back to article Bring it BACK... with MODs! Psion 5 storms great tech revival poll

The Psion Series 5 has stormed a Reg poll of technologies readers would most like revived. The ground-breaking personal digital assistant (PDA) pulled in a record 1,199 votes to land first place in The Reg poll: what technology is ripe for revival next? The catalyst was HMD's decision to revive the much-loved Nokia 3310. …

  1. Lee D Silver badge

    I found five of these in an old cupboard I was asked to clear out in a school I did the IT for.

    I checked what they were (they were rebranded, but they were precisely just a Psion Series 5mx with a certain software card in them for educational use), nobody had ever used them for anything, and I asked if I could have them. They were only destined for the bin, so they said yes and I took them home.

    They're a great piece of kit. I would have killed for one when they were actually the state-of-the-art. I ended up selling them off on eBay for about £30 each when I was short of money a few years later, so they were still popular and useful to someone (aren't they used for stock control and things quite often still?).

    They knew how to cross the barrier between "entirely new technology", "sensible way of working" and "converting people from paper records" perfectly. I fear that any revival would lack that kind of knowledge and design skill entirely.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should run on a mainline Linux kernel with full root access please.

    Would be a great bit of developer kit for when the laptop is too bulky and you just need some gcc/clang, vim and/or ssh.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      But if you ran Linux you wouldn't get the battery life, certainly not 20 hours of use.

      1. Tom 7

        Linux battery life.

        You did - there was a linux set up for it and it wasnt that thirsty. Use to manage a day on rechargeables ISTR.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Linux battery life.

          I wonder where the author got this from:

          "a tiny, grey scale screen useless in direct sun"

          I take it the author has never seen one.

          I had a 5, but did prefer the Revo.

          1. lyallp

            Re: Linux battery life.

            I had a Revo, loved it. Unfortunately, the batteries were not end-user accessible and it finally died.

            Regarding OS, it used to run with an OS called EPOC which was very tuned for battery life and limited resources. Personally, I doubt linux nor android could match on battery life, but then, EPOC didn't have the features available in the newer OS's.

            The real thing I missed when my Revo died was the Calendar App. It was so far ahead of it's time, it took years for other vendors apps to approach real world functionality and usability.

            I don't think I would use the Revo now, my iPhone does all the Revo did, and more, although, usability is still not as good as the Revo.

            Sigh...

  3. Cab

    Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

    https://pyra-handheld.com/boards/pages/pyra/

    1. aeonturnip

      Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

      Fails on at least three core criteria : it's too chunky, has an inferior keyboard, and it's way too much money. I can't comment on the OS, but this type of device needs to be "instant on" and very quick and easy to use - the screenshot of a full desktop OS doesn't fill me with hope.

      1. Neil Alexander

        Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

        Try this instead:

        https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gpd-pocket-7-0-umpc-laptop-ubuntu-or-win-10-os-laptop--2#/

        1. Ralph the Wonder Llama

          At least...

          ...that looks like it was designed this millennium :)

        2. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

          https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gpd-pocket-7-0-umpc-laptop-ubuntu-or-win-10-os-laptop--2#/

          Better than the pyra/open-pandora/gp2x replacement, but still no cigar.

          1. Steve Todd

            Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

            They're still extracting the P. Trying to compare an Atom based machine to Core i5/i7s based only on the clock speed and number of cores is a joke. Prices starting at 400 euros for what is basically an updated netbook is another.

            1. Paul

              Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

              The Atom X7-Z87xx processor is actually quite good.

              Why not look up specs and benchmarks before condemning something?

              1. Steve Todd

                Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

                @Paul - you seem sadly missguided about the power of an Atom X7-Z87xx, they are nowhere near Core i5/i7 in performance. Clock for clock the Core i5-5250U from over a year ago is about 95% faster, and that's only 2 core 4 threads.

          2. Stoneshop
            FAIL

            Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

            Well, the GPD gets a serious number of minus points for the chiclet keyboard where the 5 has an eminently workable REAL keyboard, especially considering its size, and a meagre plus for the (badly integrated) trackpoint. And it would still need shrinking to become a viable Psion 5 replacement.

            Not that close, and definitely no cigar

      2. John Sanders
        Facepalm

        Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

        >>> Fails on at least three core criteria.

        You do realise this is not an iFail do you?

    2. Ralph the Wonder Llama

      Eww...

      ..that's vile.

    3. Mage Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

      Vapour probably, like the Open Pandora before it. Inspired by GP2X

      It's a Gameboy based on ARM with keyboard on steroids. It's been a few more months for a very long time.

      It's pointless as the keyboard is too small.

    4. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

      Resistive touchscreen? How very 90s! But apart from that, good luck to them!

    5. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: Bit pricey and it'll be a few more months until it's out but...

      @ Cab

      That Pyra handheld has been available for pre-order for what seems like years now. I'm not confident it's going to happen.

      I checked the Pandora page (seems to be the other device they're offering), hasn't been updated since 2013.

  4. staringatclouds

    Yep another vote for Linux here, and please please please keep the keyboard, I hate typing on screens

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Give it a colour e-Ink screen. The thing would last a month on AA batteries then.

    Well, maybe not a month, but damn near a long time anyway.

    1. Moosh

      RE: e-ink screens

      Wouldn't that then take it a while to render things?

      I'm just thinking of the relatively "recent" phones which had the e-ink displays to conserve battery power when the main screen wasn't needed; it took ages for them to updated and for things to render.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: RE: e-ink screens

        I think it depends how frugal you want to be.

        With an e-Ink screen it would only be updated when it had to be, while all normal screens are constantly refreshed.

        So if you're reading a document, you don't have to refresh the page until you change the page. Same way as if you type it updates as you type.

        But what do I know? I'm just the ideas guy.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Colour eInk?

      Colour eInk doesn't work as the screen is about x6 dimmer or worse than mono, the absolute best possible is about 1/3th brightness as you are filtering reflected light, (twice) to get R G B.

      Colour eInk is ghastly. Mono (black balls in a milky white liquid) eInk is fantastic.

      Mirasol might be an option. Except Qualcom own it and want too much money.

      If it is for notes, programming, looking up Wiki, text search on internet, ebooks, calendar, email etc, then regular eInk will work (based on using annotation, wikipedia, google, ebooks on a Kindle eInk and on a Kobo HD eInk).

      Video processing eats battery faster than OLED or LCD+backlight anyway.

      1. Stoneshop
        Boffin

        Re: Colour eInk?

        Colour eInk is ghastly. Mono (black balls in a milky white liquid) eInk is fantastic.

        It looks like ACeP colour e-ink screens will be just in time for the new Psion 5mxC to go into production.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Neill Mitchell

    A fitting OS

    If you want the battery life, it should be Symbian of course with QT GUI.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A fitting OS

      ...and no WiFi 3g/4g or bluetooth, also power suckers. Or at least the option to power off the radio elements automatically when not in use. Oh, and any/all apps being properly controlled so as not to switch on radio access whenever the app dev wants. Or apps which keep re-starting themselves even after you stopped them.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It could even run DOS :)

    Back in the days I was a head sysadmin and quickly turned to the Psion series to help me keep track of appointments and basically everything else I needed. And Psion was way ahead of its time: keyboard + touchscreen = success. I tried an iPaq once (at a later time), even tried to enhance it with running Opie but... It never clicked as well as with my trusty Psion.

    I used to combine the MX (and my previous 3mc) with my Ericsson SH888 phone which had both an internal modem (nice for accessing the Internet, this service wasn't provided by mobile operators back then) as well as an infrared port which I used with my Psion.

    One of the best moments was when I discovered dosemu for the 5mx, and then set up a few images myself. Ending up with the ability to run Norton Commander on my Psion :)

    "The only question: operating system. Linux or Android?"

    Neither. Stick to Psion OS.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: It could even run DOS :)

      Don't ask how many hours I spent sitting in front of assorted networking tech, in cramped closets, with my S3a, the soap-on-a-rope, a null-modem adaptor and whatever special serial cable UB, Cisco, Compaq or whoever delivered with their kit...

      The terminal app was a godsend. And pretty easy to script for.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: It could even run DOS :)

      "It could even run DOS :)"

      Get out and don't use that sort of language again!

  8. Ed 13
    Thumb Up

    I'd buy one, but it won't happen.

    I got as far as the 3mx, and never graduated up to the Series 5. It was one of the nicest portable computers I have ever used.

    I debugged and configured many systems with the terminal program alone. Playing the Infocom text adventures on it was a great way of passing the time on long journeys.

    The power management was at the core of the OS (EPOC32 - became Symbian), so anything other than a custom build wont get you the 20+hr lifetime off two AA cells. If you don't have that then you have a rechargeable battery pack (phone battery), and Psion tried that with the Revo, but we've not been calling for that to come back have we?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'd buy one, but it won't happen.

      Oh please say it will! I'm late to the party, but after reviewing the list of old school tech items I realized I still have all of those devices in working order, except for the Walkman, and the Psion. I had it on my list of cool things, but never did get to purchase one. I think I ended up with a Palm III when all was said and done. Anyway, good choice, everyone! I love the Psion and wanted it as a mini terminal.

      "Sony Walkman Stereo Cassette player"

      Do we need this? Not even audiophiles want this back. It's not the awesome analog of vinyl, and I would wager the Sony CD Walkman to be a more logical choice, unless you are dead set on playing the tapes. I moved all my audio to MP3 years ago, so I'm looking at those tapes and thinking, nah. YMMV.

  9. Trygve Henriksen
    Coat

    I actually prefer my S3a over my S5... Over double the runtime, silly low quiescent power drain(1ma/hour). It just works.

    Then again, I also like to bring out my MC400 for long writing sessions, too.

    (I need to finish building the Li-ion battery pack for that one. The Ni-cad pack only lasts 20hours)

    Jacket... because, guess which one is in my pocket?

    Siena, S3a, S3c, Workabout, Revo, S5, Oregon Scientific, or the Geofox One?

    OK, not the Geofox. It's a bit too large. It stays near my netBook.

    All right, trick question. Of course it's my Organiser II LZ64.

    1. Paul

      What kind of unit is 1ma/h ?

  10. theOtherJT Silver badge

    It's the keyboard.

    That's what really made the 5. That keyboard was actually usable, unlike any other mobile device before or, frankly, since. If you want to be productive you need to be able to input lots of data quickly and reliably, and that's what you can do with a decent keyboard - and exactly what you can't do with a touch screen.

    Yes, having a keyboard like that made it a bit big for today's fashion conscious "it'll spoil the line of my suit / won't fit in the pocket of my ball crushing skinny jeans" crowd, but it fits perfectly well in the inside pocket of a normal jacket so if what you care about is being able to work on it, not pose about with it, it's just better to have a keyboard that size.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: It's the keyboard.

      I found that on the S5/S5mx you needed to keep the PDa on a table or other stable surface to get up to speed, but on the S3/S3a/S3c/S3mx, you held it in both hands and typed with your thumbs, without the need for something to rest it on. And you could type nearly as fast on that.

      The S5 keyboard had a certain Wow factor, though. Made it look 'Professional', really.

      And the keyboard on the netBook... Still miles ahead of some of todays laptops.

    2. Tom 7

      Re: It's the keyboard.

      It used to fit in the top pocket of my shirt - amazed people when popped out from under the jacket and wielded in battle.

      Used to fall out when bending over - did get a friend to make a shoulder holster for it which stopped it falling out but needed a rethink but even if it was only pi-zero powerful I'd re-visit that any day.

    3. PT2007

      Re: It's the keyboard.

      And the apps! e.g. Data, Agenda

      1. Ian 55

        Re: It's the keyboard.

        Agenda is still my favourite diary app. I wish someone would do an Android clone of it.

  11. TrinityX

    Which operating system?!

    EPOC!!!

    Giving up Epoc for Windows CE was definitely the beginning of the end of Psion.

    1. John Sanders

      Re: Which operating system?!

      >>> Giving up Epoc for Windows CE was definitely the beginning of the end of Psion.

      Giving in to Microsoft is the sure way to start the end of almost any company.

  12. Ol'Peculier
    Happy

    Series 3a

    I had a Series 3a back in the days, fantastic device even if the speaker did manage to mangle a couple of my credit cards...

    Remember going to the States with it and the people that saw it were amazed by it!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Series 3a

      I would concur, although I liked the 5's keyboard better. The 3a with a flashcard was amazingly useful in all sorts of ways, and EPOC on that worked well. What I missed was a display backlight, but that's exactly why the batteries lasted a lot longer.

      If the 3a or the 5mx could be made again but with the more readable type of display that can be found in the Kindle Paperwhite and normal SD memory cards instead of the we-will-gauge-you-for-everything-you've-got Psion memory packs I would actively be interested in buying one.

      Even if it could only communicate by cable.

    2. Scroticus Canis
      Happy

      Re: Series 3a

      Pure nostalgia. Love it

  13. Martin 63

    This was an astounding piece of kit back then. Sadly it still would be now. All it would need is an alternative connection to the proprietary one, so WiFi probably, rather than via IR to a modem. Motorola did bring out a version on the 5mx, with a plug in modem. I always forgot the plug in when travelling.

    Id like it back with essentially the same keyboard, add WiFi, same OS and drop the rubbish screen cable.

    Im not expecting that to happen though.

    1. Down not across

      All it would need is an alternative connection to the proprietary one, so WiFi probably, rather than via IR to a modem.

      Bluetooth. You're bound to have a phone with bluetooth anyway and would be more frugal on battery than running WiFi. If you were in a situation where you did need WiFi, then maybe if it supported something like this. Oh, and keep the IR, it has its uses.

  14. 0laf Silver badge

    None of those start-ups have they key factor of a a decent small keyboard. Touch screens and connectivity can be done by any Chinese manufacturer.

    But that Psion Keyboard....

  15. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Add my vote for the Psion Series 5mx

    I didn't see the poll.

    I still use my re-badged 5mx daily (screen cable replaced), and yes, the keyboard is to die for, the battery life is wonderful, and the built-in applications are very well designed. I particularly like the database and spreadsheet.

    As for an updated form-factor, I agree that an e-Ink display would be a good idea, and (possibly) SD card storage.

    I'm in two minds about built-in networking, as I'd prefer some kind of secure offline device, and I would currently lean towards wanting the underlying OS to be re-engineered for security so that it could act as a secure password (and other information) repository, but I understand many, if not most people would want some kind of useful networking capability - maybe low-energy WiFi or Bluetooth - to continue the tradition of the meagre use of power.

    I'm saving up for a Pyra, which I believe will be able to run WINE, and so run a PSION EPOC emulator, and thereby give a PSION capability.

    1. Cyberneticist

      Re: Add my vote for the Psion Series 5mx

      I need my screen cable repaired!! Where did you get it done? I have a working series 5 that I got, but really want my 5mx back up and running!!

  16. Franco

    I didn't have one of these, but I do have fond memories of that sort of form factor. In the days when smartphones were a business only item, HTC's Touch Pro and similar devices were brilliant. Quite why no one now makes phones with hardware keyboards I do not know. (BTW I don't include Blackberry, as I hated their keyboards, my fingers are obviously too fat)

  17. armyknife

    Keep the OS(EPOC undated a bit), the keyboard and AA batteries, everything else is negotiable.

  18. Andy 73 Silver badge

    Yes

    A small, easy to type on device with endless battery power and a decent telnet client - any day.

    It booted quickly, could interact reasonably with standard documents and kept a basic calendar, spreadsheet and editor.

    Doesn't need to be colour, or run windows or Linux (or Android for that matter). Doesn't need to play games, call my mum or take photos.

    Does need WiFi (possibly bluetooth), a top notch keyboard and these days USB/memory card slots. A bonus if it could run a half decent browser, GIT and basic Java stack (but only when you wanted to kill the battery life to save a client's bacon).

    EPOC had got far too convoluted to maintain and improve, but was key to battery life and the foundations of the excellent document handling. Not sure what could replace it.

    It says a lot that I've not found a combination of Android device/keyboard/app(s) that can match the Psion for 'just working'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes

      I use a phone with a Chinese bluetooth keyboard from an outfit called KKMoon...works quite well for me. YMMV. £25 on eBay for the keyboard.

  19. Shonko Kid
    Go

    So, you want a rebooted Series 5?

    There are two questions you have to ask, what features could you not live without, and how much are you willing to pay. For consideration;

    OS - As framed here, the choice is Android or Linux of some flavour. What are the pros and cons of these, and other potentials. Bare bones Linux is a good starting choice, if a little bloaty compared to E32, but the simple fact is that there exists a working kernel for nearly any HW you'd care to choose. The main issue would be UI, are you expecting a proper desktop, and all your apps 'just work' or are you looking for something more terminal focused? Getting a meaningful desktop experience on that screen form factor would require some effort, even more so if you don't actually update the screen. Android seems like a better fit, UX wise, but it's very resource intensive. You'd need a high end ARM SoC to run it at anything like responsive - just try out a cheapo Chinese Android with any of the 6.x and 7.x flavours.

    Purists will say Epoc32/Symbian OS, but even if you had the source code, the fact is part of Symbian's downfall was down to the sheer amount of effort it took to bring it up on new HW platforms, also, the kernel wouldn't be readily compatible with ARMv7 anyway.

    Fact is, unless you're willing to spend big bucks on development time, you're going to go with the path of least resistance, which is likely to be something Linux based. Someone mentioned Sailfish.

    Hardware - Shell. The key selling point of the Series 5, and why we're all still here 20 years after it launched, bemoaning the fact that it has never been bettered (OK, the 3mx was better, but let's skip that), is it's form factor. You have two choices here really, do you try and get new housings/keyboards made, or scavenge eBay for spares. If you get new parts made, aside from the expense of tooling, you're opening yourself up to patent infringement for the design. I've no idea who currently holds the patents, it was Psion Industrial IIRC. I'm sure they'd crawl out of the woodwork if they smelled $$$. Assuming again the path of least resistance, and cost, your looking at essentially an upgrade kit for existing Series 5s. This would have implications.

    Hardware - Main board. If you're making an upgrade kit, your choices are either have something fabricated, or find something of-the-shelf that's suitable. There's not a great deal of spare space inside the Series 5 case, and it's very low-profile. Assuming again you're going to skimp on cost and development effort you're down to looking at what can be made to fit. I still have an OpenMoko board stuck to the inside of a 5mx case from the last time I seriously looked into this, the good news these days is, I think a Pi Zero would be perfect.

    Screen - Here you have to make a real choice between cost and 'must have'. Custom screens are not cheap, though a lot cheaper than they used to be. The last quote I had for this particular application was ~£10ks for prototype quantities of either LCD/E-Ink/OLED. A whole order of magnitude less than when I first looked into this, but you're still into having to have pre-orders, or money to burn territory. You could of course re-use the existing screen - for the things the Series 5 was good at, the screen was more than adequate, if a far cry from today's luxurious 6" 400dpi+ panels. Re-using the original is not without issue either, as you'll need to interface it to your main board, and then write the display driver, but that at least is getting near to 'hobbyist' level of effort/cost. The real question is, is the screen a deal breaker?

    Personally, the only thing lacking from the Series 5mx as it stands today is connectivity, and even then I think just Bluetooth would be good enough.

    So would you pay;

    £100 for an upgrade kit that turned your existing Series 5 into a wireless, portable ssh client?

    £1000 for a reconditioned Series 5mx with e-ink/oled display and usable GUI?

    Or something in between?

    If a few hundred of you pick the £1000 option, then let me know! ;-)

  20. Martin 63

    EPOC was great, then came symbian from what I recall. Designed by meetings after Psion span it off. It was fighting against PalmOS and windows though. The slowdown in bluetooth improvement happened around the same time.

    I think a guy called Martin Tasker (not me I hasten to add) wrote EPOC , so a weekend beer to him, wherever he is.

  21. Alan Bourke

    Pick one ...

    "Colour screen with a few more pixels, modern ARM processor, decent chunk of memory, USB, WiFi, maybe a 4G modem, SD slot"

    or

    "keep the thing running for a week on a pair of AAs"

  22. beecee

    5MX still going

    I'm still running mine. The screen used to pack up and Paul Pinnock took a few quid of me fixing mine. Paul, if your back from Africa I've got one that needs your TLC. Ben

  23. a_mu

    windows interface

    Have / had psions from the 1 up to the 3mx,

    the 5 did not have sufficient battery life for me,,,

    I'd not have stopped using the 3mx, if it was that it could no longer work with windows,

    I could get AA batteries anywhere in the world,

    BUT, what would I use the Psion for now ?

    word docs / pdfs , web , I use the tablet,

    contacts , on the phone, where they should be.

    But I still have a nostalgic link to the psion,

    if only they had got into bed with some one that made mobile phone modules,

    Ah well.

  24. heyrick Silver badge
    Happy

    I never had an S5 but I had an S3A...

    ...and I used it loads. In fact, I'd probably still be making use of it today if it wasn't hamstrung by its unusual protocols.

    Let's see:

    * The word processor was a delight. Simple yet effective. There have been many times I've waited for dentists, doctors, trains, and such and just knocked off a document. The keyboard is small but ergonomic so typing things isn't a hassle. It isn't as capable as Google Docs, obviously, but it could run rings around every single feature phone word processor I've seen and even bested early versions of GDocs.

    * The word processor can "print" to a file. I don't remember the specifics now (it's been a decade), but it was something like it could "print" to a LaserJet and write the results to a file. Imported to a PC and passed through Ghostscript, this created the smallest damn PDFs I've ever seen. It was great for times when you just wanted a text document with no frills (but basic formatting and effects).

    * The spreadsheet was simplistic but capable enough for basic tasks, as was the database. But when these really came alive is when you learned a bit of OPL and could roll your own programs.

    * OPL. A simple BASIC-like way to build applications for the organiser. I wrote my own bank account management software, it was actually not that hard. I also did some stuff like resistor colour code calculator, hex calculator, and the like. So when I wanted to know something, I could open my S3a and look it up. This is something desperately missing from Android phones. Sure, you can write fully fledged apps, with a complete SDK....but if you just want to put together something simple for your own use, it doesn't exist (that I know of).

    * Battery life. Okay, it's a slightly sub-8MHz x86 clone on some custom silicon with aggressive power management techniques, but it was not only pretty impressive to have a hand-held device with the power of the early XT back then, but for it to run for weeks on two AAs? Whoa. I don't know about you, but I charge my smartphone every night...

    * Stability. In normal use and not trying nutjob stuff in OPL to mess with the processes, the S3a NEVER crashed. I guess there might have been bugs, but I never had the word processor randomly did on me. I never had the thing inexplicably reboot itself or just shut down (it did, but that turned out to be a dodgy battery connector).

    * About the only thing I could complain about was the weird flash memory card that would just append data to the end of the used space until the card was full. Then you'd need to copy the data off and reformat it. That said, it was possible to dump "constant" information and apps onto the flash and flip the write protect switch, using the internal memory or RAM pack as random access storage.

    This, I should reiterate, is talking about the S3a. I can only imagine the S5 is all of that and more. They were really incredible machines and just imagine what could be possible if that mentality was applied to modern hardware? I think the thing that I miss most is that nothing at all really works entirely "out of the box" any more. Okay, it isn't difficult to go grab some app or other, but the point is that all these things are third party add-ons in varying degrees of usefulness and cloud-associativity.

  25. steelpillow Silver badge

    Go Psion!

    Bought the last (only?) S5 for sale in Worcester the day it was launched. Loved it to death. Phablet + bluetooth keyboard comes almost close enough but crashes and burns on the screen and keyboard.

    That letterbox display was a killer: wide and pocketable at the same time. Yes letterbox is brilliant for email and browsing and and light office stuff as well as feature films. Never mind the quality, feel the width (anybody remember?)

    And the keyboard. Perfect feel, exact minimal size for decent functionality. No portable keyboard since has even come close. And to make the form factor work, it really needs to.

    My ideal spec: widen it another 12 mm (same as my old cheque book, remember them?), make it 20% thinner with a modern battery, colour, WiFi+Bluetooth+4G+LTE. Sod the memory slots, that's what the cloud is for. Not rocket science, just usability.

  26. John Robson Silver badge

    I suspect that the linux/android question is a bit false...

    Could easily allow either - particularly since the 5mx had a CF card slot anyway...

    Personally I'd be happy to have a 'long AA' modern rechargeable pack as an option to improve capacity over a pair of AAs - but that's clearly a reasonably place for the battery.

    A Pi Zero, or do we wait for the PiZero+? class hardware inside, with what effectively amounts to a pair of iPhone3 class screens would be a pretty nice bit of kit.

    But all of that requires power. If it did bluetooth&3.5mm headset and mobile capability then it would easily replace the device everyone uses nowadays...

    I have a folding bluetooth keyboard that is *almost* as good as the Psion 5mx (which I used to use to take lecture notes at uni - brilliant to be able to sribble the equations in with the stylus). And frankly that's what the Psion5 had that most modern devices don't.

    So whilst I have a nostalgic 'that's be great' I also have a realistic - but why not just make a decent compact bluetooth keyboard?

    1. Tom 7

      Re: I suspect that the linux/android question is a bit false...

      You dont want a decent bluetooth keyboard - you want a decent bluetooth docking station perhaps. As I said in another post I've done some playing with my phone and linux and a keyboard and its very good but its not held together firmly like the the P5 and certainly doesnt drop into a top pocket with ease - or any pocket come to that. The P5 was an ergonomic delight - something long replaced by 'design' and 'thin' but by far more useful.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: I suspect that the linux/android question is a bit false...

        I'd rather have a stand a bit further away than the keyboard personally. Having them together makes them pocketable, but given the power of a modern phone, and it's screen....

        Why not push it a bit further away and have a better gap between the two. You don't put a monitor right up against a keyboard unless you have no choice (laptop).

        Pop a decent foldable BT keyboard in a pocket - it's a compromise, but less of one than carrying a phone and a Psion5 imho

  27. G R Goslin

    I still reckon...

    I still reckon that the 3C was the peak of Psion's innovation. Much has been said about the S5's posh keyboard, but for usability in it's accepted function, the 3c was much, much better. You could type on the 3c with the thing in your hands, whereas the S5 had to be laid on a table. The clamshell design set up the display and the keyboard at the right angle, and ingenious rubber feet made it totally skid proof. At a time when anything portable had between one and three hours of use, the 3C would consistently do twenty hours. Replacing the batteries was a doddle. The two memory/expansion slots were a dream come true, and so ingenious. The OS was so stable, I never heard of a crash. Anything stored on the plug-in memory was permanent until purposefully deleted. The only change I regretted from the 3A, was the replacement of the old bomb-proof serial connector with the fragile Sony version. I loved the way that the contacts were automatically protected when you withdrew the serial connector. I could go on for hours.

    1. G R Goslin

      Re: I still reckon...

      I just reached out for my old 3MX, popped in two new AA cells and a new backup battery and 'beep' it was up and running. It still had the oldr Autoroute roadmap ard and a memory card with extra maps. With one of my purchases I got one of the free Psion official pocket cases, which came with two pockets for extra memory, or application cards, which the 3MX still lives in. I must see if the infra red comms port still works with the old HP laser printer. I shall have to search out my old backups and I'll be back in business.

  28. Tom 7

    Just been playing with my phone and linux

    and with a decent keyboard attached. And to my surprise and delight its usable. No its really useable. There's a few things need working out - zooming and stuff but its a hell of a lot better than the android interface. ISTR two thumbed typing was pretty OK. I think we may be onto something here!

  29. Screwed
    Thumb Up

    Word processing

    What I rather fondly remember is the Word-compatible word processor. Although there were imperfections in its compatibility, it was able to do some things that Word never allowed. For example, and I hope I remember this right, you could set an "after paragraph" gap that was negative. What I definitely cannot remember is why this was so useful. At the time I was producing a local town newsletter on it as my only word processor so it was something to do with formatting that.

  30. Daniel B.
    Boffin

    The OS is obvious

    Symbian, which succeeded EPOC.

  31. Richard Jukes

    You are all thinking about how to print the Psion 5 into now, not how to bring it into tomorrow and to set new standards.

    It needs a high res OLED screen, decent keyboard, bluetooth, wifi, LTE/4g and big battery bank. Running linux, not android - android with bluetooth keyboard is a pain in the arse to use. Oh and it needs a track point and stylus.

    Also put on a pico projector, serial port and Ethernet port and monitor out port.

    1. Adrian 4

      Don't forget the pull-start handle. For the petrol generator.

  32. yowlingcat

    Idea for the OS

    It's all in the cloud these days, so the answer to the OS is ... Chrome OS surely. Or dual boot between Chrome OS and EPOC. And Linux to keep the enthusiasts happy.

    The problem I seem to remember with my 5mx was that it could not Save As a document to rtf or MS Word format - didn't a company called neuron get around that with a piece of shareware? It garbled the formatting every time.

    A beautiful bit of kit, I still have a netBook in the cellar somewhere, battery is shot though.

  33. Nick De Plume

    Could be a good tinkertoy

    It could be made into a specialized device to program Arduino type PLC stuff, as well as become a server/security controller/ etc with enough appropriate ports and on board relays.

  34. BigBadAl

    Instant On

    Instant on would be my tuppence worth! The keyboard was brilliant and the battery life. But the fact that when you flipped it open - there it was. Good old uncle Clive once stated that his biggest regret about modern computers (this was about 10 years ago) was that they had to boot up before you could use them. I think he was right. Yes we can all get iPads now - however at what cost? (both financially and operating wise)

    I would love to see PSION come back with another killer piece of hardware -unfortunately I don't see it happening - too many venture capitalists controlling the purse strings rather than a team of focused engineers and people who really did believe in what the company was doing. And if something "couldn't" be done they would find a way. EPOC was a triumph in structured programming and hardware management.

  35. Grunchy Silver badge

    I have a Nokia N810 which is pretty good. I haven't used it in so long, I should check if the battery still works.

    What I'd really want is a modernized REX - a credit card sized PDA with touchscreen. Something properly tiny yet mega capable. I never got one when they were current, but I never forgot how much I wanted one.

    I'd probably use the iphone anyway, it seems to work great for everything, pretty much. Too bad the OS is so locked down. I should upgrade to an Android phone. Oh well, what the hey, it's free (work phone).

    I have ipod nano 6gen, mounted on a wristwatch strap. It's blah.. the only good thing about it is the FM radio.

  36. andypugh

    Looks like you get your wish

    I am surprised not to see a link here to this Reg article:

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/02/27/the_psions_is_back_meet_gemini/

    Much nicer than that weird thing mentioned earlier, because it is designed by the original Psion designer.

  37. netBook

    I am still hoping that one day we'll see Raspberry PI boot image with Epoc32 Psion OS. Not an Epoc emulator, but real ARM image. It would allow us to run 100% of applications and use all available OPX files. It will also bring back some life to this platform. And hey, if RISCOS can be ported to RPI, why not Epoc?

    Really a PDA with Linux is nothing exciting, anyone can have it today. What makes Psion exceptional is combination of OS and HW. This is, in my opinion, not easily doable with Linux, Windows or DOS.

  38. smartroad

    Personally I would love to see EPOC back. It is what made the 5 a joy to use. A simple but elegant OS for the low powered system. Using anything else would be just shoehorning an OS in.

    At the very least it should be a heavily customised version of Linux with lightweight office solutions and a simple programming language al'a OPL.

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