I’m a typist, I’ve always been a typist ever since the days when I owned my first home computers, and my parents bought me a Sinclair ZX81 at the age of 11. In the next couple of years I owned some ZX Spectrum models, until at the age of 15 I bought myself a Sinclair QL, a fantastic piece of technology with a full 16-bit operating system. The whole package was several years ahead of its time, and only hamstrung by the awful Microdrive storage medium, and that its launch was spoiled by Apple announcing the first Mac the following day.
Back in the 80’s you had to type, either to program your computer in the first place, or because accessories such as mice, and windowed operating systems were extravagant expenses that only big business could afford. I even did a typing class in sixth form, something my friends initially mocked me for until they saw me coming out of class with lots of pretty girls. Being the only boy in class definitely came to my aid.
It was when using the ZX Spectrum and the QL that I first became aware of Psion, who at the time were a games developer for Sinclair computers, and later went on to write the first Office Suite of programmes for the QL, of Quill, Abacus , Archive, and Easel.
When Psion released the first handheld Organiser I was transfixed and knew I had to buy one. I could definitely see the benefits in mobile computing (call me an early-adopter) and the thought of computing on the move was compelling for me. I eventually owned two Psion Organisers, a model II and a II LZ with an impressive 4-row LCD screen.
By this time I was completely hooked on handheld devices, and went on to own four more Psion handhelds in the next few years, a Series 3a, c, mx and a Series 5. That however was where the love affair had to end as the PDA form-factor fell out of fashion, with Palm popularising all-screen devices.
I tried a couple of Palm handhelds but couldn’t get on with them. They were annoying to write on… I wanted a keyboard again but couldn’t switch to a netbook, as they were far too large and bulky for everyday use on the move. When smartphones first began to arrive running Windows, and then when Apple launched the iPhone and the smartphone market really took off I was equally unimpressed. I just don’t, and have never liked typing on screens. On-screen keyboards are fiddly, and frequently result in errors, you can’t get a decent speed on them, and the tactile feel you get from a “proper” keyboard just doesn’t exist. It’s for these reasons that I don’t own, and don’t want to use a tablet.
This of course is where the problems arose when it came to work, especially my work in help and troubleshooting support for people on social media, and on my blog, as after a few frustrating years I just didn’t want to do it any more on my phone. After spending time struggling with how I could do it effectively, I eventually I reached a breaking-point and simply gave up, a situation that was going to help nobody.
As a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Awardee since 2011, community engagement and support is a huge part of why the award is given. However needing to carry my laptop, or be at home on my desktop PC (when I’m probably tired, distracted, or the particular moment I could help has passed) just made it frustrating to not be able to provide the quality, and level of support I wanted to , without having to struggle with a smartphone keyboard, and (very probably) give people support littered with spelling, grammar, and other errors, that didn’t go into the depth of content that was really needed.
It’s perhaps unsurprising then that I should have been a backer for the Gemini on Indiegogo. My enthusiasm for this device has frequently caused my close friends to either laugh at my excitement, or bemoan my constant mentioning of the thing.
Now I’ve actually been using the Gemini I’ve found that it transforms the way I provide community support and engagement. Obviously I can’t produce video courseware on the thing, it’s not designed for that, and writing a book is something I’ll still want a full-size keyboard and screen for. Editing is easy on the Gemini however and being able to make changes and amendments to chapters on the go as I think of new ideas is incredibly useful. It’s the community engagement work that truly benefits however, and all of this feeds back into my other roles.
Managing community engagement on the Gemini, through websites like Gemini Planet, and my work website Windows.do, or helping people with advice and support on Facebook or Twitter has become something that’s not just easy to do, but has also become a joy. I don’t need to carry a laptop with me, or wait until I’m at home with my PC, and I don’t have to struggle with the frustrations caused by typing on my smartphone.
In short, the Gemini makes social media support, blogging, and curating communities something I actually want to do again, and it’ll make all of this easy and convenient. Recently, websites, Facebook groups, and Twitter feeds have been brought out of mothballs for the first time in several years. It’s really very exciting.
I want the Gemini to succeed, and for Planet Computers to prosper, and for purely selfish reasons. I still want to be using some type of Gemini device in my 80’s. It’s just the perfect device for the way I like to work, and it fits brilliantly with the work I need to do. So here’s to the Gemini, I’ll raise a glass and say “Thank you”.
Mike Halsey is the author of 18 books on Microsoft Windows usability, accessibility and troubleshooting, writing for Apress, and has been a Microsoft MVP awardee since 2011. He produces video courseware for Pluralsight and also teaches English and Maths for a local charity near his home in Yorkshire (UK). He lives quietly with his rescue collies, Evan and Robbie. He runs the Gemini Planet website and it’s accompanying Facebook Group. You can follow him on Twitter as @MikeHalsey