclair to head up a new design centre for ITT in Harlow.[3] Sinclair Research offices were at 6 Kings Parade, Cambridge.

Dickinson was the in-house industrial designer of Sinclair Research Ltd. He saw John Pemberton's design for the ZX80 case through to completion and desgined a memory expansion. He went on to design the ZX81, including its touch-sensitive keyboard, a "clear step forward" in home computer design.[6][7][8] In the rubber keyboard for the ZX Spectrum, he replaced the hundreds of components of a conventional keyboard with a design using "maybe four or five moving parts". Along with its colour display, engineered by Richard Altwasser, and commercialisation by Sir Clive Sinclair, the Spectrum popularised home computing, coding and gaming.[2][9][10] Dickinson also designed the TV80 casing and Sinclair QL.[11]

The ZX81 won a British Design Council award in 1981.[12] It won a Haus Industrieform award and is in a permanent collection in Essen.[13] The Sinclair QL won an Italian design award at the Smau Industrial Design Award.[14]

Post-Sinclair[edit]

In 1986, he founded Dickinson Associates, an industrial design consultancy based in Cambridge.[15] That year he produced the industrial design for an early laptop computer, the Cambridge Z88.[13] In 1987 he was commissioned by Alan Sugar to create the industrial design concept for Amstrad's first portable computer.[2]

In 1989, Dickinson, Christopher Curry (Acorn Computers), and Keith Dunning re-thought the MacArthur field microscope and Dickinson designed the Lensman microscope, a portable field microscope.[16][17][18] In 1990–91 the Lensman microscope won the BBC design awards, The Prince Of Wales Award For Industrial Innovation And Production, and the Archimedes award for Engineering Excellence.[19]

Dickinson met Apple founder Steve Jobs numerous times as they shared ideas for the MacBook in 1994.[citation needed]

He produced the industrial design concepts and models of the first "Broad Band phone" for AT&T.[20][21] Dickinson Associates created the industrial design, mechanical design, and production engineering design for the first GSM mobile phone "reference phone" design, for Rockwell.[5][21] Dickinson Associates were also the designers of the Gizmondo handheld console (originally the Gametrac).[22]

In 2014, he published concept designs for modern Sinclair microcomputers.[23] The following year, Dickinson published a series of images of the ZX Spectrum Next re-imagining the original Spectrum design. In 2016, he designed a wireless patch for a medical system to allow expectant mothers to monitor fetal heart rates.[24] He also worked on the design of the ZX Spectrum Vega+ handheld games console.[25] One source reported the ZX Spectrum Next was entering production in 2018.[5][26]

Personal life and death[edit]

Dickinson had two daughters, Grace and Daisy, with his first wife Kim. He is survived by them and by his second wife Elizabeth ("Lizzy").[8][27]

Dickinson died on 24 April 2018 while in Texas receiving further treatment for cancer first diagnosed in 2015.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Business Live". BBC News. Retrieved 27 April 2018. Computing pioneer Rick Dickinson dies
  2. ^ a b c "Sinclair Spectrum designer Rick Dickinson dies in US". BBC News. 26 April 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Rick Dickinson:The Enigma of Design(part 1)". The Polymath Perspective. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  4. ^ Blythe, Daniel (13 December 2011). Collecting Gadgets and Games from the 1950s–90s. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781781599662.
  5. ^ a b c "Industrial designer Rick Dickinson passes away". bit-tech.net. 26 April 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  6. ^ Lidwell, William; Manacsa, Gerry (2011). Deconstructing Product Design: Exploring the Form, Function, Usability, Sustainability, and Commercial Success of 100 Amazing Products. Rockport Publishers. pp. 214–5. ISBN 9781592537396.
  7. ^ Alberts, Gerard; Oldenziel, Ruth (2014). Hacking Europe: From Computer Cultures to Demoscenes. Springer. ISBN 9781447154938.
  8. ^ a b "Obituary: Rick Dickinson, industrial designer of the ZX Spectrum". Eurogamer.net. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
  9. ^ Kelion, Leo (23 April 2012). "Sinclair's ZX Spectrum turns 30". BBC News. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  10. ^ O'Regan, Gerard (21 June 2016). Introduction to the History of Computing: A Computing History Primer. Springer. ISBN 9783319331386.
  11. ^ "Rick Dickinson – Computing History". www.computinghistory.org.uk. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  12. ^ "RIP: Sinclair ZX Spectrum designer Rick Dickinson reaches STOP". The Register. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Rick Dickinson, ZX Spectrum designer, dies after three-year cancer fight". The Inquirer. 27 April 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Interview – Rick Dickinson talks about designing iconic Sinclair machines". Flickering Myth. 19 August 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Dickinson Associates :: THE PRODUCT DESIGNERS". www.theproductdesigners.com. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  16. ^ Coghill, S. B. (October 1992). "The Lensman Microscope: Tool Or Toy?". Cytopathology. 3 (5): 317–320. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2303.1992.tb00054.x. ISSN 0956-5507.
  17. ^ M. A. Beale (2010) The Lensman portable microscope—an aid to school fieldwork?, Journal of Biological Education, 25:2, 91, DOI: 10.1080/00219266.1991.9655182
  18. ^ Dingley, Mike. "The Lensman Microscope". Micscape Magazine. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  19. ^ Kreindler, R. Jordan (July 2013). "Folded-Optics Microscopes 1 of 2" (PDF). Micscape Magazine: 17.
  20. ^ "The Story of the Broadband Phone". www.xorl.org. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  21. ^ a b "Ask Rick Dickinson". Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  22. ^ "Gizmondo handheld games console". The Register. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  23. ^ Halfacree, Gareth (26 April 2018). "An Interview with Rick Dickinson". Gareth Halfacree. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  24. ^ Belam, Martin (27 April 2018). "Rick Dickinson, designer of Sinclair home computers, dies in the US". the Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  25. ^ "Dickinson Associates :: THE PRODUCT DESIGNERS". theproductdesigners.com. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  26. ^ "About – ZX SPECTRUM NEXT". www.specnext.com. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  27. ^ a b "Sinclair designer Rick Dickinson sadly passes away". Flickering Myth. 26 April 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2018.

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