I’m selling my Psion PDAs

Update (15 August)

My Psion archive has now been sold. This is the first day in 21 years that I’ve not had a Psion computer or book in my possession.

Many thanks to everyone who got in touch regarding these sales, and especially to the lovely Psion enthusiasts who purchased these machines. They gave me a great deal of joy over the years, I hope they serve you equally as well.


Original post

Today, I put my four Psion PDAs up for auction on eBay UK:

Psion Series 7book

Psion Series 7book (Series 7 with netBook personality module)
Psion Series 7book (Series 7 with netBook personality module)

This was the last Psion that I bought—it must have been early 2004. I bought it to take to the US with me on holiday, and for a couple of writing projects I was working on.

It was a Series 7, bought on eBay, and later upgraded to a 7book by fitting a Psion netBook personality module. This made it capable of accepting a wi-fi adapter card (I bought two, one each of the two main chipsets that work well with netBooks).

I’m selling the lot in one bundle:

  • Psion 7book (Series 7 with netBook module)
  • Leathette carry case
  • Psion Series 7 user guide
  • PsiWin 2.3 CD-ROM
  • RS232 serial cable
  • USB to serial adapter (D400)
  • 2 x UK power adapters
  • Psion Series 7 personality module
  • 2 x compact flash cards (one contains the EPOC R5 OS required for booting the first time)
  • 2 x Wi-fi cards (Lucent Orinoco Gold and Buffalo Air Station WLI-PCM-L11GP)
  • DVD containing all the Psion software I collected over the years; I used to sell this online.

See listing on eBay (offers over £80)

Psion Series 5mx

Psion 5mx 16MB and accessories
Psion 5mx 16MB and accessories

I bought the 5mx shortly after moving to Edinburgh, from Inverness in 2003. It was another eBay purchase and was to replace my Psion 3mx.

I just wanted a new piece of kit. It has a 32-bit operating system, a beautiful clam-shell case, where the keyboard slides out when you open it, and a backlit, touch screen. What more could you want from a PDA?

I’m selling:

  • Psion 5mx 16MB
  • RS232 serial cable
  • PsiWin 2.3 CD-ROM
  • Proporta.com hard case
  • 2 x UK power adapter (one with interchangable UK/Euro/USA pins)
  • Boxed Purple Software Chess software (3.5″ floppy) and manuals
  • Palmtop Street Planner 99 software on CD-ROMs and manuals

See listing on eBay (offers over £45)

Psion 3mx

Psion 3mx, with UK power adapter and solid state disks
Psion 3mx, with UK power adapter and solid state disks

This Psion was my workhorse for many years. It’s solid and dependable, and I don’t ever remember the screen cable breaking, which was the most common fault these machines suffered. I did have it fully refurbished a couple of times, though, from the dependable POS Ltd in London, run by Paul Pinnock.

Something I loved about the 3mx is how long the batteries lasted. I could usually get about one month’s use out of a pair of AA batteries.

Included I’ve got:

  • Psion Series 3mx 2MB palmtop computer
  • Series 3mx original user guide
  • Series 3a programming manual (OPL)
  • Programming manual (OVAL) and disk
  • PsiWin 1.1 disks and manual
  • Psion 56k infrared travel modem (with disks and manual)
  • 4 x solid state disks (3 x 1MB and AutoRoute Express software).
  • UK power adapter

See listing on eBay (offers over £65)

Psion Siena 512k

Psion Siena 512k
Psion Siena 512k

Ah! My first Psion.

I saw an advert for the Psion Siena in a copy of MicroMart, I think it was. And I immediately fell in love with it. I pondered buying one for weeks before getting up one sunny morning in my flat and travelling to London’s busy Oxford Street to purchase it at Debenham’s department store.

It immediately became my diary, contacts list, to do list, journal and programming machine. I bought a copy of PsiWin 1.1 (for £80) and connected it to my Windows 3.11 for Workgroups PC (a 386 SX-20).

I used it to write and edit my masters dissertation in 1999.

This includes only:

  • Psion Siena 512 KB palmtop computer
  • User guide
  • A letter from Psion

See listing on eBay (offers over £20)

Programming Psion Computers

Programming Psion Computers by Leigh Edwards (EMCC, 1999)
Programming Psion Computers by Leigh Edwards (EMCC, 1999)

This book was the bible of Psion computing about 18 years ago. I managed to grab myself a copy in Waterstones bookshop on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, for £29.99.

It soon became quite a rare book, and so the publisher, EMCC, made it available in PDF on their website, as well as a zip archive of the CD-ROM that accompanied it. Many years ago, I gave away the CD-ROM to someone who was desperate for a copy of the original.

See listing on eBay (offers over £12)

The end of an era

I’ve been meaning to list these for months, but only just got around to it now while I have my head in the selling-space as part of the divorce settlement.

I feel sorry to see these go, but they are just sitting in a box in my cupboard and I would much rather they went to someone who got some pleasure out of them.

A brief history of Psion PDAs

David Potter is the Psion King
David Potter is the Psion King

Clearing through a number of boxes that I hauled down from the attic, I discovered the following brief interview with David Potter, CBE founder of Psion—the former personal digital assistant (PDA) pioneer.

(Unfortunately, I didn’t record which magazine this was taken from or the year. Maybe you recognise it; if so, please leave a comment below and I’ll update this post.)

Horace and the Psioneers…

The history of Psion PDAs is not quite what you’d expect!

How did Psion get started?

In 1980 David Potter started a software development company above an estate agent’s office in North London. He had one employee, Charles Davies.

So they’ve always made handheld computers?

Nope. They made games for the Sinclair Spectrum. The first flight simulator available for the Spectrum was a Psion product. Later they released Horace Goes Skiing, which was part of a huge series of famous Horace games where the eponymous character fought spiders and dodged traffic.

Er, right. When did the first Psion PDA come about then?

Not so fast! Before the term PDA was even coined, Psion produced the Psion Organiser, virtually creating the electronic organiser industry by itself. Launched in 1984 the first Organiser had 8K of memory, could hold around 120 phone numbers, had a non-QWERTY keyboard layout and lasted a week on its AA batteries. Then came the Organiser II in 1986, which had twice the memory and was the first device to use a solid-state “disk drive” for non-volatile storage. Marks and Spencer adopted it for stock control and British Midland used it for its ticketing staff. There was also a brief attempt at a laptop in the shape of the MC400 in 1988. This was used by British Gas sales staff. Psion was floated on the stock market in that year.

Blimey. But how did we get from there to my Series 7?

In 1990, Psion took over Dacom communications and became Psion Dacom. A year later it released the Psion Series 3, which used 16-bit technology, had 128K of memory and a proper QWERTY keyboard layout. It sold one million units in two years! This success was quickly followed by the Psion 3a with 2MB of memory, and the 3c with 4MB. There was also a ruggedised industrial machine called the Psion Workabout that included built-in short range wireless communications.

In 1996 the Series 5 was born. This device has a 32-bit architecture with true multitasking, 16MB of memory and a better keyboard. 1996 also saw the launch of the Siena, which was a smaller machine, the precursor to the Revo. The Revo itself wasn’t launched until last year, along with the 5mx — an improved version of the Series 5 — and then the gorgeous Series 7, which sports a colour screen, laptop keyboard and PC-card slots.

Where’s David Potter now? Sold up and living in Bali?

No, he’s still Chairman of Psion. And Charles Davies is his Development Director. They now have a £160 million turnover and 1,500 employees worldwide.

Why are all the machines odd-numbered?

The jump from 3 to 5 occurred because the number 4 is unlucky in China. Now that Palm have copied this numbering strategy, Psion says it may release a Psion 16 in the future, just to confuse everyone. Nice.

Source: www.mcu.co.uk, page 87

Of course, they didn’t release a Psion 16. Next up was the netBook, which eventually became the netBook CE running the Windows mobile operating system, plus a Revo MX, and then they iterated on the WorkAbout range for business.

I have very fond memories of my Psion machines. They were great.

The cobbler’s shoes, pt. 2

Back in April I wrote a post called the cobbler’s shoes in which I made the poor excuse that I hadn’t redesigned my website for 11 years because I had been too busy building sites for other people.

We also had three children in that time who turned out to be somewhat time-consuming, and they didn’t simply auto-upgrade on a one-click four month roadmap like WordPress.

The plan

I concluded with the following (slightly amended) plan:

  • Move to a new host.
  • Standardise URLs, which will also mean that after 11 years on a sub-domain this blog will move to www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/shed/. (See update below)
  • Mobile-friendly sub-sites.
  • Use a content management system or two.
  • Delete a lot of content.

Of course, if you were to visit garethjmsaunders.co.uk right now you might just notice the tiny detail that erm… in the last eight months I’ve not quite managed to do any of the above.

The truth is that I delayed my plans for two reasons:

  1. My web hosting with Heart Internet wasn’t going to expire until mid-January 2015, they don’t offer pro-rata refunds, and I didn’t fancy having to buy hosting twice in a year; and
  2. the little matter of me getting viral meningitis in July in which I lost my sight for a couple of months. It turns out that I often relied on my eyesight for building websites.

So, this is it. Over the next month I’m planning to go through with what I’d sketched out in April.

Everything must go…

One of the things that I realise that I’ve dithered about while planning this is the “delete a lot of content” bit. I’ve got a lot of content on my site that hasn’t been updated in a long, long time (sorry). Some of it is out of date, but a lot of it isn’t but currently it’s too much for me to migrate neatly.

A lot has changed in the lasts 11 years. I no longer use a Psion (although I do still rather enjoy people emailing me about them) and I haven’t written a line of code for one for the last decade. Sadly I haven’t played mahjong much (except on the computer) in the last six years, since writing a book on it and, oh, our oldest children have just turned six—do you see a connection? And nobody really needs to read my poetry from the mid-90s, or essays I wrote at theological college, do they?

So it’s all going. Except this blog, and a few other bits and pieces. Some of it may make a reappearance at some point in the future, in a different format, but for now I need to clear the decks and give myself the space to focus on the projects I want to pursue next year, which is mostly writing. And getting well.

I just want to take this opportunity to especially thank the Psion and mahjong communities for your support over the years. I’m sorry I’m bailing out at this point but my priorities are currently different.

See you on the other side, which will now be at www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/shed/ rather than on the ‘blog’ subdomain.

Update

Thursday 8 January 2015

After much deliberation I have eventually decided to retain my www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk subdomain. For a number of reasons:

  1. I was never really happy with my blog moving to www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/shed/. If anything I’d want www.garethjmsaunders.co.uk/blog/ but that’s not possible in WordPress multisite other than importing the blog into the root site, and I wasn’t happy with that because…
  2. I want to keep the designs of my website and my blog different.
  3. I realised that my website and my blog serve two very different purposes and therefore I wouldn’t necessary want to tie both to the same content management system.
  4. My blog has been on the ‘blog’ subdomain since 2004, according to the WayBack Machine. If I moved the blog from that subdomain it would adversely affect search results and existing links to my blog. (I could of course use an .htaccess file to redirect traffic, but… it just seems unnecessary.)
  5. I visited a couple of other sites today who had their blogs on a blog subdomain and I thought that looked cool.

And so there you have it, for now it is settled. This blog isn’t moving… except, of course, it is. Because I’m going to move it very shortly to another server.

See you on the other side…

PsiWin 2.3.3 under Windows 7 Ultimate

Windows 7 Ultimate running PsiWin 2.3.3

Let’s hear it for Psion. Not only did they make first class PDAs, which still have a massive community of user going nuts over, but their PC connectivity software PsiWin — which they stopped developing at version 2.3.3 (copyright 1997-2001) — still works perfectly even under the beta version of Windows 7 Ultimate edition.