What's it like today?
Fun Factor: 2/5
The QL (or Quantum Leap) was Sinclair's first attempt at a business machine. It was introduced in January 1984, following the successful earlier Sinclair computers, the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum. Indeed it was the first home computer based on a 32-bit CPU, released just a few days before the Apple Macintosh. It differed from the previous Sinclair models quite substantially, as they had all been based upon the Zilog Z80 processor. The QL, however, had at its heart a multitasking system based upon the Motorola 68008 processor and an 8049 second processor. The operating system, QDOS, was regarded as innovative, and well ahead of its time.
It came bundled with 4 business programs written by Psion: Quill (a word processor), Archive (a database program), Easel (a business graphics and charts program), and Abacus (a spreadsheet). It also came with a BASIC interpreter in ROM, called SuperBASIC.
It was strategically important for Clive Sinclair to unveil the QL before the Macintosh, but that was also one of the main reasons for its slow sales and eventual downfall. It is often said that the launch of the machine went some way to killing off the computer's chances of success - launch delays, unfinished operating system, bug-ridden BASIC interpreter, partly finished software supplied with the machine, and the use of Sinclair's Microdrive tape cartridges instead of the floppy disk drives that most would have preferred at the time for a home and business computer.
Once in the hands of users and with updated system ROMs, the machine was able to prove itself quite readily, especially when floppy disk drive systems and good software became available. But by then, the national press had already had a field day basing reviews of the machine on the bug-ridden launch version. The QL never really recovered enough to gain the reputation it really deserved. A drastic price cut (halving the QL's price) helped, but eventually Sinclair chose to sell his computer business to Amstrad, who decided to discontinue the QL.
Long after the QL was discontinued, two replacement operating systems have been written for it by enthusiasts: SMSQ/E and Minerva.