back to article Up close with the 'New Psion' Gemini: Specs, pics, and genesis of this QWERTY pocketbook

Bill Clinton was still US President when the last pocket computer that you could touch type on came out. Back then, almost everyone accessed the internet at home on a dialup modem, not broadband, and no phone yet sported a colour screen or a camera. It was a different era. But after 17 years, a Psion 5-style machine is back, …

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  1. Cody

    I wonder about £600. For about £100 you can get a win 10 tablet, 8 inch or 10 inch. Then you can pair it with a bluetooth folding keyboard. Yes, not as elegant or as self contained. But a lot more ergonomic. Admittedly it is hard to put Linux on these machines, owing to the 32bit/64bit boot issue. But if you want something which is very easy to carry in a briefcase or shoulder bag, and a lot easier to type on... For one sixth of the price? For that matter you can also put it in a keyboard case combination. I have a Linx 8 inch which I did that with, and it works very well.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Missing the point

      I think you're totally missing the point. You say your solution would fit easily in a bag or briefcase. One of the features of the Psions was that they fitted in your coat/jacket pocket. Getting a small form factor that works, plus has a decent keyboard is hard.

  2. Nick L

    "Ships November 2017"

    Fantastic idea, and I absolutely want one, but from where they are now to shipping in November 2017 isn't a plan, it's a pipe dream.

    They plan to use an off the shelf PCB and display, and "concentrate on the plastic and metal work". Doing this would give them a leg up on certification etc but it won't mean they're able to deliver by November this year from where they are. Just getting a keyboard out of the door in that time would be good going. How many design iterations can they get through before November? I realise they have a working prototype, but even off the shelf components have a habit of doing strange things when combined...

    If they had a realistic plan that I could believe, I'd back them but as it is I think they're being way too optimistic on timescales. I've seen too many kickstarter and indiegogos fail for exactly that reason, which then burns funds and leaves backers with nothing.

    I really hope I'm wrong, in which case I'll happily shell out for the full price version.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: "Ships November 2017"

      It would be nice if the Reg commissioned a guest article about Product Design and hardware development. Firstly, it would be an interesting diversion, and secondly it would dispel a few oft-repeated myths.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "Ships November 2017"

        @Dave126 (no relation) "It would be nice if the Reg commissioned a guest article about Product Design and hardware development. Firstly, it would be an interesting diversion, and secondly it would dispel a few oft-repeated myths."

        That's actually a really good idea. Something along the lines of "So you have an idea for a world-changing technology product? Here's the process you will go through to take it from fever-dream to boxed product sitting on customers' desks", with guidance as to timelines, typical partners (fundraising, manufacturing, design, certification, distribution...)

        I'd read that.

  3. Lotaresco Silver badge

    Want

    This is a bad sign. Every bit of bleeding-edge tech that I have purchased has seen the manufacturer crash and burn within a few months. I wonder if they will pay me to not buy one of these?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was the software that made the Psions so great

    Yes - the hardware design was quite clever, especially the hinge and keyboard design, but the manufacturing quality was iffy so they broke. What made the Psions (3 and 5 series) so great was the software - particularly the applications, and the seamless way they all worked together. As an example, even now none of the calendar apps I use allow you to put in an appointment without a time in the way the Psion did; this was ideal when you planned to do something "in the afternoon" but not sure when - with the Psion you could place it the right place in the day without being precise about the timing, which you could add later when you'd agreed the details. To-do items (from your to-do lists) could optionally be displayed on the calendar pages on the relevant day - you could choose where - and would keep rolling forward each day until completed. It all worked so smoothly and cleanly it was a a delight. I thought at the time that Psion had licensed their software to a manufacturer good at making reliable hardware (Sonyt, Casio...) and with worldwide reach, they'd have had a lot more success.

    To me this latest idea is pointless as it's based on Android or a LInux distro - which as a techie I like but is never going to be the seamless, user-friendly environment suitable for a PDA.

    What would have been great about 10 years ago would be a Psion 5 updated with a modern colour screen, wifi and USB instead of the serial interface they had. Even now, that would be an incredibly attractive tool.

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: It was the software that made the Psions so great

      Agreed. The stylus was a big part of what made it useful for me too. I'd like to see that back as well. Or just the updated 5MX.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: It was the software that made the Psions so great

      This reflects my feelings; the Psion worked well because of the combination of hardware and software. Producing a modern version of the hardware alone isn't the main part of the task.

      There's a System 3 emulator that escaped from Psion beach in the day for DOS compatibles; you could DOSBox away the problem if only needs hadn't changed. But now the first thing somebody is going to ask for is email, then the ability to edit those Word documents and Excel spreadsheets that he keeps getting by email, then why not throw a browser on, then please just show a normal desktop. So I don't really think you could recapture what the device was.

    3. Gomez Adams

      Re calendar appointments with no fixed times

      I get round this by setting an appointment as Busy if it has fixed times and Out of Office if it is a moveable feast.

    4. alexmcm

      Re: It was the software that made the Psions so great

      Those were my thoughts exactly. I don't just want a Psion lookalike running Android, I want the software too, but as there is no mention of them developing Apps for Android what is the deal. Are they going to give it a skin with some bog standard apps from the Google Play store like Jorge Calendar or Evernote. I can't believe they'd just ship it with vanilla Android on it.

  5. aeonturnip

    Rather than have to buy another device, perhaps they could work on a mobile phone case with this keyboard connecting via Bluetooth. As other people have pointed out, it's the keyboard and the hinge which are so great about this with the rest being likely an also-ran Android phablet. Most people already have a phablet of one sort or another - S7 Edge here - and don't intend to replace it anytime soon.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      If the keyboard was developed as a Moto Mod, Motrola would contribute to the development costs. (See Moto article on Reg today).

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        As there's not even a proper prototype yet, I think you may end up with the Gemini being a smartphone screen connecting to a bluetooth screen in a clever wallet.

        Or am I missing the point of crowdfunding?

        Paris 'cos even she won't be investing until she see a proper prototype.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Nope

      You'll have balance issues. With the Gemini the battery, and with it most of the weight, is underneath the keyboard. If you have some generic phone attached to a Psion-style keyboard in some way, you essentially have a battery on the back of the screen, with the associated repositioning of the CoG. Which can probably be mitigated by having a battery underneath the keyboard as well, to be hooked up as a power bank, but the setup won't be very elegant.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        >Which can probably be mitigated by having a battery underneath the keyboard as well, to be hooked up as a power bank, but the setup won't be very elegant.

        I reckon it could be done... The Moto Z actually has a fairly small internal battery, and a two way power/data magnetic connector. If you place a second battery under the keyboard module, and use a cunning sliding mechanism to place some support (a la the original Psion) it should be stable.

        It isn't necessary that it work with every phone, just each year's new Moto Z equivalent.

        [By the way, I would like to thank you all for your understanding; I've harped on quite a bit about Moto Mods this last two weeks, and you've all understood my enthusiasm has been for the possibilities such a system could open up - especially if open sourced or licensed out -and that I haven't been cheerleading for Motorola per se. In fact, I feel a bit sad that it is a proprietary connector]

  6. David Tallboys

    Bluetooth keyboard with Win ios Android

    I've got a small, but not folding, keyboard that works with Android, Ios, and Windows devices. About 20 quid from Maplin, less online I guess.

    It fits OK-ish in a jacket pocket and works with my Note 3.

    The Note 3 can be connected to a large screen through a media dock.

    I can also connect the keyboard to a larger tablet - e.g the ones with phone sims in from Yuntab.

    Works fine as a cheap PC when abroad with office mobile apps.

    I've never forgiven my business partner for giving my psion 5mx to his son without telling me after an unguarded moment I said I wasn't using it as much as I thought I would.

  7. kmac499

    With the launch of the Raspberry Pi Zero-W today for £10 Justifying £500 might be a tad tricky as I'm sure the hobbiest crew could knock a passable attempt at a gemini style device for a lot less.

  8. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    It's cute and all, but it's a crowded market, and I reckon if I was looking for yet another device, I'd be looking for a 4G Android Tab with either a detachable or BT keyboard, or one of the aforementioned laptop type docks for my smartphone.

  9. Neil Charles

    Corporate market

    I could see this being a big hit if they can get distribution for it as an alternative to business mobile phones. I've got a Galaxy S7 as a work phone but would much rather have something that's pocket sized with a real keyboard for editing docs, taking notes and emergency fixes when away from my laptop. Video conferencing too - very business friendly.

    The £500 price ticket becomes less of an issue when your boss is paying. I can't see huge numbers of people buying one for themselves at that price, because you'd also need a phone. If your company buys you the Gemini and you run your own cheaper 'droid personal phone, you'd have a great little setup.

  10. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Good for watching video

    I don't personally watch video on a mobile much, but this Gemini seems suited for watching video whilst commuting by train.

  11. RockBurner

    Mini PC

    I'm no sys admin, but I'd love to have something like this as a true 'Pocket PC'.

    I'm not interested in having it act as a phone - I generally find I that if I'm making a call I need to do 'stuff' on the screen that I can't do when I'm holding the thing to my head. Phone and PC as separate items makes more sense (BT headsets suck).

    But as a tiny laptop.... now you're talking. FAR easier to carry around than any tablet with keyboard combo, or iMacAir/Netbook - if they stick a 'TouchPoint' (other names are far better known... ) cursor control onboard as well then I think I'd be throwing cash at them now.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Mini PC

      (BT headsets suck).

      Never noticed much suckage, but OK, if they're not to your liking, then maybe a wired headset? It's got a headphone socket, which in this day and age probably means BTTR, especially so for a device that has a phone function.

  12. RonWheeler

    $600

    Is about twice what the real world market is likely to stand given other-tablets-do-exist.

    Wish them well, but suspect price will kill it stone dead other than for enthusiasts.

    1. EnviableOne Bronze badge

      Re: $600

      cheaper than most phones and hopefully with a better spec. Played with Psion 3 and 5 personally I thought the 5 was getting a bit on the bulky side. The Form factor lends itself to the confined space of the comms room and the full keyboard great for a console connection

      USB-C to Serial anyone?

    2. alexmcm

      Re: $600

      Given that is their RRP, I'm guessing they'll be widely available for $470, which isn't bad for a pocket computer with a real keyboard and phone functionality.

    3. David Paul Morgan

      Re: $600

      ... perhaps, if the concept gets 'leaked' to the lower brand Chinese manufacturers, they might turn up on ebay etc for < £$€250 ?

  13. John Styles

    Anyone else buy a GeoFox one? Only me?

  14. wheelybird

    What the hell.

    I've just sent them a chunk of money; I think that it'd be a neat little device to own. Maybe it'll never appear, but I've been dying for a mobile device with a decent keyboard for bloody ages now.

    1. lsces

      Re: What the hell.

      More than past the first hurdle in just a couple of days so there is certainly demand!

      1. Grunchy

        Re: What the hell.

        I succumbed. I'm getting the Wi-Fi variant.

  15. GingerOne

    Is this going to be usable anywhere other than a flat surface? The benefit of a design like the Nokia N900 is that you can stand up and use it on the move. This just looks like a minature laptop.

    There is no doubt that the old Psions were great for their time - personally I struggle to find a use case for this now.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      IIRC, you could use the Psions (3, 5) quite well standing up or walking around (slowly) if you were using both hands to hold it and both thumbs to type on it. Pretty much like I'm doing right now with a tablet. It worked even better on the Psions - proper keyboard, better form factor for that sort of thing.

  16. Bad Beaver

    QWERTZ

    Looks neat. Let me know when I can get it with a QWERTZ keyboard.

  17. cream wobbly

    A pair of AAs?

    The killer feature of the Psion Series 3 and 5 was the battery life. A full month on the 3, and a week on the 5, from a pair of alkaline AAs. That's *using* them, not sitting idle under a good book.

    Phones seldom last a full day. Use them, and they lose charge so fast you ca

    <that was my joke>

    Even the solid old Nokias only lasted two days before needing to be plugged in. Kindle Fires are somewhere between the two. The Paperwhite lasts a good couple of weeks.

    Make it twice the weight and give me a battery I can work with. This is going to need a good deal more than an 8 Ah battery if you want me to do work on it. Give me four times that, then maybe we'll talk.

    Until then? If you're going to make me work tethered to a cable, I'm already not on my feet, so I may as well use a laptop.

    32 Ah battery or gtfo.

  18. Daniel Voyce

    I think if this was running a reasonable distro of Linux id buy one to simply have in hand for those times I am on the move and my phone would be too awkward to Get Stuff Done™

    Nice idea!

  19. Wolfechu

    Eh.

    I owned several Psion 5mxs, and while they were pretty good, the Psion series 7 knocked them into a cocked hat. I'd still be using one of those if it were remotely easy to connect to a PC nowadays.

    Given that, though, if I wanted a device closer to a Psion nowadays, I'd just invest in a Chromebook.

  20. Prichy
    Meh

    All about the software

    I also agree that the hardware was great, but it was the software that was the killer feature. If they're simply going to put all the usual standard Linux/Android/whatever applications on this then they've completely missed the point. For me, the 5 was good but the 3mx was the best in terms of the UI. The stylus just slowed things down. Once you learnt all of the shortcuts it was far faster than using a PC. I wrote some not unsubstantial documents using it. Each style could be assigned a shortcut so you hardly ever needed to use the menus, let along point and click - it was incredibly quick. The Diary/Todo application was simply sublime and no PC offer has ever bettered it. It was expensive, yes - even had to bay a fortune for the separate spell checker (which I did), but it all worked wonderfully.

  21. spegru

    That Smell

    Am I alone in reminiscing about the lovely smell of a brand new Psion just out of the box?

    1. bitwise

      Re: That Smell

      It had a rubber coating that had a really nice smell. Though it all peeled off in the end :/

  22. David Paul Morgan

    I'd like one of these

    or at least an up-to date version.

    http://cdn2.knowyourmobile.com/sites/knowyourmobilecom/files/styles/insert_main_wide_image/public/Array/clie03.jpg?itok=fB69QE2U

    well, maybe call it the Sony Xperia Flip - Nougat or 'Oreo' o/s,

    microSD slot and hdmi / chromecast output and 'sync' to your cloud of choice.

    The windows 10 version could be called the Sony Vaio Flip (yes, I know they sold /that/ brand...

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