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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.
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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.

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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:
  • Artistic Licence: While the programme is certainly towards the more accurate end of Based on a True Story, inevitably some details were changed, compressed or omitted for the sake of dramatic effect or narrative flow. Some examples:
    • Steve Furber has said that Hauser's cutting of the wire to get the prototype Micro working actually happend about three hours before the BBC people arrived rather than mere seconds.
    • According to Chris Curry, his fight with Sinclair began when Sinclair snuck up behind him and put his hands around Chris' eyes, making Chris see red. This detail is completely omitted from the film.
  • A-Team Montage: "We've got four days to build a prototype computer! I feel a montage coming on!"
  • Atomic F-Bomb: When Sinclair gets the phone call from the BBC telling him they've given the contract to Acorn: "BLOODY FUCKING HELLLLLLLLL!" (Throws telephone across the corridor into the next office.)
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  • 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.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Herman likes Chess metaphors, and Poker metaphors, though he is very obviously ignorant of the rules of both games. There was also his cutting the cord metaphor, though that one was somewhat more apt.
  • 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 '80s: 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: when Acorn is at the peak of its success.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Among the touches included to give the programme an authentic '80s feel is the Acorn staff smoking at work. In fact Steve Furber has said that nobody smoked, at least not in meetings or shared work areas.
  • 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, a cable cut being required for the Micro prototype to work, 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.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Paul McCartney, The Pipes Of Peace during the pub Wimp Fight
  • 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!"
    • The Atom's 2K was considered generous at the time of its release, so the 48k Speccy represented a 24-fold increase over only a couple of years, demonstrating just how fast technology really was marching on at that point in time.
  • 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: In-Universe - "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, it happened in Real Life, albeit it was hours instead of seconds).
  • Written by the Winners: Or "Written by the people who decided who the winner would be", in this case. It can feel a bit uncomfortable to see Sinclair getting so heavily mocked in a show made by the BBC about how he lost a competition run by the BBC...
  • You Are What You Hate: Sinclair notes that many companies in the early microcomputer boom are indulging in what he calls "kite-flying", announcing products that are no where near ready for market. By the end he's flying a rather large kite of is own in the form of the Sinclair QL which was very late to market and still barely beyond the prototype stage when it finally did ship.

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