back to article Bugger the jetpack, where's my 21st-century Psion?

Way back in 2011 we covered a handy category of portable computer that has completely disappeared. The early A4 portables were a specialist item, much beloved of journalists but not a big hit with the wider world. It took a different design to win those hearts. Psion Organiser II Psion Organiser II Source: babbagecabbage …

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  1. FartingHippo
    Flame

    "Bugger the jetpack"

    You should wait for it to cool down first, or it'll be barbequed sausage for dinner.

    1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: "Bugger the jetpack"

      Sounds like experience talking...

  2. Aslan

    Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandora_(console) It's an open source hardware platform in the style of the article. dimensions: 140.29 × 83.48 × 29.25 mm (5.523 × 3.287 × 1.152 in) (314 ml) (5.51×3.27×1.06 in) closed, mass: 320 g (0.71 lb) I saw one in person, and it looked neat.

    In this age of Phablets couldn't you just buy one of those with a Bluetooth keyboard cover? Like http://www.amazon.com/Minisuit-Bluetooth-Keyboard-Nexus-Rubberized/dp/B009WSCW4S or something similar?

    I had my heart set on a Nokia Personal Communicator 9290 the official device of TechTV.

    1. EddieD

      Aye...

      I've got a minisuit case for my Nexus 7, and, after a few days adjusting to the small keyboard, it works wonderfully a pocket computer, and very adaptable - when I use it for mapping cycle rides, I can leave the keyboard behind, so it's lighter (though the saving in weight is approximately the same as the extra mars bar I take with me...) - definitely my favourite tech acquisition in the last few years. Battery life - okay, not as good as the Psions, but I can get 2-3 days use out of it (and I haven't charged the keyboard in over a week)

      EDIT - the minisuit also works with my mobile phone, which is nice...

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: Aye...

        Also have one here for my 2012 N7. It's basically just a bluetooth keyboard, so it works with just about anything that has bluetooth on it and can accept keyboard input (I have before had it running with my work Dell Latitude laptop, albeit just to see if it would).

        The only problem I found with it is as it doubles as a cover/case, there is a raised ridge along the front of it where it clasps around the N7 when acting as a cover (especially at the middle - you can see it in the images in the Amazon link above). It's quite sharp, and I keep catching my fingers on it when trying to type (which isn't that great an experience as the keys are small, but it's do-able if you're not writing a novel).

        Got mine for about £15 if I remember well. Was a nice little purchase, although not something I use too often I must admit these days.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Chorded typing!

          Maybe Qwerty keyboard are inherently unsuitable for writing text on the hoof? [Discuss! : D]

          Chorded typing, a la Microwriter, is fairly quick with one hand, or so I have been led to believe. Has anyone here any experience of it?

          This lad has knocked together an Arduino prototype of a chorded keyboard case for smartphones:

          http://www.srimech.com/chorded-keyboard-for-mobile-phones.html

          1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

            Re: Chorded typing!

            we used to have one customer continuously badger us for a chord interface for his Psions, said whoever did it would become a millionaire. I asked him why didn't he do it- didn't hear from him again.

            1. John H Woods Silver badge

              Re: Chorded typing!

              A microwriter style chorder, that fitted in a partly closed fist, with bluetooth and a single led would be perfect for matching with a smartphone or tablet.

              1. moiety

                Re: Chorded typing!

                £60 on ebay gets you one of these:

                http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/9-Capacitive-Allwinner-A13-Dual-Camera-Android-4-1-Tablet-PC-Keyboard-Bundle-/271271774016?pt=UK_iPad_Tablets_eReaders&hash=item3f290ec740

                ...wouldn't want to write books on it, but it's ideal for emailing

                There's also the Toshiba Libretto:

                http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/NEW-Dual-Screen-Toshiba-Libretto-W105-L251-Laptop-Touch-Screen-Palm-Size-/181321094951?pt=Laptops_Nov05&hash=item2a37945727

                ...but that has 2 screens and no proper keyboard

    2. MacGyver

      Sony VAIO P Series

      What about the old Sony VAIO P Series, they were small and had decent battery.

      I too like the small form factor, but with the advent of cell phones and tablets no big manufactures are building them for us.

  3. p.houppermans

    Data entry on the Psion Organiser

    In those days I was writing quite a lot of code on the Organiser II, so I wrote a replacement for FIND, SAVE and INFO that made proper capitalisation easier.

    I was astonishing to actually received an enquiry about this freeware last year, asking for an updated version (never got round to make it work on the LZ screen :). It turns out that not only the file is still available, some of those Organisers are still in active use.

    I sent most of my Org II kit to the Computer Museum in Swindon (even an Organiser I).

    As for diaries, I found the one on the Psion S3 actually the easiest (but the PC sync software was gruesome - there is no nicer word for it), later followed by a separate program you had to install on the Sony Clie NX70 that approached its usability, with the Sony Clie being the most interesting form factor.

    The next one that was usable I encountered in the Sony Ericsson P1, where you could schedule calls. Compared to that, the current iPhone calendar sucks, but it does at least synchronise if you use a groupware account (not a fan of iCloud, and Apple stupidly took away the ability to sync via iTunes in iOS 7). Of course, all of that is personal opinion - it depends a bit on how you work.

    1. Ian 55

      Re: Data entry on the Psion Organiser

      The huge downside to the Psion Organisers was the battery setup. They had just one 9V battery and if the connection was lost for an instant, so was your data.

      The Series 3 fixed that with its backup battery, and the Psion 3a remains the best bit of computing kit I ever spent money on. The 3c and 3mx improved it and I'd still be using the latter if it had an internet connection and a browser.

      If there's an Android clone of Agenda, I want to know - it's the only diary I have ever been able to keep.

      1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: Data entry on the Psion Organiser

        "The huge downside to the Psion Organisers was the battery setup. They had just one 9V battery and if the connection was lost for an instant, so was your data."

        Wrong. There was an onboard capacitor which had enough backup power to cover you for about 30 seconds to allow battery swaps.

        1. Ian 55

          Re: Data entry on the Psion Organiser

          Having dropped one and lost everything on it in far less time than 30 seconds... that wasn't good enough.

          You could (and I did) drop a Series 3* and everything was fine.

    2. smot

      Re: Data entry on the Psion Organiser

      > some of those Organisers are still in active use.

      Mine is still in everyday use, but really only as an alarm clock. The PP3 battery lasts around 6 months when used this way.

      It still has all my old contacts, some long deceased, with old pre-01 phone numbers. The 16k datapaks are both full, and I no longer have a UV eraser to wipe them.

      But it works reliably, and all the keys are still fully legible, Never crashes, it just works.

      Psion had probably the best OS of all in the Organiser range - they lost the plot when it was Nokia'd.

      1. John Hopkin

        Re: Data entry on the Psion Organiser

        You don't need a UV eraser to erase the datapaks for the Organisers. Just remove the sticker and expose to sunlight for a couple of hours or so.

    3. gyffes

      Re: Data entry on the Psion Organiser

      I LONGED for Psions, adored my Apple eMate (newton OS, netbook formfactor, built in handle... it ROCKS -- yeah, still works!), went through TWO clie's -- man were those great -- and when Apple introduced the iPad instead of eMate2, bought my first netbook, the 7" eee.

      Currently, I do a ton of work on my iPad mini with external bluetooth keyboard: Teamviewer allows me to connect to my 27" iMac and drive it as if I were sitting right there, but from the comfort of a local coffeeshop where I can oggle coeds. Still wish there was a better integrated system, however: all the keyboard addons make the mini too bulky.

      Lord, those Psions were gorgeous, though.

  4. Graham Dawson

    Sony Ericsson xperia pro. :) Though I've yet to find a phone that will be able to replace it when it dies.

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      The mini-pro is the only android phone that has made me stop in my tracks and think I want that.

    2. Paul 135

      Unfortunately, mine got water damaged in last month's storms that we had across the UK. :-(

      Needed a phone immediately, so replaced it with the excellent Xperia Z1 Compact and love the much needed spec-bump. Though, how I wish for a Z1 Compact-sized device with a slide-out keyboard! (they could call it the "Z1 Pro").

      Last September there were also leaks of a Motorola DROID5, though haven't heard anything about it since, and Motorola has a horrible habit of not releasing its QWERTY devices outside the US.

      1. David Paul Morgan
        Thumb Up

        HTC Wizard/O2 XDA Mini S fan here

        ...which I originally bought to replace my Handspring Visor Edge (the very thin aluminium colored one).

        The great advanrtage of the HTX Wizard was the great slide out keyboard BUT it also supported palm-pilot grafitti.

        for all my subsequent Android devices (Xperia Z1 compact atm) I have installed Swype, which I love and Grafitti - but you have to get yourself a half-decent stylus - the rubber/carbon tipped ones are rubbish.

        Hmm a Sony Xperia Z1 Compact with sliding keyboard.....

      2. Paul 135

        An alternative strategy for phone makers would be to provide official slide-out QWERTY cases (I think Samsung might have one for the GS4, but didn't look great). The problem with most 3rd party accessories like this is that they are bulkier than they could be if they were properly designed together, and usually require separate charging for the keyboard.

        e.g. Sony could design a Zx (Compact) landscape QWERTY "Pro" case that used their magnetic dock ports on the side to also provide power to the keyboard.

  5. Semtex451 Silver badge
    Pint

    I miss my Psion 5, always had build quality issues with it tho, then it got nicked.

    :(

    1. flipper

      Still got my Series 5. Dug it out the other week, the kids were transfixed by it - as they were by my old Palm Pilot.

      Both got played with for an hour or so, then the Palm Pilot got put to one side as "novel but not very interesting".

      The Psion, though, has been claimed by my 15 year old as her own.

      Fantastic piece of kit.

      1. jai

        i hate it when El Reg does a Psion article.

        i get very nostalgic and depressed

        both the Series 3c and the Series 5 were fantastic. I bought the Series 5 with my first proper paycheck.

        Series 3 smelled nicer than the 5 though... is it weird to remember that?

        1. Law

          Not weird at all... I used to just open and close my 3a just to get another sniff of it. Still vividly remember the smell now.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            « I used to just open and close my 3a just to get another sniff of it. Still vividly remember the smell now. »

            This comments section gets weirder by the minute. :-)

  6. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Mainstream traction

    What is missing from this article is the acceptance that outside a few very technical jobs, using a handheld was always seen as too geeky for people to use.

    I've always loved having a handheld computer of some sort. My handwriting is awful for a start. But I was always a minority of one in using one despite the fact that we were all out and about, taking notes, holding meetings, making appointments and collecting data. Instead at any meeting there would be a whole bunch of people thumbing through great messy Filofaxes*, dropping bits of paper everywhere and hastily trying to find a space to scribble a note they wouldn't be able to read back (or even find) later

    *other piles of dead tree are available.

    1. Ian 55

      Re: Mainstream traction

      Pah. A least a dozen people bought a Psion 3a after seeing mine. At one place, it was quite amusing seeing the numbers increase with each meeting..

      .. and only about two of the owners could be described as 'geeky'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mainstream traction

        I knew someone who was a complete Acorn fanboy to the point of it being unhealthy.

        He looked on at my Psion, secretly wanting one but not admitting it because it wasn't an Acorn.

        Then Acorn bought out a rebadged version. Naturally he got one. Of course because it had an Acorn logo on it, it was "better".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mainstream traction

        > only about two of the owners could be described as 'geeky'.

        *About* two? Was one (or both) of them geeky or not depending on his humour that day or what?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    "and an Agenda program which to this day remains one of the best ever written for any platform"

    That is so true!

    Totally miss my Psion Series 5 and Series 5 MX.... heck, dare I say I even miss my Nokia 9210!?

    Love this article!

  8. Sander van der Wal
    Thumb Up

    Still have the Psion 5, the Ericsson 5mx rebrand and the Revo. And the Netbook too. Pity that one can only do WEP.

    Apart from that iPad has firmly taken over the role the Psion's used to have.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Apart from that iPad has firmly taken over the role the Psion's used to have.

      Psions were very popular not only because they were handhelds, but because they were fairly rugged pieces of kit.

      Somehow I can't see many iPads being used as artillery computers and the like.

  9. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Is it just me ..

    .. or did we skip over the entire Palm ecosystem?

    Palm pilots had their own fanclub :). I personally was more in the Psion camp because especially on the Organisers and Series 3 you could just write your own software, on the device, and with a bit of trickery all your data was available to mess around with. Then the programming language "grew up" (i.e. became unavailable for the average end user who just wanted to do something with their data).

    The Psion Organiser II was good training for your memory because you'd have to hold most of the code in your head (a 2x16 or later 4x20 screen is a tad small :), but you could code anywhere, any time. I'd love a language like OPL for Android and iOS, because it would enable a lot of people to enjoy the fun of quickly hacking something together instead of having to learn high grade programming from scratch.

    Having said all that, I liked Palm. I had a few..

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Yes, it's just you.

      The Palms doesn't even enter the picture because the article is about handhelds you could actually write on...

      On my S3a I can write pretty fast. On my S5, I can type almost as fast as on my PC keyboard...

      On a Palm/Handspring/any other character-recognicion-based-lump it's a bl**dy pain to write a complete sentence.

      I often write 3 - 5KB outlines on my S3a, then transfer the SSD to my MC400 to finish it.

      (There's a limit of about 42KB in the WP files in SIBO, because of 64KB data segments in RAM, but that still means around 20 pages of formatted text)

      Of course, I don't write just ONE document at a time, often there's two or three, and usually a custom database or two is also open, for reference info.

      (You can't have more than one document of each type open on a Palm, and you need to install another DB if you want anything more than a contacts list)

      Yes, I own Palms. And handsprings...

      And the Geofox One(one of those built by the user group after the company went tits-up)

      I have Newtons, the eMate 300, HPs, the Portfolio, even a couple of REX PDAs...

      NOTHING beats a Psion S3a/c/mx in usability.

      1. Chris Miller

        Horses for courses

        A Palm would be an inappropriate choice if you were writing your latest novel, or even an 800 word article. But as a genuinely portable (shirt-pocket sized) device for jotting quick notes it had few equals.

        1. no-one in particular

          Re: Horses for courses

          Especially with the original Graffiti. It was very handy for taking notes in the dark during public/local society lectures, as you didn't have to move your writing hand across the page and didn't need to look at the device as you wrote.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    It's actually quite a tricky spec.

    My instinct is you'd be looking at an A4 page folded longways to get a decent sized keyboard for a touch typist that's compact, light enough to not have consciously decide to carry it, and available.

    You'll want 1 second boot because who wants to f**k about when the muse ceases them? I go the impression that EPOC's "publish and subscribe" model was a big contributor to battery life. I wonder how well Linux holds up.

    I'd suggest multiple ports of micro SD storage. But all radio standards are power hungry. Maybe 1 or 2 USB ports for phones, printer if they can be completely powered down when not in use.

    While I doubt anyone's going to watch video on this I think sound is important so microphone, headphones and speakers are in (albeit very small ones). Standard 3.5mm connectors only.

    I also think TrueCrypt or similar should be the default for all media, but I'm not sure how to reconcile it's boot speed with a slow authentication process.

    But here's the trickiest of all.

    Run on 4 AA batteries for 40 hours or 2 AAs for 8 hours. Note that with a system that sleeps a lot between key strokes and runs audio through its SoC audo processors buffer memory that 8 hours straight could be days if not weeks.

    If you're really the sort of person who might go anywhere in the world you can't be hampered by some super duper but unobtainable battery design which Murphy's law states will quit on you exactly when you need it most.

    1. John Sturdy

      Re: It's actually quite a tricky spec.

      ISTR the PC3100 was almost instant-on (although it was a resume, rather than a boot); and it ran on 3 AA cells for about 3 weeks.

    2. NumptyScrub

      Re: It's actually quite a tricky spec.

      quote: "But here's the trickiest of all.

      Run on 4 AA batteries for 40 hours or 2 AAs for 8 hours."

      That is the tricky part; I know of no way to get 400% more work out of only double the stored energy ;)

      Did you mean 20 hours on 4* AA cells (still a stretch tbh if you're designing for 8 hours on 2* AA) or 4* C cells for the 40 hour runtime? Going from 5.4Ah to 10.8Ah is not going to yield 5 times more runtime however much I try :(

      Surprising note: I didn't realise until I checked just how much charge a "normal" battery holds compared to current device batteries; a single AA at 2700mAh can fully recharge an iPhone 5 (1440mAh battery) with some to spare, and a single C cell at 8000mAh would nearly cover an iPad Air (8800mAh) ^^;

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: It's actually quite a tricky spec.

      >an A4 page folded longways to get a decent sized keyboard for a touch typist that's compact, light enough to not have consciously decide to carry it, and available.

      A search on Amazon shows there are a number of folding keyboards but none seem to have the device integral stand like the "Targus PA800U Stowaway Portable Keyboard for Handspring Visor2 had..

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's actually quite a tricky spec.

      > I go the impression that EPOC's "publish and subscribe" model was a big contributor to battery life.

      I dare say you're right.

      EPOC was very much the event-driven OS.

      I programmed for the Series 3a and the HC, and the rugged variant "Workabout".

      The really cool feature (for HC and Workabout) was the changeable end-caps which gave you serial and parallel ports and various other 3rd-party hardware interface goodies. The interface spec was a published standard along with the driver interface so it was fairly straightforward to program for, and yet again the event driven architecture.

      EPOC had the "feel" of a well-designed and thought-out implementation which I guess in large part spawned Symbian in the same vein.

  11. Thomas Gray

    Now that no-one is using Symbian...

    Couldn't it be ported back to a Series 5mx-alike? Surely Motorola (the current owner of the erstwhile PDA maker) would accept a few shekels to licence the the hinge design from the 5 - after all, again they aren't using it.

    1. Colin Critch
      Meh

      Re: Now that no-one is using Symbian...

      You could but it would take a long time having custom ASIC inside. I still have a psion netbook running epoc and a development one running debian ( before they got desperate and tried a CE port ).

      Anyone interested it is just gathering dust?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Now that no-one is using Symbian...

        Anyone interested it is just gathering dust?

        Sure. Mail is stoneshop at hack42 dot nl

  12. Tom 11

    Well we almost had it

    Up until about three years ago there was a plethora of full QWERTY landscape phones, I loved them. Had an N97, N900 and a HTZ Desire Z. Then everyone got scared by Apples business model and decided to drop a perfect form factor and go solely to touch screen, I hate being forced to touch screen, it has ruined the modern vision of a true palmtop.

    Just picture this, Samsung Note 3 with a full QWERTY and track pad slide out keyboard....

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: Well we almost had it

      N900 is still the best 'phone' I've used. If there's a decent keyboard other half for the jolla I might get one. The 5MX is still the king of mobile data entry though.

    2. EvilMole

      Re: Well we almost had it

      You're conflating "perfect" with "perfect for me".

      There were keyboard phones. People stopped buying them, because for most people touchscreens are better. If it had been a "perfect" form factor, people wouldn't have stopped buying them.

      1. Graham Cobb

        Re: Well we almost had it

        I don't think that is entirely true. Sure, the N900 only sold to geeks (like me) but my wife is a normal business user and she really dreads the day she is going to have to stop using her Blackberry with its usable keyboard, and go to a touch keyboard. I still think the problem is that Blackberry really screwed up, lost its business customers to the (shiny) iPhone and collapsed in market share. Now no one is willing to buy Blackberries (no apps, end-of-life could happen any day, no one has a BES any more) even though a lot of the business users would really like a keyboard.

  13. Steve Todd

    Too little demand

    The best you are likely to get these days is a Bluetooth keyboard to go with a small tablet. The only reason you can buy a (not very good) tablet for $49 these days is because they make them in the millions, and there just isn't that number of people who want a small machine you can type on.

    Don't forget to scale those original prices to modern equivalents BTW, £179 in 1984's money is worth about £490 now.

  14. Ol'Peculier
    Thumb Up

    Psion 3

    I had a Psion 3 when I went to America in 1995 - the Yanks were amazed by it!

    You could also put your phone over the speaker and dial a number from the phone book using DTMF - which seemed quite cool at the time.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Psion 3

      You could also put your phone over the speaker and dial a number from the phone book using DTMF - which seemed quite cool at the time.

      Upvote - I'd forgotten about that. It had one tiny downside, though - the bottom was seriously incompatible with credit cards as the speaker magnet was strong enough to mess up the magnetic strip :)

      1. Ol'Peculier
        Mushroom

        Re: Psion 3

        Agreed, got the t-shirt...

    2. JaimieV

      Re: Psion 3

      Even in 2001 a 5mx was deeply impressive to the 'Merkins. Bless them and their antiquated ways!

  15. fishyuk

    I'd really like a keyboard case for my Lumia 1520 to create a modern clamshell to be honest. I think WP8.1 will support keyboards so here is hoping. Bought it as an alternative to a home mini tablet and a business device, love it for business use so a clam-shell case would be ideal. Same thing on an Android Phablet for the Android user. Either way could be best of both worlds and a more jacket friendly option than the proliferation of Ipad Minis with keyboards attached.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Meanwhile, Linux wasn't ready yet ..."

    ... maybe for you, but I found my 2004 Zaurus SL1550 quite sufficiently linux based and useful.

    Now, if I could only get Opie to run on my Moto G I'd bin Android in a second ... :-)

    1. FrancisT

      Re: "Meanwhile, Linux wasn't ready yet ..."

      And that Zaurus morphed into the PC Z1 Netwalker which was an excellent pocket computer, though it was hard to get outside Japan.

      Charlie Stross reviewed it here - http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2009/10/netwalker.html

  17. Chris Miller

    No mention of the Toshiba Libretto range? A full Windows PC that you could fit into a pocket*.

    * For sufficiently large values of 'pocket'.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd
      Thumb Up

      @ Chris Miller

      +1 for the Libretto range.

      In a previous life, my colleagues and I installed dozens of those little babies in Out of Hours Doctor's cars all over the country. Came with a docking bay, to which we could attach Paknet Radio Pads for fully mobile data. A printer on the back seat too, if you wanted / needed hard copy.

      This was in the late 90s...

    2. Simon Harris Silver badge

      * For sufficiently large values of 'pocket'.

      Brings back memories of my 1970s schooldays when the standard O level French dictionary was the 'Harraps New Pocket Dictionary'.

      Named, I assume, because it was so large that if you tried to cram it into your pockets, you'd be needing new ones.

    3. John Sturdy
      Thumb Up

      I hope to resurrect my Libretto

      I think I still have my old Libretto somewhere, I might dig it out sometime and try putting a Pi or similar-sized machine inside. I expect I'll have to replace just about everything except the case and keyboard, though; but still, it's a nice form factor.

  18. big_D Silver badge

    I went the Psion root, 3, 3a and a 5.

  19. ByeLaw101

    Netbooks

    I miss Psion, I loved my Series 5 and I always wanted one of those Netbooks they made, they still kind of look cool now ... maybe I'm just a little sad ;)

  20. xperroni

    Only in Japan

    In fact there are plenty of handheld computers being made and marketed today. All you need do to get hold of one is visit a consumer electronics shop... in Japan.

    Here they're called "denshi jisho", or electronic dictionaries. Like the case of "computer", the name hasn't accurately represented what the devices can do for a long time now. Some still sport monochrome screens, but there are many that have color displays and enough processing power to play videos. Extras include integrated digital TV receptor, touchscreen and Wi-Fi. Most double as personal organizers, and all have some sort of mechanical keyboard, the notebook-alike clamshell being the most popular form-factor.

    Could these ever be successful outside of Japan? I dunno. Smartphones have already assimilated all their functions plus making phone calls, playing games and taking pictures; in fact I'd reckon it's only the conservatism of Japanese consumers that continues to make them viable here (accordingly, most models come from traditional Japanese companies, such as Sharp and Casio). I guess that much as we may lament it, unless someone comes up with a truly fresh take on the form-factor, the age of the handheld PC is pretty much over. All hail the handheld fondleslab (aka the smartphone).

  21. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Drifting OT ... one thing I recall

    from early 80s "Tomorrows World", was a handheld input device to replace a keyboard. IIRC you held it in your hand with a button for each finger and the thumb, and a combination of buttons corresponded to letters. It was *supposed* to be much faster than trying to type on a miniature keyboard.

    I wonder what became of it. It was a British invention.

    1. John Sturdy
      Boffin

      Re: Drifting OT ... one thing I recall

      That sound like the MicroWriter; the keyboard format was re-used for a PDA called the AgendA.

      I don't think the mass market, even back then, was up to anything that had a learning curve steeper than pressing keys with the corresponding characters written on them in large letters.

      1. Hugh 3

        Re: Drifting OT ... one thing I recall

        Reminds me that even in late 1990s I used to see a TV sketch-show* writer pacing up and down outside the studio, typing merrily, without looking at his MicroWriter/AgendA device. I watched him enviously, while squinting to type on my beloved Psion 5. Still have it, long defunct though/

        *Probably the C4 show 'Rory Bremner, Who Else?'

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drifting OT ... one thing I recall

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwriter

      I loved this keyboard replacement.

      1. ChrisC

        Re: Drifting OT ... one thing I recall

        At one of the schools where my mum used to teach, they'd bought a few Quinkeys for their BBC micros. Other than my mum, who ended up being a complete speed demon typing merrily away on the infernal contraption, I don't think anyone else in the school bothered using them - I dabbled with it from time to time during school holidays when she brought the contents of her classroom IT corner home with her (happy days those - the house was full of 80's computing goodness with my Spectrum and Amiga competing for attention with the school BBC model B and Archimedes...) but never progressed much further than being able, veeeeeeeery slooooooooowly, to type out the lowercase alphabet.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Drifting OT ... one thing I recall

          If you want a Chorded Keyboard case for smartphones with Bluetooth, throw some money at this lad - or encourage him to get on Kickstarter:

          http://www.srimech.com/chorded-keyboard-for-mobile-phones.html

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    dell

    I have a dell venue pro 8 - from your description of what you want, it fits the bill neatly, even down to fitting (snugly) in a jacket pocket. Best buy it in USA though, I got mine for 238 usd, they seem to be about 250 gbp here.

    I love it, does everything I need when out and about. You can put.a sim in it too, though you look a bit dom joly when using it.

  23. Alex Walsh

    Did Paul Allen's Vulcan PC Flipstart ever make it to market? I had an OQO at the time but that looked impressive.

    Sharp did the clamshell form factor with some of it's Zaurus range, and obviously the Sony Clie UX 500 is the ultimate form factor for this, it's a shame it's effectively dead because how cool would that be with linux running on it today?

    1. Alex Walsh

      UX50 dammit.

  24. John Sturdy
    Thumb Up

    The one I really miss from that era was the Sharp PC3100; it just fitted in a cargo trousers pocket or a bumbag of that era. Like the Libretto (which had about the same footprint but was around twice as thick) I have one somewhere that I'd like to gralloch to fit a Pi inside.

  25. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Agenda Microwriter

    Am I the only person to have owned one of these?

    The basics of chord based microwriting could be learned in half an hour.

    It could also be used as an extra keyboard for your PC.

    http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~len/boog/gifs/ag500.jpg

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Agenda Microwriter

      I have one...

      Completely useless for me of course as I'm left-handed...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Agenda Microwriter

      I had one of these before I had a Psion. Great keyboard, quick to learn. Because your hand didn't move and it worked on release rather than press you could type even on a shaking commuter train.

      We also used to quietly drum our fingers during client meetings to pass messages.

      Reminds me - should dig out my Psion 5mx and bits and put it on eBay.

  26. staflea

    Ah the mightly psion

    Started with 3s - which taught me what a spread sheet was - and loved tinkering in OLP. Then finished with a 5MX and the IR modem the size of a mouse. How cool was I on a flight back from the US tapping away for the whole flight while the windows machines died and had to be closed down to replace the battery? Palmtop Mag was a delight. I was a fan-girl. Two AA batteries and you were off.

    BUT it all fell apart IMHO when they refused to go into colour (impossible to power with AAs I assume). They knew best, not the customer. And they just assumed we'd agree with them. And that was the end of Psion as a handheld.

    Palm of course was the competitor but having to learn gestures when Psion asked you to just type on a fabulous keyboard was a no brainer.

    What it taught me is that companies who tell you what you do or do not want and are overly controlling (yes, I'm looking at you, Apple) will never have hold of my heart again. I use what I like and want but won't step into the fan-girl world again.

    But that keyboard was amazing - if they made one that felt as good for my Nexus 7 I'd be a very happy bunny. The ones I've tried just are not as good. Or is it my memory is lying to me again.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Ah the mightly psion

      OLP => OPL (Organiser Programming Language)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah the mightly psion

      "that was the end of Psion as a handheld."

      The real end was when the company abandoned the Psion OS (compact, efficient, battery-friendly) for something called Windows CE which had none of the required attributes but did have an MS logo.

      1. Shonko Kid

        Re: Ah the mightly psion

        The real end (apart from the doomed Motorola project circa 1999) I think was the simple fact that the Series 5mx was just _too_ good. They were built to last, did everything you'd need, and get a months use out of a couple of AAs. At the time Wifi was nowhere, certainly nowhere you'd be able to embed into something that ran on duracells, and putting a colour screen on it would've been Gameboy vs Lynx all over again.

        Psion had released their own 'Use your Illusion' - it'd never be bettered, might as well pack up and go home.

        1. Stuart Moore

          Re: Ah the mightly psion

          They swemed to stop just as bluetooth was coming out, I remember thinking at the time that all I needed was a way to connect it by bluetooth to my phone, rather than the ir modem...

  27. A Twig

    Psion Revo...

    I have the Psion Revo, loved it - and it still works today, despite years of being abused through college etc! :) Small and light enough to fit in the inside pocket of a blazer / suit jacket!

    Why does the Revo always get airbrushed from these "histories"?

    My next plan is to try some serial to bluetooth jiggery pokery with the old docking station I have to see if I can get some mobile internet access on it, although I have lost the stylus now :( ...

    I'd love something similar today - (overnight site visits for e.g.) which I can rattle out mails & docs on but without the humpf of a company laptop.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Psion Revo...

      Me too - could never stretch to the "proper" Psions. Had a Revo and loved it. Also had the IR modem and remember "surfing" the net with it.

      As a clamshell case design I dont believe the Psion's have ever been bettered, shame they are patented up the wazoo.

      Agree that the organiser was superb.

    2. Shonko Kid
      Unhappy

      Re: Psion Revo...

      Yeah, the Revo, not a bad little device. Of course ironic it was missed off the list, as it was the Revo successor ('Odin' ISTR) that finally burnt Psion out of the PDA market, and concentrating on warehousing applications, where of course, WinCE was a tick box that had to be checked.

  28. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Best keyboard award goes to...

    I still think Psion had the best designed keyboard on any small portable device. It never failed to amaze me as it emerged from when you opened it.

    Also let us not forget the Epson HX-20

  29. Norman Hartnell

    Psion 5mx

    If ever there was an old case that just needed updated innards...sigh.

    1. JaimieV

      Re: Psion 5mx

      Seriously. Bang in a modern phone's guts and it would be soooo goooood.

      1. Shonko Kid
        Linux

        Re: Psion 5mx

        The screen is the real problem, if you'd still be happy with the original screen (and it wasn't that bad) then it's not too hard a job to fit any of a number of off-the-shelf boards into the case (minus many of the cumbersome external connectors they have) A bit of soldering to wire the screen to some GPIO pins... then comes the fun bit, writing the software for it all!

        If you want a colour screen, then all bets are off, as nothing has the same aspect ratio of the original, so you're talking compromise or new case, which of course won't have the killer hinge or proper keyboard.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What stopped mass market adoption was lack of Internet. Many people didn't get a computer until the Internet took off.

    Lack of wireless syncing and shit sync software probably didn't help either.

    The age of saving a document and it automagically appearing on another device has been around for a few years now, that's the sort of thing people would have loved back then. Instead of hooking up a device with a fiddly connector to a serial cable and pressing a button.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Lack of wireless syncing and shit sync software probably didn't help either.

      Sad, but true. Syncing the various handheld devices never seemed to match up to the promise. On one day the USB synch software would refuse to believe that the device was connected while the computer insisted it was, The next day the device might insist it was connected but the computer would say it wasn't. Or the damn things just wouldn't talk to each other at all for a while.

      Come to think of it, my HTC One V "smartphone" has USB synch that's still pretty much a pile of sh** in exactly the same way..

  31. Scroticus Canis
    Unhappy

    Psion 3a

    My old Psion 3a was still working 18 months ago when I last tried it; time was a little off but still correct date. Great little device in the day. Decided to bin it as I hadn't been able to link it to anything since the demise of the old serial port. Simpler days back then...

  32. Mage Silver badge

    Nokia N9100 N9200 Communicators

    Pocket PC with a phone on the outside?

    Handy for sending faxes!

  33. Muscleguy Silver badge

    If the desire for sexual congress with a jetpack ever overwhelms you then help is at hand:

    http://www.martinjetpack.com/

    Not technically a jetpack, it's a double cowled fan personal helicopter running off a 2-stroke petrol engine, for reliability. It has a number of advantages over an actual jetpack, asbestos trousers not required, integral parachute, much longer flight times and much more actual control. Not sure how amenable it is to coitus but you could buy one and see.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pandora

    To back up what the second poster said, I've used a pandora for the last couple of years - it's got great battery life (easily over 10 hours of actual use) & has a similar size to a Nintendo DS XL, so fits pretty easily in a pocket. It's designed primarily as a retro gaming platform, but given it runs Linux, it's got all the usual Office tools.

  35. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    WTF?

    I find it odd

    In my department articles such as this gain an immediate I used to have one of those and those yet anything new and shiny is boring.

    Maybe someone needs to stop with the rounded corners and produce something "old school"

  36. Ian 55

    ATTN: Android app writers

    There's a tenner here for anyone who can clone the Series 3mx Agenda program on Android.

    I will not be the only one willing to pay that much.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hpid aid doiu eof po,

    Hihwsf wofih sikf df ia ep xmeo fjco widolws eid e, djdoi sthd nrosmf jaof jskf oen dyejkedd ks. Khdod pdj dhdod uspn dbd asoo wdpod &hido& kdoapxkf.

    -Sent from my phone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hpid aid doiu eof po,

      cxdsl;ldyl;ljy good point sasgoiatkqtw.

      -Sent from my iPh touchscreen

  38. Derek Kingscote

    Cykey

    This is the one of the original chorded keyboards :

    http://www.cykey.co.uk/

    He wants to implement bluetooth so anyone with the requisite expertise should get in touch with him and help everybody.

    Derek

  39. IdeaForecasting

    You also have left the entire Nokia 700/800/900 padlets I still have my Psion organizer IIcm which I used as a portable terminal for testing MicroVAX IIs , and my Nokia N900 is still a working Linux phone, Server, Terminal.

  40. Permidion

    I got an acer iconia w511p, it's maybe a bit too large "to stash away in a jacket pocket" but it's a damn excellent device, over 15h of heavy usage (mostly hd video), real (detachable) keyboard for easy typing, touchscreen for anything else, in my opinion the best device combining the advantage of the late netbook and more modern battery life, cpu power and display, still in a small form factor, able to run any x86 apps (no need to run different apps than on your main pc, screw android appstore), and if you are ready to put a bit extra $, with a 3g slot to be fully mobile connected.

    there are no perfect device, but that one comes really close.

  41. WhatAboutBob

    My Psion 5 got me through university. While most people scribbed notes they later struggled to read, I had organised files that I was able to copy and paste from. I could type on the Psion keyboard so much quicker than I can write so it was a Godsend for me. I still can't type as quick on my smartphone and it doesn't last as long as my Psion in use...

  42. AJames

    I wanted one so badly!

    I really wanted one of those early Psion pocket PCs, but I could never find one at a reasonable price in Canada. I almost bought one in Singapore, but I had already exceeded my duty-free allowance. :(

  43. JLV Silver badge
    Happy

    Amen

    Software-wise, still pining for a worthy successor to HyperCard :-|

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Amen

      Writing a replacement for Hypercard is one of the items on my 'to do' list. In other words, you might see it sometime next century. :-(

      But take comfort in that you are not alone. :-)

  44. a_mu

    Pondering the pines for the Psion

    Also a Psion owner form the Psion 1, red led display I seem to remember, but stooped at the 3MX, the 5 never appealed to me, too big..

    I can remeber spending something like 100 quid on an expansion memory for the 3, might have been 2 MB,

    Is this a klickstart job ?

    I'd still use the 3MX if it had an interface to windows,

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pondering the pines for the Psion

      "I'd still use the 3MX if it had an interface to windows,"

      Psion's own software wasn't much to write home about but there were alternatives (or at least one) which I vaguely remember using. Might have been PsiSync.

      My 3c has got the "rubber coating gone all sticky" affliction. And a broken hinge.

      No love here for the HPC formfactor? e.g. Jornada J720? Fair enough, the HPC2000 OS did rather hamper it.

  45. peebee

    small form factors

    There were a few interesting small form factor PCs in the 90s - not pocketable, but far more portable than the laptops of the time. I had a couple of the original Compaq Aeros, running full Windows 3.11, the first with a monochrome screen. The keyboard was lovely and it had great battery life. There was Psion's own Series 7 - once again beautifully engineered and only doomed by Psion's withdrawal from the market. I had an interesting HP device - can't remember what it was called, which had a half depth screen and a funny pop out mouse on a stick, and again it worked pretty well.

    I wouldn't hold my breath for the return of the handheld - smartphones do most of what they did, and the bigger ones offer comparable screen estate ... Frustratingly what we seem to have lost are good foldable keyboards ... These days I have a Microsoft Wedge keyboard, which is a good piece of kit, and makes it feasible to work on tablets and phones, but it commits you to a slightly larger bag...

  46. jonathan donnelly

    I know its not pocket sized, but my macbook air 11" is a damn good compromise.

    10+ hours of battery life, and great performance.

    A 10" version with retina display and a smaller form factor and it would be flawless.

  47. Christian Berger Silver badge

    The problem back then was mostly the software

    The typical operating system MS-Dos, while still used well into the 1990s for games and business applications, just wasn't suitable for saving battery power or running on off-standard equipment. There was no reliable way to determine if a program was active or not, so some of those palmtops reduced their clock frequency after every keypress.

    Dedicated operating systems had their own limitations, with limited software available and often not even real file systems. Syncing them often meant manipulating badly documented RAM objects directly.

    Windows CE wasn't much better, and I remember people having swapped the original Windows CE for DOS and Windows 3.11 on early x86 compatible palmtops.

    Back then constant network connectivity also was near unimaginable. Otherwise you could have simply used those devices as terminals.

    Today we would almost have the hardware, what's missing now is proper monochrome or transflective displays and of course keyboards. As for the software, just having something PC like would be great. Today that platform is somewhat more flexible than it used to be. That way you could install any OS you'd like.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The problem back then was mostly the software

      But the advantage of DOS and WfWg3.11 was that it could be held in ROM, somethin not possible with W95 and later editions. Unfortunately, MS rather than taking WfWg and taking that forward they did something different and came up with yet another new and incompatible platform WinCE.

  48. chainman

    HP100LX was Heaven

    I could type on the keyboard with thumbs when holding it while walking and with two fingers if I set it on a desk. Seem to remember that it ran a rather long time on a pair of alkaline AAs.

    Did sort of lust after a Psion II just out of curiosity.

  49. Jim Wilkinson

    Great in their time

    I've still got several organisers - now gathering dust under my work desk. Psion Revo of course, but also the 5MX. Plus the Sony NX70 and a TH55. This last item is very similar in style to modern gadgets - but way lower specs, memory etc. None were phones of course though the last could bluetooth messages to the candybar phones of the day. That was a killer at the time (I could never get the hang of texting on candybar mobiles).

  50. Sporkinum

    terminator

    The Atari Portfolio is what young John Connor used in Terminator to hack the ATM.

  51. HildyJ

    What about my OQO 03

    I had one of the last pocket PCs - the OQO 02. It weighed a pound had a 5" screen and could fit in a pocket. It ran Windows Vista (and could be updated to 7), used an SSD, and had a slide out keyboard with a track stick, a Wacom digitizer, and 3G.

    The OQO 03 was prototyped but the company went belly up before it hit production. My personal OQO eventually died of heat death - really low voltage chips weren't available in 2008 and the fan couldn't keep the internals cool enough. If someone would produce a new version with a Bay Trail chip and everything else the same, I'd preorder it now.

  52. Duffy Moon

    Oh how I loved playing Monopoly on my Psion ...

  53. mikeFC87

    Kindle

    The original Kindles (with the keyboard) were running an old linux distro, right? How much could you do with one of those?

    I remember someone (on Reg maybe?) lamenting the loss of the keyboards on Kindles for similar reasons you want your Organiser back. Similar niche.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pandora seconded

    Now that ARM processors run many dozen times faster than the one in my old 5mx, and Linux is a not-entirely unpleasant experience, you can buy a Pandora and drop Libreoffice on it and start entering data to your heart's content. Granted, it's not as comfortable as my old mx for typing long documents, but it's got a colour touchscreen to admire the results on, and is much better at handling games for any down time. Thanks to it's rather unique keyboard, it's not great for touch typing (although some users apparently manage it), and it's not cheap, but it's the closest thing I've found to a 5mx replacement, and a significant improvement in a number of respects.

    If that's not for you, then maybe you'll be interested in the follow-up device, the Pyra. Hopefully it won't experience the development hell the Pandora went through, and if you really care about the keyboard experience, I'd suggest you go and get involved.

  55. Morten Bjoernsvik

    Toshiba Libretto

    In 1997 had a Toshiba Libretto, it was smaller than the EEEpc 701 I bought 10 years later had a tiny 640x480 screen Pentium166MHz, 32MB Ram, 2GB fast(at that time) HD, full windows95 and around 800g. The keyboard was excellent.

    I loved it. would have loved to see a computer today with the same form-factor.

  56. John Savard Silver badge

    Akibahara is where

    In Korea, as well as Japan, they had computers with perhaps the sort of form factor being sought well into the Windows XP era; here are some random examples my search turned up:

    Fujitsu Windows 7 F-07C Mobile Phone

    FlipStart

    Sony Vaio UX

    Viliv UMPC

    Everun Note

  57. Grinning Bandicoot

    Psion hinge

    My problem with the Psion was in the hinge. I used in the field to cut down on scrap notes, business cards the like. Initially the plan worked would get home and then copy to the big box. Soon as I moved the cover/screen all that I entered flushed. Somewhere, some place in a storage box it resides and if I had documentation, I probably completely destroy it trying to make it fly faster. It was fun while it lasted.

  58. ted frater

    Where does one start with pda's, It has to be " what do you want to do with it?"

    My needs, as Ive written here on the Reg, are to replicate what I do, in a simpler form on my pc.

    To whit, as a business user, write emails and texts, apart from using it as a mobile phone.

    Those of us who actually create documents letters, quotes order confirmations etc invariably use today, a pc, a white screen and black type to do so. This follows the age old way of reading , when all we has was the printed word in books.

    So many hand set pda makers tried to follow this principle and some made some superb examples within the technical limitations of the hardware available at the time.

    However, as we all know big business became dominated by bean counters, at the expense of the engineers, and the rot set in.

    This is best described as form following fashion at the expense of function.

    We all know the big makers , Samsung, Apple etc could make anything they want, including pda's and rugged handsets with big batteries, bright screens clear speakers good signal strength etc etc.

    But they dont and wont, because they have gone fo fashion and profit at the expense of function.

    Even M/soft with all their millions and their big business software products havnt asked these customers , "what would you like to see as a hand set?"

    Its going ot be small maker who will buck this fashion trend and hopefully capture this business market for long enough to get a reputation , before the big makers swamp him.

    As a an aside, ive been collecting pda's and have most of the ones meentioned in previous posts.

    theres one I found recently, beautifully made , the right size, keyboard, form factor, .

    It is made by Seiko as an oxford dictonary, called the ER 9000. Look it up,

    all it would need are modern handset innards, a colour screen , a thicker back moulding with a proper say, 3000marh battery and it would be there. Id buy it.

    But then, im an engineer and put function before fashion.

    I cant be the odd one out?

  59. Pat O'Ban

    Poqet PC

    I was given a Poqet PC after I pulled an all-nighter fixing the server software of a well-known courier. I loved the fact it ran full MS-DOS on 2 AA batteries, so I could work on the train and so on, although I mostly used it as a terminal emulator to log on to Unix servers. The modem was bigger than the PC! A few years ago I gave it to the Computer Museum in Cambridge. I have no idea if they now have room to display it.

  60. mythicalduck

    Open Pandora

    There's the OpenPandora handheld - it's a combination of a handheld gaming device and pocket computer. They're also currently designing the successor called the Pyra

    openpandora.org

  61. Shonko Kid
    Thumb Down

    Stripped down EPOC

    "EPOC had become Symbian and had much of its functionality stripped out so it could fit into smartphones"

    That's not an entirely fair comment, if you look at the initial Symbian smartphones, the Ericsson R380 and the Nokia 9210 pretty much all of the functionality that was on the 5mx was there. Of course, by the time it got to the Nokia 7650 and the SEMC P900 the functionality was there, it had just been wrapped in a much simpler UI. To say that Symbian was EPOC cut down to fit into a phone is just bad research.

  62. Shonko Kid
    Pirate

    Business case

    This is something that has perpelexed me for years, is why this form factor has seemingly been abandoned. I know a fair few people who would jump at the chance to own a modern take on this, yet all we get are ever increasing sized touch screens.

    You could (and I know people who have) write a book on a Series 5, but I doubt anyone will ever write a novel on a Galaxy Note.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Business case

      I think that's the heart of the matter. The proportion of potential uses who want a genuine "computer in the pocket" has probably remained pretty constant. But the market for selling high powered devices that are only good for updating Twitbook and posting pictures of cute kittens and/or naked "selfies" has become much bigger - and they don't want a proper keyboard as per Blackberry because you don't need that to type a handful of misspelled words without any real content (or punctuation).

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hinges

    Loved my 3a but the hinges broke with alarming regularity. Went back twice under warranty to be repaired and a third time where I had to pay myself. The unit wasn't being manhandled, it was just poor design. They just kept cracking in the same places.

    Then got a Series 5 which had had it's hinge mechanism fail under warranty. The second time they failed the thing went in the cupboard.

    Came to the conclusion that while Psion made fantastic devices with a useful OS, they couldn't make a hinge mechanism for toffee.

  64. Hyper72

    Revo

    When I joined Symbian in 2001 they gave me a Psion Revo. I loved it, coming from a Palm V and SONY Clie the keyboard was amazing and as with the Palm devices I spent much time trying to come up with some useful purpose for it in my life.

    Apart from EBook reading it was not until I got the first useful Nokia smartphone, the 7650, later with a £1 per MB corporate data plan, that pocket devices became useful for me. EMail, ICQ during boring meetings...

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Bugger the jetpack" no no no no.

    If someone from the 1950's timetraveled to today, they would be so dissapointed.

    we don't have clean energy powering this world.

    we don't have fusion

    we have not been to mars, or even returned to the moon

    there is still much world poverty

    we don't even have decent batteries that can power cars

    We got fast internet(for some) tablets and big tv's. yay.

  66. sambro

    Such a beautifully-written article, but missing a few details. No mention of the PsiXpda? It had the Psion form factor and ran Windows XP. It was well reviewed but poorly advertised, and the company went bust in 2011. Old units are still available.

    I started with a Psion 3a, then 3c and 3mx. I wrote dissertations on them, programmed my own apps, and ran courses for university staff. (Imho, Steve Litchfield's "Fairway" golf simulator was a masterpiece of efficient programming.) The 5mx was physically well designed, but I found it quite buggy and inflexible in some ways. The Series 7 netbook was nifty, but soon eclipsed by standard laptops.

    When Psion was discontinued, I switched to a Palm Tungsten C and wrote a PhD on it. Discontinued in 2004. Then I used the Fujitsu Stylistic series of 2000/XP slates: which were fabulous until they switched to Android. So now I'm trying to get by with a Samsung Galaxy S3 and an MS Surface Pro, which are both quite capable but awkward to use if you're trying to "produce rather than consume". Every device now seems to involve a compromise. I yearn for an instant-on handheld machine with a usable physical keyboard ... any ideas?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      PsiXPda = eKing S515 = Huawei sumthing?

      When Orlowski wrote about the PsiXPda, well-informed commentards pointed out that it was nothing but a rebadged eKing S515 which in turn was a rebadged Huawei box of some flavour. Orlowski agreed.

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/12/07/psioneers_return/

      1. PEPSICO

        Re: PsiXPda = eKing S515 = Huawei sumthing?

        PsiXpda or Eking / Eking or PsiXpda which came first, dilemma-dilemm-dilemma

        Fact,” a shared production line to reduce cost production”

  67. Dr Andrew A. Adams

    You missed a more recent device. The Sharp PC-Z1 was a linux (ubuntu)-running netbook spec barely bigger than a Psion 5. I finally replaced my beloved 5 with one of these when they came out in 2009 and I'm still running it.

    My tablet is an Asus Transformer. If Asus brought out a phone-sized or Phablet transformer that might persuade me to replace the PC-Z1.

  68. Jay 2

    I started with a Psion Siena (the 3 series was a bit too expensive for me at the time, as was the 5): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psion_Siena It was OK, though kept falling out of my top pocket. It allowed me to to keep track of my overtime in the run up to Y2K and the dot com boom!

    After that I went to a Palm V, which I quite liked and in the end turned out to be a bit more useful than the Psion. Strangely I had sort-of dismissed my mate's Palm III (or soem varient) to get the Psion, so I could have saved myself money/grief.

    The Palm was replaced by a Dell Axim X3i or X30 (I forget which). Whilst on the up side it had such nice things as a colour screen, WiFi and Bluetooth, it also had the nastiness that was Windows CE (or whatever it had been rebranded as at the time). To be honest it was a nightmare to configure as you were never really sure if settings had taken or not given the "not-quite-Windows" look/feel. Not helped by 3rd party software that was thrown on top. I recall that sorting WiFi out was a particular hassle.

    Then that went, and I must have moved to phones I could sync with PC, so that would be S-E T610, Nokia N70 then N73, a work Blackberry 8900 Curve, an iPad2 and finally an iPhone 4S. And for a small device to do stuff I had an Asus EEE 701 for a while, which was great!

  69. DrGoon

    I agree with Liam that there is an untargeted niche waiting to be properly exploted here. Bluetooth keyboards attached to minor fondleslabs are what we're getting by with today, but it is clear that something more elegant and convenient is possible. I don't think it needs to be priced near unknown brand fondleslabs to be a success - the (limited) market can certainly support a well made device with an Apple price tag initially. Depending on how well it is executed it could survive past the rise of the inevitable knock-offs.

  70. Floydian Slip
    Coat

    I remember when i was consulting for a legal practice....

    I was working with a rather large firm of solicitors at the beginning of the noughies and they were looking to significantly upgrade their IT infrastructure - letting the solicitors have laptops so they could be productive away from the office as well as telephony and other changes.

    I started by asking all the key partners and lawyers how they used IT currently and whether there was anything that would make them more productive.

    All of the criminal lawyers [those that worked in criminal law, not the lawyers who were criminal] just reminded me of their role and that they "knew" some "not very nice people".

    It wasn't told in a threatening way, more of a light hearted and jocular fashion. However it did serve to emphasize how attached they were to their Psions.

    Seeing as they typically went through a Psion 5 each about once every couple of years I simply suggested that they hot-footed it to the nearest John Lewis, who were selling remainder stock off cheaply, and buy 3-4 each.

    They did, and as far as I am aware, they're probably still using them now for discrete note taking during trials and a little light entertainment whilst waiting for courts to return.

    Mines the one with the HTC One in the pocket....best phone I've had and, even after a year, I've not found anything that would really make me want to change

  71. Floydian Slip
    Coat

    Psion 5s and some "not very nice people"

    I was working with a rather large firm of solicitors at the beginning of the noughies and they were looking to significantly upgrade their IT infrastructure - letting the solicitors have laptops so they could be productive away from the office as well as telephony and other changes.

    I started by asking all the key partners and lawyers how they used IT currently and whether there was anything that would make them more productive.

    All of the criminal lawyers [those that worked in criminal law, not the lawyers who were criminal] just reminded me of their role and that they "knew" some "not very nice people".

    It wasn't told in a threatening way, more of a light hearted and jocular fashion. However it did serve to emphasize how attached they were to their Psions.

    Seeing as they typically went through a Psion 5 each about once every couple of years I simply suggested that they hot-footed it to the nearest John Lewis, who were selling remainder stock off cheaply, and buy 3-4 each.

    They did, and as far as I am aware, they're probably still using them now for discrete note taking during trials and a little light entertainment whilst waiting for courts to return.

    Mines the one with the HTC One in the pocket....best phone I've had and, even after a year, I've not found anything that would really make me want to change

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Psion 5s and some "not very nice people"

      This must be the first time I've ever read a dit about the IT department being threatened for offering to upgrade users' kit.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still have my original one

    Sad but true; I still have my Psion Organiser I, with whopping 32KB EEPROM.... With all the relocating I've done - Ive lost the original manual, but managed to re-discover the RS-232 Comms Link manual...

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Psion v Newton

    Like CyKey, one-handed text entry could also be very successfully done on the version 2 Newton devices. That's what kept me off Psions. I got very high accuracy with the handwriting recognition, and found the gesture interface incredibly intuitive. I still wish I could scrub out text on current devices. Sad that the version 1 Newtons had ruined the reputation. Typing with two thumbs while holding a Psion was slower than writing on Newton 2, and harder work. Newton was just starting to gain traction when it was Steved.

    The inevitability of the Newton interface looms. In thirty years time handheld devices will be like small Newton Messagepads, because voice input is too ambiguous, chord typing is too confusing, and everyone will always know how to write on a notepad.

  74. John Doe 6

    Me think...

    ...you missed the Nokia Communicator which was as good as the Psion. The start up time was of course slower but being also a phone it was on all the time.

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