back to article Thai firm flies in early-80s style keyboard PC

Fed up waiting for Asus' Eee Keyboard to show? Asian mini PC specialist NorhTec may be able to sort you out with a keyboard-encased computer real soon. The Thai company this week said it will show off its Gecko Surfboard at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas early next year. The product will go on sale shortly …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I want one!

    Brought C64 memories flooding back.

  2. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    Very cool but ...

    Very cool, but will it play Jet Set Willy on full detail?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    The cycle repeats!

    "The notion of which brought back fond nostalgic thoughts of the Sinclair Spectrum"

    Exactly what i was thinking!

    Years ago, gramophones where complete single units, then we had seperates in the 70s and 80s, then we started getting boom-boxes, all in one units, now we have mini MP3 players.

    25 years ago, we had simple 8-bit micro boxes with built-in keyboards RF connected to TVs, when we needed more power we had to have seperates with their own components. Now these Asian manufacturers have brought us back to single boxes that have built-in keyboards, that hook up to our TVs again!

    I must admit this one looks more like the failed Aquarius 8bit micro, rather than a ZX Spectrum.

  4. Tony Barnes
    Thumb Up

    Not bad at all

    Although very much 1st generation. Still, quite a fun retro look

    Hmmmmm, just as you get low range radio broadcast units for MP3 players, etc, can you do the same in a "safe" part of the TV spectrum? (perhaps around the Teachers TV or BBC Parliament frequencies...)

    The ability to use it on any TV in the house/round your mates/sat bored in Currys simply by tuning it in would be fantastic. Might cane power a touch though...

    1. Rasczak
      Paris Hilton

      War Driving

      Might bring out a whole new type of war driving. Use an old portable to see who's looking at, ahem, 'entertainment' sites.

  5. Piloti

    First thinki I thoughts of was ....

    ... the Acorn Electron.

    I had one and it was superb.

    $100 seems a bargain to me, even with on half a G of ram.

    I assume the HD is at least 40G in which case, bargain.

    I also assume that the other $100 we pay for netbooks goes to wards some sort of screen.... ?

    I'd buy this, quite happily.

    Probably less likely to get nicked as people will think it i just a keyboard!


  6. Red Bren


    Where do I connect the tape deck and kempston joystick?

    1. Quirkafleeg

      Re: Peripherals

      Never mind the joystick. Where do I connect the Multiface?

      (And guess what kind of keyboard you owe me.)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    HDMI would have been nice...

    ...but not at all bad for $99. May need to get one of these for the spare VGA input on the telly.

  8. Tim Schomer
    Thumb Up


    If they can still keep the $99 pricetag when they bring it to Uk I'll have one, I'm sure with a USB Wireless card it'd be perfect by the TV (sadly we don't have Cat5 there). Maybee the V2 will have wireless built in.

    Probability is we'll only ever get the XP version in the UK and it'll be priced at over £200 which will kill it before it can even get off the ground.

    I'm also willing to bet that the linux crackers will start 'deconstructing' it for their own uses as soon as it's released.

  9. Jason D
    Thumb Up

    Now this ia good idea

    If you have a computer in a keyboard, no point in having an extraneous screen on the side, something cheap and cheerful like this would be handy if you want to write in different locations using a monitor or even a telly.

    Netbooks are great also, but this one could fill a niche market, good price overall, shame about how much more expensive the Windows version is.

    1. Quirkafleeg


      What do you mean, it's a shame?

  10. Joe K


    She's no Amiga 1200, thats for sure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Maybe not an Amiga A1200

      But I bet it could emulate one for with Cloanto's Amiga Forever package installed.

  11. William Clark
    Thumb Up

    A laptop...

    ..without screen or battery or optical drive.

    I like it - particulary the low power consumption.

  12. The Indomitable Gall

    Instant Fail.

    TV computing is once again a possibility, but this thing spectacularly misses the point: HDMI. Big hi res digital tellies are the things that make TV computing possible, and this doesn't have the proper connections to take advantage of that.

    Composite out is no substitute.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Instant Fail

      Probably, but sadly, since this is a great concept. With HDMI output and a wireless network connection, it would certainly be a winner, but it may still be usable enough to attract a few hobbyists and keep the manufacturer afloat long enough to produce version 2.

    2. Keith Oldham

      It does have VGA

      My 23" TV has VGA input and work really well at its native 1920x1080

    3. M Gale

      Yes it does

      It has a super VGA plug on the back there. Despite the hype surrounding HDMI ports, SVGA is more than capable of shuffling HD video. It's been doing it for years before someone went "let's put DRM in all the way to the monitor!"

      1. Rob Beard
        Thumb Up

        Not much good in my case

        Not much good in my case as our LCD TV only has HDMI and component inputs (no VGA). I guess if it's possible to get a VGA to component cable then that might work.

        Still I love the idea. Whack Mame on there and you'd get the 'arcade perfect' that we all longed for in the days of the Speccy, C64 and CPC.


    4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


      I know that HDMI appears to be becoming the accepted standard for HD TV, but when I first got my EeePC 701, I plugged it into my Acer AL2671W TV via the VGA port that that TV has (it really is more like a widescreen monitor with a TV tuner). I configured the correct native resolution for the TV in the EeePC, and it worked fine at native resolution. The TV appeard to lock on to the dot clock perfectly, and the timing on the EeePC was stable enough to prevent dot-creep or the moire patterns that plague mistimed TV signals. Was perfectly clear.

      My kids are now using that TV with the Xbox360 using a component cable, and that looks pretty good too. And the TV actually offers DVI as well (it's a well spec'd TV, with only HDMI missing, which is one reason I replaced it for Sky HD). So I wonder whether HDMI is really necessary for a PC if any of these other ports are available. I wonder how much of the HDMI requirement is actually hype and/or media companies wanting to adopt it because of the DRM features that it provides. Off course, I know it also provides audio.

      But for the target market, I wonder whether a small PC like the Eee Box, and a wireless keyboard and mouse is actually a better solution, as that does not require a cable from your armchair to the TV. It's a good price, though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HDMI?

        Yes yes, VGA and component may still produce a good picture, even in HS, but they are *analog* connections and thus so 2005. Why is it so difficult for PC (especially laptop) manufacturers to make the switch to digital connections? DVI has been around for ages and is (AFAIK) license-fee free. Luckily it seems HDMI is *finally* starting to gain popularity these days.

      2. Quirkafleeg

        Re: HDMI?

        The only advantage of HDMI over DVI is that it can also carry audio.

        The only ‘advantage’ of HDMI over DVI is Digital Restriction Management.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Me want one...

    ...want want want!

  14. Matt Gerrish
    Thumb Up

    Bring it up to spec with the Archie/ST/Amiga

    And pop a slot loading optical drive on the right edge.

    A floppy drive would be more fun for retro-chic, but ultimately useless.

    In all seriousness, would make an excellent console to connect to terminals with.

    If the price < £150, i'd seriously consider it.

  15. Rock Lobster


    The only thing that seems to be missing is a mouse replacement... so you could use it on your lap when sitting on the sofa. Something like a ThinkPad trackpoint would be cool.

    What I really like about it is that it has a "real" keyboard, not a laptop keyboard (in terms of key heights). Of course, that alone doesn't say the keyboard is good, though.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Kind of stunning

    what you can stuff in basically a keyboard sized box these days.

    For reference the BBC cound manage 64K of RAM, no drives (of any kind) RS2332, IIRC 488 and the 2nd processor Tube interface(which in house turned out to be critical in evaluating other processors and driving the design of the ARM).

    I like it. If the software is well through out it could find quite a few homes.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Even more ports on a BBC

      As well as the RAM, RS432 (it had no RS232, but it was close enough for many things) and tube interface, the BBC model B also had a tape interface, parallel port, so called 'user' interface, interface to the 1MHz bus, four channel ADC (for joysticks, amongst other things) and optionally a network interface (based on RS422) and disc interface. And yet that still didn't stop people taking the lid off and soldering things directly to the chips.

      But the BBC Micro (and Atom) were rather larger than this keyboard. The Electron was somewhat similar though. Or perhaps the closest in that family was the Master Compact, which appeared to be a PC-type machine with a separate keyboard, but in fact all that the main box did was contain the PSU and disc drives, and have something to put the monitor on. All the computing was done inside the keyboard unit.

      Now, is it just me or does that Gecko seem to have an old-style 9-pin serial (RS232) port as well as two USB ports?

  17. Lottie


    It makes me want to sit in frnt of the telly, cross legged and play Dizzy down the Rapids!!!

  18. Owain 1
    Thumb Down

    No D-pad

    Or do they expect me to balance this thing with a really long wire coming out of the back of it to the TV on my lap, rolling my mouse along the sofa. Oh if only there were something that you really could just put on TOP of your LAP, perhaps with a built in display, and maybe someway of moving the pointer. I'm sure there's a catchy name you could come up with.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    permanent poor posture...

    ... ah, those were the days, sitting slouched in front of the telly, waiting for the tape recorder to finish noisly saving or loading your software, with the 16k expansion pack gaffer taped onto back of the old speccy.

    The problem is, for the same reasons as ever, a keyboard for use with a TV set really doesn't work that well, because it's bloody uncomforable whichever way you use it - unless you have a desk in front of your TV, er, which most people don't.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      No good for a TV

      A far better bet is a similar spec computer in a small box, but a wireless keyboard and mouse. OK, it'll add £50 or so to the price but would be so much more usable.

      Having said that, the thing as it stands with Linux and GCompris would make a superb kiddy computer for not much more than one of those awful vTech toy "laptops".

  20. Mage Silver badge


    HDMI these days would be better. Composite video is so 1979.

    Computer -> Composite -> RF is only really good at up to about 400 x 288 resolution. 400x 576 will work but single horizontal lines will flicker badly.

    Interesting though. One of these at €80 would be handy for all kinds of things.

    1. Steve X

      VGA too

      It has VGA output too. Hooked up to an HD-ready flat panel it would be very acceptable.

  21. Wize

    Need a new icon

    Won't just need a new keyboard after a coffee spray. Will need a new computer.

  22. Yorkshirepudding
    Thumb Up

    Flock of seagulls

    does it come with a screeching boot up screen?


    1. M Gale

      Screeching boot-up?

      I'm hoping for the BBC series' sound.


  23. Stan 2
    Thumb Up


    Great stuff, build it and they will come.

    Either comadore or spectrum should be dug up to get behind this thing, booting up a c64 replica with the most popular games locked and loaded and ready to go (plenty of emulators) or select other options to fire up the desktop, browser etc would be way cool.

    Either ways, bring it out just the way it is for the price stated and I'll join the line to hand over my hard-earned for one.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Fail on epic of epic proportions

    Let's get a few things straight

    1) Flash does not run well on Linux

    2) To have a hope of getting anything like bare-minimum quality from Flash on Linux, you need an absolute ninja of a CPU and heaving gobs of spare memory

    So a crappy wee 1GHz CPU and 512mb running Linux is suitable for the web? HA HA HA HA! The Windows version might *just* be able to cope, but there is no way in hell the Linux one can cope.

    Shame, because it does look pretty nifty.

    1. M Gale


      Gigahertz isn't always everything. I've got a four and a half year old AMD64 laptop with 1GB RAM here that's quite capable of running Flash crap AND compiz all at the same time. Previous to that, it was ye olde Athlon XP on a 512MB desktop machine. Equally capable of running Flash stuff. If it has a halfway-competent GPU (as in, one as powerful as the Geforce Go MX440 in this thing), I imagine it'll cope well enough with Macromedia FlashyBollocks.

      More of a problem would be the complete lack of support for Shockwave (rather than Flash) for Linux. Oh noes, no Habbo Hotel! You can tell I'm really disappointed by that!

      Still, at least it should run

    2. Steven Knox

      Flash != Web

      Anyone who publishes any web content other than streaming video in Flash doesn't know how to program for the web.

      Anyone who uses the web for nothing but streaming video doesn't know how to use the web.

      Anyone who can't get Flash working acceptably on a low-powered Linux box doesn't know how to use Linux.

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Flash on Linux

      I've a real problem here. If I download the .flv file using Download Helper, my poor, underpowered EeePC 701 can play the result with mplayer just fine. It's only when I am using a browser based Flash pluging (both Adobe Flashplayer 10, and also Gnash/Klash) that I have problems.

      Also, the Adobe plugin for Flash 9 worked very well, but the installer for this appears to have disappeared into the ether, just leaving the crap version 10 both on Adobe's website, but also in the repositories for the major distro's. So, I don't think it is a Linux problem, more an Adobe one.

    4. Anonymous Coward

      The boy who cried fail

      "So a crappy wee 1GHz CPU and 512mb running Linux is suitable for the web? HA HA HA HA!"

      Are you six years old or something? Can't remember a time when CPUs were less than 3GHz and weren't bundled with 4GB RAM so that Vista could float around in the memory without running aground?

  25. M7S

    Geek Chic

    How long before every BOFH has one of these, plus a PC base unit and an imac all looking like just one normal PC setup to the boss, so that extra "work" can be undertaken (and lets not even count the virtual machine possibilities) under their noses?

  26. adam payne
    Thumb Up

    Nostalgia overload!

    Manic Miner, Everyone's A Wally, Pyjamarama, Ghost Hunters, Bruce Lee, Turbo Esprit, Rocky Horror Show, Cobra, Sabre Wulf, Knight Lore, Atic Atac, Saboteur etc etc the list just keeps growing.

    Nostalgia overload!

  27. CT

    ... very low-power part able ...

    The article said: "Crucially, it's a very low-power part able..."

    Sounds about right given the specs.

  28. Gordon 10

    @The composite moaners - VGA

    Duh - for day to day use VGA is much easier to use on a HD TV than HDMI. Most mainstream TV 's still include a VGA port. Frequently with HDMI you get borders and black edges. Its still much easier to tweak VGA to a 1:1 pixel mapping than HDMI.

    Neither DVI or HDMI bring anything essential to the party at the resolutions most HD TV (as opposed to a dedicated monitor) panels operate at. Quit ya whining.

  29. JeeBee

    Cheap and chips

    At under £100 it's an exploratory purchase for many. Wouldn't mind HDMI out, but at this price who cares...

    I wonder how good the 1GHz CPU is in this - presumably it's no speed demon. It's an old SiS design apparently, but clocked higher.

    Might make a nice platform for demo writers - how much can they squeeze out of the limited hardware in this device.

    Also it points towards future ARM based designs that could be higher performance.

  30. tempemeaty

    I think I really want this...

    For that price the inner gadget collector part of me really wants this thing. Very cool! ^.^

  31. Gordon Ross Silver badge

    Been done before ?

    I seem to remember something similar being available in the 90s. A PC built into the case of a keyboard.

    1. The Unexpected Bill

      Yes, it's been done before...

      Yes, there was such a thing sold in the 90s, and the company that sold them is still around today. They still sell a PC-in-a-keyboard, and it has a built in pointing device these days.

      I have two of the Pentium III versions, one in a white case and the other in black. Both are SiS based.

      You're looking for Cybernet Manufacturing.

    2. Rob Beard
      Thumb Up

      Re: Been done before ?

      Yep, the Schneider Euro PC -

      8088 CPU (I think) at about 8Mhz, 720KB Floppy and 512KB Ram.

      My dad had one years back. We got it for about £125 from the Computer Shopper Show '89.

      I remember it came with MS DOS 3.3 and we had a Hercules compatible monitor (I really wanted CGA but hey, can't have everything, and in any case I had an Atari ST too).

      Was a great little machine, my Dad used to do all his business work on it.


  32. Daniel Garcia 2
    Thumb Up

    perfect 5W overnight download box for $99

    nuff said

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    If this comes to the UK at £99...

    ...I think we've just found my daughter's first PC - I already have a spare monitor, keyboard and mouse, so this looks ideal, especially with Linux.

    Sadly, though, they always whack a massive markup on prices in the UK (and this was even before the pound nosedived), so you can probably add 150% onto the $ price.

    However, if I'm wrong, please review this when it comes out over here!

    1. M Gale
      Thumb Up

      The USD->GBP exchange rate

      You should know that for high-tech items, $1 US = £1 GB, regardless of what the exchange rate might say.

      Still, if it were released at a more honest £70 or so, I could see it being snapped up PDQ. Even with Linux on it, if it's sold as an "Internet Machine" rather than "A Computer", there shouldn't be much of a problem with Joe Public going "but I can't run Microsoft Word on it :(".

      Plus people who actually know their shit can have an Oh Orgasmic little gadget to play with. Five watts you say? Plenty of uses, above and beyond the overnight download box someone's already suggested. Router/home server perhaps? Add a USB HDD to make a NAS? Brain for some kind of robot?

      And all on the merest sniff of an electron. I like.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    It'll be fantastic with a standard length DVI cable on a TV over 32 inches. May as well try and climb into the telly like videodrome

  35. Justin Clements
    Thumb Up

    I want

    I want one of these. No idea what I'm going to do with it, but I just want one!

  36. Patrick 14


    why the feck are we going BACKWARDS interms of computer power.

    they need it putting where the sun does not shine...keep this trash off UK shores

    1. M Gale


      Five watts. Assuming a 12V voltage level, that's 12V divided by 5W = less than half an amp of current. You could power this thing from eight AA batteries for HOURS.

      Or one 12V 7AH block ALL DAY.

      This is why.

      1. M Gale

        I fail at writing.

        5W / 12V, not 12V / 5W. Ohm's Law ftw. Still 0.417 amps though.

    2. Grease Monkey Silver badge

      why not?

      Or more to the point; why is it up to you to decide what other people buy? Why have you got a problem with what other people buy? Why would it affect you if this was sold in the UK if you don't want one? And why don't you just pull your neck in?

  37. ElReg!comments!Pierre


    Too bad it's going to be too late for Xmas

  38. Irony Deficient

    Re: Flash on Linux

    Peter Gathercole, see for archived Flash Player installers.

  39. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: missing the point

      Yep, that's another good idea, apart from the CE bit. (RDP is sufficiently well understood that the Penguin can talk happily to the Terminal Server.) Of course, MS will still get their pound of flesh (or Sterling) by charging for the other end of the connection. In fact, a little googling suggests they'll get about a hundred pounds per seat, so this isn't quite the game changer it first appears unless you are working the Penguin at both ends.

  40. JC 2

    Maybe in '00

    Around the turn of the century you could still manage to surf the web with something like this, but today with heavy use of scripting, flash ads, GIF and other animations in addition to "surfing" encompassing such things as watching YouTube or Hulu, this box just won't cut it.

    I'm sure it'll do plain HTML, email, some ancient version of Star Office ok, maybe even play a low res MPEG2 video clip and be able to be used as a lite home server of some sort, but gone are the days when even an Atom based netbook can universally surf the web without showing it's lethargy.

    If it just ran DOS on the other hand, I suspect a lot of companies resisting abandonment of their expensive proprietary software would love such a cheap and small way to get the job done. As startling as it may seem, sometimes you really don't need multitasking or anything much but to run that one app you can't replace for any reasonable price.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    Where's the Dassette Recorder?


  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I want it but don't know what for

    Looks like a good Thin Client solution.

    Now let's have it power off PoE too (obviously a splitter would work now, but that's not the point), internal hack could be done.

    It's too bad it doesn't have built in speakers/mic (hackable I guess), you could use it for streaming audio, and have keypad to skip, pause, blind search etc. maybe thinking about it the aux out would suit that last senario more.

    Or more USB ports, most people will use one for a mouse, 1 left... sucks.

    Commodore(etc) emulator! With the TV out, win.

    Like others - I want one, but I am not sure what I want to do with it.

  43. Eddy Ito


    Where is the built in projector? Close, sooo close.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: built in projector

      Mmm, yes, several hundred watts of projector lamp resting in your lap and an exploding battery pack capable of driving/cooking it. Mmm, yes...

  44. frankg778

    Another use crash recovery

    Have you ever crashed your computer and needed to out on the internet to download driver updates except said computer is crashed and you are hosed. I know most of the reg literrati have multiple computers and are running their own SAN. But many times normal folk find themselves in this position.

    I have wanted a text only web browser built into the BIOS for years just for this reason. As for flash and other eye-candy I am not talking about a passable web experience. I am talking bare bones help me get to my hw vendors website and download a driver functionality. As long as this thing has a USB port it should be able to accomplish this meager goal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "dot" is still a . and both are titles! grrr

      Have you considered downloading a Linux LiveCD? From the situation you speak, it sounds like your talking a hard disk failure / damaged OS install, in which case a Linux CD will let you boot the machine and access the net to download whatever you need to fix it.

      It'll also give you access to the Windows partitions if it's just a case of fixing a few corrupt files.

      Personally, I want one of these for my car, fit it in the glove box, have a 10" touchscreen mounted on the dash (removable obviously), would probably need a custom UI, but that's where the fun would come in.

  45. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Atom? Spectum?

    More like TRS80.

    Contrary to what the naysayers are bleating, this could be a gamechanger.

    There's a screaming need for low power PCs and laptops. Roll on epaper displays etc.

    My very first laptop ran on 8 AAs for 6 WEEKS. Granted it was very limited in what it could do

    8 line + 80 character LCD, serial terminal, basic word processor and built in Lotus 123), but it was a hell of a lot more useful than lugging a Kaypro or VT500 terminal up the side of a mountain to do the work required.

  46. The elephant in the room

    Epic branding opportunity here

    Which brand is going to be revived first - Acorn, Commodore, Sinclair? Huge opportunity to create something like a PS3 Slim with PlayTV but with only basic gaming capability.

  47. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge


    They don't remember the old days where having the keyboard and motherboard on the same box meant the cables in back pulled out after a few ergonomic adjustments. There was a dreaded and familiar chirp as the switching power supply strained to draw the last joule from the capacitors. Unlike the Apple ][, the Gecko doesn't have a platform for a heavy color CRT to pin it to the desk.

    Speaking of being pinned down, wouldn't this have a hard time competing with newer cellphones?

  48. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    @Alan Brown

    "8 line + 80 character LCD, serial terminal, basic word processor and built in Lotus 123), "

    Hmm. Z88 or TRS100?

    It seems there is still an ongoing refurb//repair business with TRS100s. The proper keyboard was much liked by journalists and the audio coupler (handy in some 3rd world country where the phone is wired into the wall without a data socket) and basic maths functions were good enough for data collection or download through the old serial port for field service and science projects.

    Mine will be the one with "Z88 computing by Ian Sinclair" in it.

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