back to article Vintage Psion prototype: Yours for £85,000

An unreleased Psion prototype can be yours for a mere £85,000 - if you hurry. Just don't expect it to do anything. The item listed on eBay dates from 2001, and is a prototype of "Conan", the monochrome Revo model with Bluetooth that was due to ship that summer, based on Symbian (nee Epoc) Release 6. Don't expect it to do much …


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  1. Tim Walker

    Mmm... Psion Series 5mx with Android...

    Speaking as a former 5mx owner (back in the early-2000s), I still think the form-factor has a lot to recommend it. Resurrect the 5mx-type design (perhaps fixing the screen cable flaw?), add in a capactitative (AM)OLED touch-screen, WiFi, Bluetooth and other typical 2011 device features, and perhaps a "phone-friendly" Android version (Gingerbread?), and I'd consider one if I were in the market for a tablet.

    Or maybe the Eee Pad Transformer is calling...

    1. moylan


      i'd even be happy with a lower powered version that eliminated wifi and colour screen. let it have blue tooth and use that to connect to a phone in a pocket that can share it's wifi and 3g. a bit of software could do that on most modern phones.

      the psions i had back in the 90s and early 2000s were the 3a, 3c, 5, 5mx and could last a week on 2 aa batteries. averaged about 40 hours a week on the series 3s and 20-25 hours on the 5s.

      it's tragic that 17 years after my psion 3a that modern phones struggle to have the capabilities of it's software.

      as for keyboards. i liked the psion 5 but prefered the case and shell of the psion 3 series. the battery case hinge allowed you to grip it with forefinger and middle finger while using the thumb on the keyboard. and with your other hand i could get nearly 30wpm while walking around warehouse typing serial numbers and notes into it.

      it's never going to be a major player but a small percentage of the market with loyal customers can be very profitable as apple has shown. most of the accountants and architects i meet who had psions would be rushing to get one as nothing has compared to their design excellence. the fact he sold all 2000 of the variants he made should show that.

  2. Jim 59
    Thumb Up


    Agree entirely that the absence of real keyboards leaves a gap in the market.

  3. JMiles

    Ahh the Series 5

    I think it had one of the best keyboards on a mobile device, ever. Even now, that clamshell design is unbeatable.

  4. gaz 7

    closest thing to a psion

    I think that the spritual successor to the Psions is the Nokia N900 currently. Pity that Nokia has ballsed it all up a bit lately.

    The N900 is a bit small, but one a bit bigger would be ace. the rumoured and near mythical N9 with Meego may get announced soon and based on the scant info may have a formfactor similar to an E7, but running Meego, and having more ummph.

  5. morphoyle


    Some of the best selling Android phones are QWERTY sliders. I wouldn't buy a smartphone that doesn't have some sort of physical keyboard. Touch screen keyboards are horrible.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: sliders

      I think colour screens killed off disposables. Pity.

  6. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    The thing that killed it for me was the rechargeable and non-replaceable batteries. They should have kept it working on disposables like Series 3 and 5.

  7. jai

    ah nostalgia...

    am getting all misty eyed at the though of my old Series3 and the subsequent Series5.... ;-(

  8. juice Silver badge

    I absolutely agree...

    There's been a gap in the market for years for a "psion" sized device which can be carried in a pocket but have a keyboard big enough for comfortable thumb-typing while travelling. I've tried a few of the swivel-clamshell phones (e.g. the O2 XDA) but the keyboards have simply been too small.

    That said, there are a couple of devices with the right form-factor, which I saw when stumbling around China's electronic market the other week while on holiday. Casio do an electronic dictionary which is physically the right size, but is somewhat crippled on the OS/software side. There's a few MID devices with keyboards (Aigo do one with a slide-down keyboard similar to the Nokia N810/N900) , but the "flat" form factor isn't great and it's running some sort of custom OS. And there was also a smattering of "educational" ultra portables, similar to the Casio but with slightly more functionality - but they're designed for young chinese students (i.e. primary school age), so the functionality is a bit limited. Though one did have a lot of potential: the display sat inside a frame, so it could be flipped 180 degrees to turn the device into a tablet.

    All told, if someone could get one of these devices and slap Android onto it, I'd buy one in a heartbeat...

    1. John Hughes


      That had the best keyboard I've yet seen on a phone.

      The N900 is supprisingly good for it's size, but ...

      1. AdamWill


        Best keyboards on phones currently are actually done by HTC, IMO anyway. I have an N900 but I had a Tilt 2 (AT&T specific version of the Touch Pro 2) before that, and it had an excellent keyboard, N900's doesn't quite match it. Oddly, the only current HTC model with a five row keyboard is the 7 Pro / Arrive, which is a WP7 model, sadly; the keyboard on that looks very similar to the TP2 keyboard. After that their best current keyboard is on the G2.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Psion Logo

    I don't think anyone here (either in an article or comments) has mention Psion's new Logo. Apparently it has no fixed form, colour or font, it's purely conceptual or sommat. I'm sure it'll go the way of all new paradigms within a couple of years.

    As for Conan, I still have an Open University programme that followed Psion as they geared up to market it, and their phone/communicator in 2001. I'll have to dig it out one day and stick it on YouTube.

    I taped it but didn't get around to watching it for many months. Finally, I found a spare hour one Tuesday afternoon in September... watched it, and as it finished and the BBC1 continuity announcer said Birds of a Feather (or some old repeat) was up in a minute went to the bathroom. A minute later I got back and thought they were showing the Towering Inferno or something. There was just footage of a fiery skyscraper on the screen and no one talking. Finally came the voice of a BBC News 24 reader saying they weren't exactly sure what they were looking at either...

    Now, to work out how the hell to get a VHS tape onto YouTube...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It looks more like Series 5mx than Revo...

    ...but all the same the price is unrealistic. No wonder nobody buys it...

  11. TeeCee Gold badge

    Conventional wisdom...

    " that mechanical keyboards are going the way of the VCR, and that the virtual keyboard provided on a full touchscreen is good enough."

    Ah, so no change there in the meaning of "conventional wisdom" then? I.E: A complete and utter pile of inaccurate steaming bollocks, displaying breathtaking levels of mind-numbing stupidity and a total lack of anything resembling the vaguest fucking clue.

  12. Jah

    Android 5mx / Revo - yes!

    Happy to pay the original £499 for a modern colour touch screen Psion style device.

    Apple have warped the market with the slate form factor and Nokia and Sony Ericsson have wasted what they inherited from Psion.

  13. 8-{>

    Psion, Clie, N900....

    I started out with a Psion 5 then went to a 5MX and have to agree with others on the functionality, the keyboard and the battery life. Yet to beaten I think. I really miss mine. I moved on to a Sony Clie peg-ux50 which was ok but never really replaced the 5MX in my affections. Now have an N900 which is great for what it is but still cant do a lot of what the 5MX did. I mean a calender that cant deal with events that recur on the Xth Weekday of a month or handle a reminder alarm more than 1 day before an event. Anyway the N900 and sucessors is sadly doomed now following the elopocalypse.

    An androidy 5MX could be the dogs doodads though... where do I sign up..? As to the Conan seems a tad pricey. I wonder how much the Amstrad Pen Pad Prototype I have might be worth? 2p mebee?

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      I rather liked the Clie FX..

      I've had every Psion device going including the 5MX, but the whole stylus thing didn't work for me - the 3 was IMHO more fun (also because you could actually replace the batteries).

      However, from a PDA perspective I personally think the Sony Clie NX70 was the best PDA I ever had, other than that it didn't have the flatfile database ability of the Psion kit. Oh, and a programming language you could entertain yourself with whilst on a train or something.. There the stylus did work - I hardly ever used the keyboard.. I think that's a personal preference thing, though. The Organiser was actually quite good as a PDA, I know someone who has been using one until about 2002 when the poor thing eventually died..

      BTW, anyone who has coded 16k programs on a device with a 4x20 character display has had sufficient training to follow the film "Inception" without any problems whatsoever :-)

  14. Andrew Moore

    £85,000 eh?

    I have one of these in my desk drawer at work...

  15. stu 4

    time for my PDA museum glass case....

    spot the 5MX... revo... even a ux50 in there....


  16. nemo20000

    I love Android... but (and another thing)

    It wasn’t just the keyboard, it was the software. Agenda, Word, even Data, and not forgetting that you could put a Data-rendered graph in a Word document inside an Agenda entry. Try doing that with Android.

    Ah, but that was 1998, and how things have improved since then...

    My Desire Z has a “keyboard”, which is slightly worse than the one on my G1. Neither can compare to the Psion5. Meanwhile I’m mostly impressed by my Aspire One D255... except the TERRIBLE, AWFUL, APPALLING, IRRITATING, BADLY DESIGNED, STUPID, UNERGONOMIC, ILLOGICAL and SHODDY keyboard. I can still type twice as fast on my wonderful Psion Netbook.

    I too would like a modern Psion... but I think I’d rather have EPOC with a proper browser than any Android to date. Android-in-a-box compatibility maybe, but not the main OS.

  17. AdamWill


    "But nothing on the market allows you to touch-type (rather than hunt and peck) and also fits in a jacket pocket"

    Lies! You're forgetting the Vaio P:

    now, admittedly, the jacket in question needs a fairly generous pocket allocation. But I have actually carried my P in a jacket pocket for genuine use and not just for the hell of it. Once or twice.

  18. Ossi

    Go for it!

    Please make this thing. I had Psions and Jornadas, and I'm still waiting for someone to make a successor. I could touch type on those things. They switched on in an instant. I could work on the way home on the train as a matter of routine. For God's sake, make them! I'd pay a premium for the utility.

  19. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Actually, I still have a few Organiser ][ LZ64s. Anyone?

    I have a truckload of Org II stuff that actually works as well, including two 256k flashpacks.

    Must throw that on eBay one day - t's not a bad time to clean out the cupboards..

  20. druck Silver badge

    Psion geeks

    I didn't even have a Psion 5 but get misty eyed about them. I remember I great photo I took of two of my uber geek friends in the back of the car during a tour of Europe, tapping figures in to their Psion spreadsheets to work out our expenses in 5 different currencies - those were the days!

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