Rick Dickinson, ZX Spectrum designer, has passed away

Rick Dickinson Rick Dickinson, designer of a great number of the ZX Spectrum incarnations, from the ZX81 with its touch sensitive keyboard, through the ZX Spectrum with its rubber keyboard, the Sinclair QL’s casing, and now the forthcoming ZX Spectrum Next, has passed away.

From his initial days at Sinclair Research and beyond, his work also included working with Amstrad’s Alan Sugar on their first portable home computer, the Amstrad PPC512, plus Tiger’s Gizmondo handheld console, and in 1991, the Lensman microscope.

Having briefly used the ZX81, but mainly got into home computing with the ZX Spectrum in 1982/83 when my late grandfather was given one by his workplace, publishers Century Hutchinson, to connect with the office while he was at home, via the phone line, similar to the Prestel service. However, this idea was soon scrapped and as he had no use for it, he gave me to me and I made a great deal of use from it. Yes, the rubber keyboard was quite different to every other keyboard you’ve ever used, but the machine had its place as the first computer I’ve ever used and an incredible work of art it was, too.

This morning, his wife, Lizzy Dickinson, sent an email to Urs Koenig which has since been posted on the QL forum here:

    Subject: The wonderful Rick

    Dearest Friends

    With the hugest hole in my heart and a sadness I can’t being to understand, the wonderful person known to many as Rick the Viking, opened his wings and started on another journey on Tuesday 24 April. And sadly I am not yet able to join him, despite wanting so much to be with him.

    I know that this will come as a shock to many as we had not been open about his health issues, preferring rather to deal with them in private, even from both of own families until fairly recently. Rick was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and despite successful treatment in 2016, he became unwell again in early January 2017. I am sure some of you may have guessed something was not quite right, and to those of you that perhaps did not understand why we became less and less social during 2017, I hope now you can understand that this was in no way a reflection of our friendship with you but rather circumstances dictating what he was or was not able to do.

    We have been at a specialist clinic in America – Texas to be precise – since the end of March undergoing complimentary treatment as a last attempt at hoping to heal him when he passed away quickly, without warning having collapsed in the apartment we were rented here. He was in no pain and surround by huge love from the amazing people that have become firm friends here – that Texan southern hospitality truly was – and continues to be – laid at our door. Rick will be cremated here in Texas and I will travel home with his ashes once the paperwork is sorted probably at the end of next week.

    And, rather than a traditional funeral (which you know is really not his style) his much loved daughters that he was so proud of – Grace and Daisy – and his mother Ursula and I will be planning for a celebration of his life where we can all get together and remember him with love, laughs, smiles, anecdotes and a few beverages. I will of course let you know details once we have finalised plans.

    Please also do pass on this email to any that you feel may wish to know; Rick had many, many friends across the broad spectrum of his work and interests and I have tried to find as many emails as I can from his computer but am sure I have left some out.

    And can I ask that – for the time being – please don’t call as I simply can’t face talking right now, but I would dearly love to receive your messages, emoticons and any photos or memories you wish to send of the person who was – simply – the wonderful Rick, love of my life.

    And 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. 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.”

World of Spectrum‘s Lee Fogarty has given his thoughts today:

    “I read with great sadness today that Rick Dickinson passed away on Tuesday. Many won’t have heard of him, but a great many more have enjoyed his work as the designer of the majority of the Sinclair range of computers.

    Rick contacted me six years ago, and seemed surprised that there was a great deal of interest in every aspect of his early work! More recently, I was delighted that he had agreed to attend our Spectrum 35th party in Cambridge last October, and spent a lot of time with photos as well as a (very) long talk and presentation for the guests.

    What always came across during various chats was how humble and amazed he was about the impact his designs had. He was very passionate about his work, and continued creating award winning designs until very recently.

    What we didn’t know in October was how ill he was. He clearly wasn’t well, but we didn’t know he had withdrawn from social activities due to cancer, so making the commitment to the S35 event is all the more special to those that attended.

    RIP Rick.”

The above picture is from the ZX Spectrum group for the above picture, and this morning, there have also been tributes on the group from Chris Tye and Phil Steels, respectively, as shown below, plus a short piece from Tomorrow’s World, in 2003, where Rick talks about the ZX80 and ZX81, and I’m very much looking forward to my Next when it arrives, having backed the Kickstarter.

It feels like it will have extra special significance as Rick Dickinson is looking down on us from the the videogame arcade in the skies.