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Published January 15, 2018

The Gemini computer been receiving fantastic reviews and has won several plaudits and awards, however it has also regularly been called a retro device, a throwback to the 1990s or even, irrelevant in 2018. Though it is true that the Gemini won’t suit everyone, the naysayers are missing the point.

In late 1990s Europe and Asia, and the USA to a lesser extent, people at technology’s bleeding edge were adopting Psion computing devices in their hundreds of thousands; particularly devices like the Psion Series 5 (1997) and the Psion Revo (1999). Psion computers weren’t perfect, nor were they cheap, but the clamshell form factor was, without doubt, overwhelmingly useful; a pocketable, foldable, computing device on which proper work could be done – small but usable almost anywhere.

In 2001, faced with financial difficulties and increasing competition, Psion stopped making PDA form factor devices, and focused instead on industrial handhelds, a market they are still in today, albeit under the “Zebra” brand. There were, subsequently, a few half-hearted attempts by other manufacturers such as HP to revive the clamshell design, but none came close to repeating Psion’s success.

When the iPhone arrived in 2007, the world fell in love with touch-screen devices that could make phone calls as well as running apps. The smartphone had arrived, capturing the industry’s imagination. Any remaining hope for something like a new clamshell seemingly died as hardware companies scrambled to compete against the king of phones. But now, in 2018, there is finally a resurrection.

Blackberry phones were popular for their keyboards

What would we have had today if Psion or others had continued to iterate the clamshell design of the 1990s? What, we wonder, can we achieve now, with a modern version of the clamshell, access to the cloud, fast ‘internet everywhere’ and all the online services available in 2018? With Gemini there is, finally, an opportunity to find out. Gemini isn’t about looking backward, it’s very much a look forward; the realisation of a future that was put on hold back at the turn of this century.

Smartphones make the assumption that all mobile computer users are the same. Blackberry proved otherwise with their hugely popular keyboard phones and a very tight business-focus, though a series of poor business decisions meant those devices are now a shadow of their former selves. Not every user can be placed in the same box however.

Smartphone users who need to be productive are already aware that their phones lack a physical keyboard – the proliferation of third-party keyboard add ons is testament to that. But all those third party ‘solutions’ offer little more than a kludge. The Gemini PDA delivers a fully integrated keyboard experience, as well as a six-inch full HD screen. The Gemini PDA is the computer in your pocket.

None of this will, of course, matter to those who are comfortable with their music listening, video watching, snapchat sending, tweeting devices. It’s not intended to – they have been served well by technology companies the world over. This is about providing a productivity and business focus for people on the move, who can benefit from it the most. People who have ideas that need to be realised, professionals who need to be in control, collaborators who might be anywhere, and whose address is, “Wherever I Happen To Be”. Gemini is very much a device for the 21st Century’s ‘Gig’ economy where contracting, and self-employment are commonplace, and for International business where travel and collaboration with colleagues half the way around the world are a way of life, at almost any time of the day.

Hello Gemini, welcome to the future – there’s lots to do, let’s get started.


David Ford is a retired project manager and not so retired photographer and writer. His interest in technology started in 1979 with a Sinclair ZX80 computer and has since encompassed software development, quality control, and business implementation.  Originally from the UK, since 1987 David and his family have lived on the South Island of New Zealand.

3 Comments

  1. Stephen Stephen

    Not retro, not nostalgic – that misses the point.

    I am a Professor in a business school. I travel a lot and am always taking notes, in conference calls (WebEx, Skpye, Zoom), constantly reading and writing, and I make a lot of presentations. I am looking forward to the Gemini for those all those reasons. However, the real bonus will be being able to create spreadsheets, latex documents, use R and Mathematica in Linux, right out of my pocket whenever I feel inspired too.

  2. ArchiMark ArchiMark

    Thanks for the article, David.

    Enjoyed the history recap and your points about the present, Gemini, and using our new devices soon…..hopefully…

    Mark

  3. […] Enter the Gemini PDA which by no means follows the modern trends of smartphones and which pays more than just a little homage to the Psion. This is hardly surprising given that CEO Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel involved prior Psion industrial designers in the build. Over at Gemini Planet they have a post which gives a good examination of retro and relevancy. […]

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