It's one of the few software companies from that era to still exist today, sort of. Although - following the release of its iconic Psion Organiser, one of the first handheld computers - it moved from software into hardware. In fact, a new Psion-ish organiser - the Gemini - was unveiled this very week at the CES show in Las Vegas.
Though released by a new company, Planet Computers (which lists David "Hairy" Potter as its honorary chairman), the device has been designed with the input of Psion's original organiser designer Martin "The Riddlemaster" Riddiford.
However, to a greying generation of home computer users, Psion was best known for its games - which doubtless helped Sinclair to straddle its hardware rivals in lewd domination. Established in 1980, and working closely with Sinclair, the company began by developing titles for the ZX81, before moving onto the Spectrum with a range of applications, educational software - and, mmmmmm-mmm, games.
The early Psion titles became synonymous with Sinclair's brand - with Sinclair ensuring Psion had its ZX Spectrum well in advance of launch, so that Psion would have software ready to release alongside it (a symbiotic relationship which continued with the ill-fated Sinclair QL). At one point, Psion boasted of having a 25% share of the Sinclair software market. The wretched braggarts.
For many of us - certainly in comparison to a lot of what was available at the time - Psion was as as much known for its beautiful, seminal, cover art as its games. Unfortunately, that artwork was often so good that the visuals in the games themselves didn't always hold up. Here be some examples.
Also, with the framing of the foliage, it's like you're spying on a big, green, snake monster thing that's trying to catch some pterodactyls. Who wouldn't want to bear witness to such a fantastical natural spectacle?
"I am the very model of a modern Major-General, I've information fantastical, natural and spectacle..."
The reality was somewhat different. Observe:
This is how you make an impact; by smacking the customer in the mouth. Or, conversely, by promising the customer an opportunity to do some real good smashing of their own. It's a metaphor for life - how many of us would like the opportunity to just shatter our problems with a well-timed fisting, in a ballet of cathartic violence? I'd argue that all of us would like this.
Weirdly, Psion chose to give the - admittedly, bafflingly-named - Thro' The Wall (why not even Thru The Wall?!) top billing on this two-game compilation tape. You see, it also included a not-officially-licensed "interpretation" of the arcade hit Scramble. Still, favouring Thro' The Wall - a Breakout clone - gave us the lovely cover image, rather than just another generic spaceship.
Ready to have your expectations shattered, like a Lego house that's been lobbed at a malkin?
Making chess appear exciting isn't easy, but - somehow - Psion managed it with its ZX Spectrum Chess game cover. A handsome use of perspective managed to make the pieces on the board appear threatening, imposing - almost a little scary. Chess, surely, has never before - or since - been made to appear so dangerous and stimulating.
Of course, you'd expect this to be reflected in the game itself, otherwise Psion would've been accused of being a peddler of lies. Psion? "So Lyin'" more like...!!!!!!!!?!!!!
Who wouldn't want to play that?
Well, alas, you weren't ever going to. This is what you got instead:
The reality - ensuring Psion should've been called "Sighin'" - was this garish abomination:
The spaceship is seemingly crashing into - well, yeah - an astroid, but the explosion is unusual, esoteric - almost fluid. You can imagine a game where you fly through fields of tumbling space rocks in three dimensions, the asteroids colliding into one another, debris breaking off and making your mission more complex and dangerous, as you weave through smaller and smaller fragments....
Well, you can imagine it, but that ain't what you're going to get: