back to article Tablet tech is really a Psion of the times

Excitedly but carefully, I tore open the tough cardboard packing and slid out my latest purchase: an iPad keyboard. Not an Apple wireless keyboard, mind. That would be silly. That would be like buying a bicycle pump bigger than my bike. Instead, I purchased a keyboard the same size as the iPad, with the ability to click onto …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Ravenger

    All I want

    ... is a modern Psion Series 5 with a decent colour screen, Android and 3G built in.

    Nothing has come close to the Series 5's form factor for portability and usability since. I feel we really have progressed backwards in some ways.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: All I want

      And a shirt with a button up pocket! Kept dropping out on the floor when looking under desks for things. But as you say it was just superb for its time and has not been bettered.

      In fact I'm going to pop some AA's and spend a couple of hours wandering around the place making a list of things to fix!

      Nostalgia aint what it used to be!

    2. . 3

      Re: All I want

      Yes, yes, and perhaps not Android. Energy efficiency was coded deep into the roots of EPOC (Symbian) in a way it just isn't with Android/Linux. Symbian is still being worked on somewhere by somebody, so I think that would be my preference, or at least a choice.

      Perhaps some enterprising individual cobble a Raspberry Pi and a colour OLED screen into a Psion V chassis and win teh Internet for a day.

    3. AlastairEB

      Re: All I want

      And bluetooth, for an earpiece.

      And a belt holster, to stop it falling out of pockets.

      To me, everything went backwards since the Revo.. Less functionality (embedded drawings in docs?)

  2. handle


    I had a Psion 3A (not to mention two Psion 2s, one with a 2-line display and one with a four-line display, with which I became quite adept at hardware interfacing and assembly-language programming). I also had that Palm keyboard. Lovely thing, but it died eventually due to the flexible PCB tracks fracturing - probably because it was great show off-material to give to people and ask them to unfold it.

  3. Anonymous Coward 101

    I have a Galaxy Note with a case that props the device at an angle for easier screen viewing and typing when flat on a desk. I'm surprised there aren't more cases like it, as it seems so obvious to me.

    As an aside, didn't the failure of the Nokia N97 poison the idea of this kind of form factor for devices, even though there was nothing wrong the idea of the keyboard?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Only yesterday, I was catching up on two reports for my boss in The Village (of Prisoner fame) using a Bluetooth keyboard, Bluetooth mouse and my new Nexus 7.

    To my annoyance, a kid pointed at me and told his dad I was using an iPad. Grrrrrrr...

  5. Steve Todd

    Dont forget the Z88

    There was a machine designed for the mobile typist, and it lasted for days on a few AA batteries

  6. Sandy Ritchie

    I dug out my 3a recently, couple of fresh AA's and it worked fine.... although the internal memory had wiped loosing all my once "valuable" data, namely expenses spreadsheets etc.

  7. Nev Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Psion 5...

    ... the perfect form-factor.

    And let's not forget it had a touchscreen too.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[Wot, no Asus Transformer? - Ed]"

    Clearly he's a "cool" guy and need his iPad to give or boost his status then.

    Of course sensible folk would have purchased a transformer and not had the hassle.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Would that be the horribly plasticky original transformer (with the buggy version of Android that Google hacked together), or the 2nd edition with so much metal in the casing that the radios didn't work?

      To be fair I quite like the Transformer, and I was looking forward to escaping from Apple's walled garden come my next upgrade. But my experiences of a phone on 2.2 and playing with 3 on tablets put me off Android for a while. I still think the iPad 3 is the least flawed of all the tablets.

      The latest Transformer looks nice, but I'd already caved in and got an iPad3, so I won't be upgrading for at least 2 years. At which point there'll be Windows to play with as well. I'm pinning my hopes on Samsung and their Galaxy Note range now, as if I can only have one of them, I'll probably take a nice stylus over a keyboard. It's a shame Windows won't allow a stylus on WinRT, only on the x86 versions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My TF101 works just great thanks - who needs an iPad with no Micro SD / SD / USB ports with an Apple walled garden?

        Oh and I don't need iTunes.....

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          "Oh and I don't need iTunes....."

          No-one needs iTunes. It's the Devil's work.

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge


      Sensible folk would have saved their money and just used what they had.

      But I'm not sensible like many people these days so I am following the crowd with my Android tab like a Sheep

    3. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      I earn part of my living helping develop iPad magazine apps. The Asus Transformer wouldn't be very good at this. I considered buying one when the Prime came out, then all that wifi/GPS nightmare unravelled, so I waited a bit longer. Then I gave up waiting and thought the cheapest thing would be to add a keyboard to the iPad.

      If I had the money, though, I'd buy a Chrome book of some sort and use that as my principal computer for journalism and perhaps even coding.

      Any recommendations for a really good code editor?

  9. James Whale

    "just before the big leap"

    Not sure you should make light of the suicide of sweatshop workers?

  10. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Has anyone here ever used those Bluetooth laser keyboards?

    Those systems that project a laser keyboard fascinate me. You need a flat surface to project it on, but it strikes me as an interesting idea. Anyone with any experience of that?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Has anyone here ever used those Bluetooth laser keyboards?

      I don't see why it would be any better than the on screen keyboard really. The advantage is obviously not wasting screen space, but they for that you get the disadvantage of needing a flat, shiny surface.

      However, you still don't get any tactile feedback, and you're banging your fingers against a hard surface, rather than hitting a spring loaded key. Also is it possible to touch type? Unless the software's very clever, you can't rest your fingers on the home keys, which means you've got to hover your hands in midair, and peck at the keys. Not comfortable, or good for speed. I guess this is probably less annoying for non touch-typists.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Has anyone here ever used those Bluetooth laser keyboards?

        The software is clever enough to deal with resting your fingers on the home keys, but there AREN'T any keys to rest on, so it still messes with touch typing. Unless you have the annoying "TICK TICK TICK" turned on, you can't really tell if you're actually hitting a key.

        And yes, banging your fingertips on the desktop gets painful in real short order.

      2. Shocked Jock

        Re: Has anyone here ever used those Bluetooth laser keyboards?

        @I ain't Spartacus.

        A touch typist does, indeed, keep fingers hovering above the keys, rather than resting on them - or, at least, one of my generation (taught on manual typewriters) does.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Has anyone here ever used those Bluetooth laser keyboards?

          Shocked Jock,

          Are you sure? I was also taught to type on an old manual typewriter. A giant thing made by Imperial, that probably weighed as much as I did...

          If you hover your hands over the home keys, how to do know where your fingers are, without looking? I lose about 30 wpm if I even glance in the direction of the keyboard (thinking brain tries to overrule training), let along actually focusing on my finger position.

          Surely you gently rest your fingers on the home keys, that's why there are blobs on the J and F keys, and then move them to where needed. Admittedly it's a long time since I used a typewriter, and I've had to re-learn my typing style to avoid the RSI I'd have got if I banged computer keys the way you had to with a typewriter, but I'm sure that you always needed to have physical contact with the keys. That's the problem that reduces me to 2 finger typing on the iPad, as it's just as quick as attempting to touch type.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    On the subject of Psions, what about the Psion netPad™, which was to the iPad what the netBook™ was to, umm... netbooks.

    The only model they released was the 640x240 version, but they developed and planned to release three versions, including 640x480 and 480x160 screens.

    The VGA version was the same kind of form factor as an iPad, albeit a little thicker and heavier, given it was 90s technology. If Psion had continued in the consumer market, I've no doubt the current netPad would rival the iPad. But, with the Olympics being topical, Psion's history proves repeatedly that you don't always get gold for being first.

    And as for apps, I remember the early 90s equivalent of the App Store... a thick paper booklet listing 3000 Psion commercial, shareware and freeware apps.

    Oh, how gentle the days when you'd go down to the Post Office to get a £15 postal order made payable to "RMR Soft" or Neuon along with a first class stamp to get your copy of incredibly well featured PDA software such as FTP clients, newsreaders or file conversion suites...

  12. Joshua Murray

    Ahh memories...

    I was a bit of a palmtop whore back in the day...

    Psion 3c

    Psion Sienna

    Ericsson MC12 (Rebadged HP)

    Palm IIIe

    Palm V

    Palm M505

    Palm Tungsten T

    Then moved on to early smartphones, then iPhones and now a new iPad too.

    Last year I bought a Psion 5MX for next to nothing on eBay as I'd always fancied one.... Out of all the old skool devices I've listed above; only the Palm Tungsten T was "better" than the 5MX (and that's only really because the screen was nice and it ran TomTom). The 5 really is an amazing device and the bundled applications work really well. Proper hardware and software design, working seamlessly together.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to receiving my TouchFire keyboard layer thing for my iPad. Google it... It looks impressive!!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Ahh memories...

      Joshua Murray,

      Thanks for mentioning that TouchFire thingymajig. That does look interesting, and quite tempting as well. Although I do wonder how long it'll last.

      I was going to give you the thumbs up icon, but it's Friday...


    2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Ahh memories...

      I bought a Sienna for my wife. She never said so but I suspect she hated it.

  13. Charlie Stross

    The Palm folding keyboard is still available, with bluetooth, works with iOS and Android

    A Chinese factory is churning out what appears to be the original "Think Outside" folding keyboard (as shown in the photo illo with the Palm Vx) for about forty quid a pop -- go and google for "Dracotek" if you want to find the importer. The new version has a rechargable battery (charged over USB) and talks Bluetooth; my old Think Outside bluetooth keyboard works fine with a Google Nexus 7 tablet and an iPad.

    But the best mobile typing setup I've found short of a Macbook Air is an iPad, and the Logitech ultra-slim keyboard cover. It's a magnetic smart cover for the iPad with a bluetooth keyboard; looks a lot like the posh keyboard Microsoft are pushing with their Surface tablets, costs about 70 quid in John Lewis, and turns the iPad into a serious writing machine (they got the ergonomics and key spacing brilliantly right, and yes, the keycaps don't fly off if you look at them funny).

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No one wants to mention the HP Jornada 720?

    Released in 2000, Psion 5 class size, 640x240 colour touchscreen, half-decent (but not Psion class) keyboard, StrongARM SA1110, 32MB RAM, sockets for CompactFlash and PCMCIA and smartcard, built in modem, sounds quite nice on paper.

    In reality it was hampered by rechargeable batteries and in particular by being built to the Microsoft-defined "Handheld PC" spec which mandated the Windows-CE-derived "Handheld PC" OS which Mr Gates decided was the way of the future for handhelds, before changing his mind after a couple of years, leaving J720 owners/users up the creek.

    Obviously being abandoned like that won't happen with Windows RT on ARM.

    1. krakead

      Re: No one wants to mention the HP Jornada 720?

      Damn you! I'd forgotten about these. I desperately wanted one when they were new but couldn't afford it. Roll forward to now: a quick trip to fleabay later and one will be winging its way to me shortly. I have absolutely no need for it now, but I absolutely must have one!

      I really must stop looking at Psion 5s as well...

      1. krakead

        Re: No one wants to mention the HP Jornada 720?

        I take it all back - just bought a Psion 5 too.

        Damn you nostalgia, you are a harsh mistress!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No one wants to mention the HP Jornada 720?

        "I desperately wanted one when they were new but couldn't afford it"

        Sorry about b*ggering up your bank balance. Twice, for goodness sake.

        I rarely buy any tech gadgets new, my J720 was end of line stock from somewhere. Handy little device, shame about the OS.

        Look around quickly for resources though as the online communities that existed are gradually fading away.

        You can still get a Linux for it (seek out jlime).

        1. krakead
          Thumb Up

          Re: No one wants to mention the HP Jornada 720?

          Quite alright old chap. As well as the Psion, I went for a Jornada 680 (rather than a 720) - less than £42 for the pair. If the Jornada proves to actually be useful I'll upgrade to a 720 or 728.

          First order of the day will be installing JLime on my IBM 1GB microdrive! It still makes me wince when I think of how much I paid for it back in the day...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: No one wants to mention the HP Jornada 720?

            Wrt Jornada 680: that's an SH3 device, isn't it? It's not the same processor (or even the same architecture) as the ARM in the 720 (apologies if this is egg sucking time). If the 680's built in software does everything you need, fair enough. But you may find it even more "interesting" trying to find add-ins for the 680 than for the 720. On the other hand, there does seem to be a jlime for the SH3, so if that's what you need...

            Best of luck anyway.

            1. krakead

              Re: No one wants to mention the HP Jornada 720?

              I really should stop doing this, but I've just pushed the button on a 720 too.

              In other news, my Psion 5 arrived this morning. I'd forgotten how ahead of the game they were - shame they threw it all away in the end :(

  15. NeedsCoffee

    An Acorn PocketBook II got me through school!

    I was lucky enough to have the re-branded Psion 3a in the form of an Acorn PocketBook II. It was basically a 3a but with extra apps like a graphing calculator and I think it had more internal memory too, 2MB if I recall correctly.

    I wrote most of my GCSE coursework on it back in the 90s and even did some A-level stuff. Hell I learned to program on that thing. I used to drop it quite a lot and the batteries would come flying out - but it never broke substantially - and it still works now. There was even a thriving application market for the Psion devices. There was some guy here in the UK called Litchfield who would collect all the shareware software up and send it to you on floppies if you paid him a small fee. All that in a package an almost penniless teenager could afford. Happy days.

  16. FartingHippo

    More money than sense

    "why did I buy an iPad ... and its successors the iPad 2 and iPad 3"

    Sign. Really? This sort of behaviour is exactly why Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world. Anyone buying three laptops over a two-year period, each of which was only incrementally better than the previous one, would be branded a money-wasting moron...

  17. John LS


    until Nokia killed it

  18. gaz 7

    Raspberry Pi

    Everytime I play with my Raspberry Pi, I cannot help but wonder of the mechanics of a Psion style case with keyboard for it.

    Any clever people out there who fancy a weekend job - The Pi runs linux or android now so a real choice of OS.

    Although tinged with a lot of nostalgia, the psions were brilliant little machines..

  19. AndrewInIreland


    I knew there was a reason why Dabsie is my favorite hack- an Psion owner and a CIXen to boot.

    And iof you hadn't mentioned it at the end of the article I would have flagged the Logitech keyboard- I'm currently writing this on one.

  20. Arctic fox

    "That's what you get for £20" and what you get for..........

    ............being a tight git in the first place. -:P

  21. cupperty
    Thumb Up

    HP 95LX

    Even used mine as a console to a Sun Ultra 5 (?) back in about 1992 ...

  22. justwebware

    Psion MC 400

    Here is a rare treat for all you old Psion fans.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022