Chris Curry, an employee of Clive Sinclair's Sinclair Radionics, is given (fairly) free rein to run a formerly disused company while his boss is mired in governmental control of his main business. While doing this, Curry hits upon the idea of a small device, called a "computer", that they can sell as a kit to hobbyists. Sinclair ruthlessly shoots the idea down. In frustration, Curry leaves to found his own company, Acorn Computers.
Meanwhile, Sinclair has been reading up on these "computers". He discovers that most of the ones on the market, from big American companies like Apple and Commodore, are so expensive you could quite literally buy a car for the same price. He realises, if he can make a computer cheap enough, everyone will want one, even if they have no idea what to actually do with it.The BBC
has also heard of these "computer" contraptions, and is interested on doing a computer literacy project, based around a television show. They want a computer to base this show around. Of course there can be only one successful bid, and whichever machine gets the BBC logo stamped on it will have a huge competitive edge in the market place...
Thus begins the struggle for the early Eighties computer market, and a personal battle between two geniuses. Curry, who still feels slighted by Sinclair, wants to build the best computer he possibly can and show his former mentor what he can really do. Sinclair, believing himself betrayed by Curry, wants to teach him a lesson and show him how it's really done.Micro Men
is a rather fictionalized, but nonetheless entertaining, comedy-drama about the battle for the British computer market and the men behind it.
This show provides examples of:
- A-Team Montage: "We've got four days to build a prototype computer! I feel a montage coming on!"
- Atomic F-Bomb: "BLOODY FUCKING HELLLLLLLLL!"
- Absent-Minded Professor: Sinclair's public image that still persists to this day.
- Bad Boss: Clive Sinclair rants and screams at his employees, complaining that he's Surrounded by Idiots. He even throws telephones around when he's in an especially bad mood.
- Subverted in that his fits of temper don't last - straight after the first one, we see him buying a drink for its target, and the latter remains a loyal employee. Doubly subverted when, after another tantrum from Sinclair, Curry decides he's had enough and goes off to start Acorn.
- Batman Gambit:
- Herman uses one to persuade his engineers to try and get a prototype built in 4 days. See Manipulative Bastard below.
- Sinclair attempts one by gaining support from Acorn regarding competition for the Computer Literacy contract, thinking that his machine would be the only game in town. Unfortunately for him his massive ego prevents him from taking the possibility that the BBC would Take a Third Option into account.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Pretty much the entire engineering department of Acorn.
- Easy Come, Easy Go: Both men become paper millionaires as the bubble grows, only for their wealth to vanish when it pops.
- The Eighties: Obviously!
- Foregone Conclusion: Who will win the home computer wars? Will it be Acorn? Or will it be Sinclair? The answer? Microsoft.
- Also, at least in Britain, Amstrad and their IBM Compatibles. (Sinclair also sold his computer business to them.)
- Good Times Montage
- The Great Video Game Crash of 1983: While the triggering issues were different from the problems that plagued the US games market, the UK suffered its own crash when Sinclair's cheap-as-chips machines saturated the market and Acorn had done likewise in the educational space. This, along with Acorn's and Sinclair's ill-advised attempt to break into each other's market brought about the ruin of both companies.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Hauser, and also Roger Wilson (latterly known as Sophie Wilson).
- Insufferable Genius: Clive Sinclair
- Mad Scientist: Sinclair was the chairman of British Mensa, but he was somehow completely and utterly blind to just how terrible a product the Sinclair C5 was.
- Manipulative Bastard: Hermann, when he plays his two engineers against each other in order to trick them into agreeing to build the prototype in five days (this actually happened).
- Margaret Thatcher: Her election prompts Clive to make a "new start" and quit smoking. Later she's seen playing chess on a Speccy (taken from a Real Life news clip of her meeting visiting Japanese digintaries!)
- Meaningful Echo: "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
- Metaphorgotten: Hauser's remark about playing cards.
- Nothing But Hits
- Oh, Crap: When the guy from the BBC shows up when the prototype is stubbornly refusing to work.
- Pac Man Fever: "The man who brought you Jet Set Fucking Willy"
- An actual example happens immediately after Sinclair utters the above line. One of the Sinclair employees he says it to says as an aside to the other that his son is up to level 8. Jet Set Willy didn't have levels.
- Paper Fan of Doom: Well, it's actually a rolled-up newspaper, but the effect is pretty much the same.
- Real Person Cameo: Sophie (née Roger) Wilson, as a pub landlady right at the end of the programme.
- Shout-Out: At the QL launch event, we see a brief shot of Clive's bald head in silhouette as a spotlight emerges from behind... while Also Sprach Zarathustra plays in the background.
- Shown Their Work: several incidents in Micro Men that you'd think were invented (or at least heavily adapted) for the sake of a good story really did happen as depicted in the programme, including Hauser's manipulating Furber and Wilson into working to the seemingly impossible BBC deadline, the cutting of the wire to make the computer work mere seconds before the BBC men arrive, and Sinclair and Curry's fight in the pub.
- Smart People Play Chess, except for Hauser. Doesn't stop him trying to use a Chess metaphor though.
- Spot of Tea: Acorn Computers would seem to be tea-powered. Herman seems fascinated with the "British Tea Ritual".
- Technology Marches On: "Up to a massive 48k of RAM!"
- Visual Pun: Sinclair (pictured in a C5) is overtaken by HP/Compaq and Microsoft (their logos emblazoned on the side of trucks).
- What Could Have Been: "We could have been the British IBM! But you wouldn't listen when you should have, and now look at us!"
- Although the ARM processor originally designed by the Acorn team did go on to be possibly the most widely used CPU in history.
- Wimp Fight: Clive Sinclair fights like a girl. Curry lays him out with one punch.
- Wire Dilemma: Inverted. The Acorn engineers agonise over cutting a wire to fix the BBC Micro prototype, seconds before the BBC man arrives (and yes, this happened in Real Life).