[CM] Bugger the jetpack, I want a 21st century Psion

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RS Wood

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Mar 9, 2014, 3:02:35 PM3/9/14
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From the «yeah, me too» department:
Title: Bugger the jetpack, where's my 21st-century Psion?
Author: Liam Proven
Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2014 06:04:09 -0500
Link: http://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.co.uk/2014/03/07/bugger_my_jetpack_wheres_my_21stcentury_psion/

Forgotten form factors #2: The handheld PC

Way back in 2011 we covered[1] 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.…

Links:
[1]: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/10/portable_writing_tool/ (link)

Oregonian Haruspex

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Mar 9, 2014, 8:22:00 PM3/9/14
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Today we have tablets and smartphones and netbooks and Ultrabooks...

RS Wood

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Mar 10, 2014, 6:00:33 AM3/10/14
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Sure, they're different devices and are good/useful for different
reasons. (I happen to hate the word "ultrabook" though. It speaks
more of marketing than of actual device distinction.

If you've ever had your hands on a Psion though you'd see they really
were great devices in a way the others aren't. I wouldn't trade in my
smart phone now because of its superior email, contact lists, and
calendar. But I find that when I want to write while on a bus or
something, the Psion was awesome in ways my modern devices aren't.
Real keyboard, runs on two AA batteries for months, and no Internet! (a
benefit when you're trying to concentrate on your writing).

I wrote about mine here:
"http://therandymon.com/index.php?/171-The-Psion-5-For-Writers-on-the-Move.html"

Oh well, time passes and devices become obsolete. But I will remember
my Psion fondly, and if a modern device came out that replicated that
form factor I'd be certainly tempted by it. In the meantime I've got
my Note 3 and a Bluetooth keyboard, which isn't bad at all.
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RS Wood

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Mar 10, 2014, 7:37:08 AM3/10/14
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On Mon, 10 Mar 2014 11:10:19 +0000
Tim Streater <timst...@greenbee.net> wrote:

> In article <2014031010003...@therandymon.com>, RS Wood
> <r...@therandymon.com> wrote:
>
> > If you've ever had your hands on a Psion though you'd see they really
> > were great devices in a way the others aren't. I wouldn't trade in my
> > smart phone now because of its superior email, contact lists, and
> > calendar. But I find that when I want to write while on a bus or
> > something, the Psion was awesome in ways my modern devices aren't.
> > Real keyboard, runs on two AA batteries for months, and no Internet! (a
> > benefit when you're trying to concentrate on your writing).
>
> Real keyboard a serious minus - something mechanical to go wrong. Agree
> on the batteries however. Other thing that was cute but ultimately a
> waste of time was the supplied programming language. Should have put
> the effort into apps instead, of which there were not enough. Otherwise
> it's like early PCs: supplied with Basic and not much else.


You're right about the keyboard being a point of failure, but neither
my Psion 5 nor my Psion 5MX had keyboard trouble, fortunately. On the
other hand I suffered personally from their other known physical
failure points: that stupid internal, flexible video cable that
eventually snaps (severing your video), and the weak hinges that
eventually break (making the clamshell open/close ridiculous).

To this day there's a guy earning decent money replacing those screen
cables. http://www.psionflexi.co.uk/home.htm He got some of my money,
once, and it was worth it as it gave my Psion5 another couple of years'
life.

There's clearly someone at the Register (http://theregister.co.uk) with
a love for Psions. They publish an article like this every year or
so. This article links to a good retrospective they did in 2011.

Paul Sture

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Mar 10, 2014, 4:50:14 PM3/10/14
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On 2014-03-10, Tim Streater <timst...@greenbee.net> wrote:
> In article <2014031010003...@therandymon.com>, RS Wood
><r...@therandymon.com> wrote:
>
>> If you've ever had your hands on a Psion though you'd see they really
>> were great devices in a way the others aren't. I wouldn't trade in my
>> smart phone now because of its superior email, contact lists, and
>> calendar. But I find that when I want to write while on a bus or
>> something, the Psion was awesome in ways my modern devices aren't.
>> Real keyboard, runs on two AA batteries for months, and no Internet! (a
>> benefit when you're trying to concentrate on your writing).
>
> Real keyboard a serious minus - something mechanical to go wrong.

I had several Psions and never had a keyboard problem. The first one,
a Psion 3a, gave several years of totally reliable service, but was
constricted in terms of memory IIRC.

I wish I could say the same for the Series 5, which didn't last long enough
to make a further purchase worthwhile IMO. I had two goes with 'em then
wasn't prepared to throw good money after bad.

No European wide warranty either. I saved quite a chunk of money by buying
the last one in Manchester Airport's duty free shop, but to get a warranty
repair I was supposed to take it back there. The cost of return air fare,
not to mention what else I'd spend on a trip back to Blightly meant it
didn't get returned.

> Agree on the batteries however.

If I could avoid using the serial or parallel cables they were good for
about 4 weeks. Those cables would quickly turn that into a couple of days.

The other problem with them was

a) the lack of a mains power supply. We had one on order for at least a
year to work, but it never materialised. I don't think they were any
more than vapourware.
b) the flash disks were a proprietary thing and worse still, incompatible
between the Series 3 and the Series 5. It was a question of "Have data,
have no means of accessing it" when the Series 3 packed up.

> Other thing that was cute but ultimately a waste of time was the
> supplied programming language. Should have put the effort into apps
> instead, of which there were not enough. Otherwise it's like early PCs:
> supplied with Basic and not much else.

I did get the SDK and there was an emulator for a PC you could use for
development on a decent sized screen. I got chucked off with the
unreliability of the hardware before I got too deep into that though.

--
Paul Sture
"No flying cars yet?", he wrote from a 2 inch by 4 inch pocket computer
instantaneously to subscribers worldwide using only his right thumb.
-- @wjflowers

Tom Cole

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Mar 10, 2014, 8:23:15 PM3/10/14
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On Mon, 10 Mar 2014 21:50:14 +0100, Paul Sture <nos...@sture.ch>
wrote:

>
>I had several Psions and never had a keyboard problem. The first one,
>a Psion 3a, gave several years of totally reliable service, but was
>constricted in terms of memory IIRC.
>
I started with the Psion 3C, upgraded to the 3mx, and then switched to
the Diamond Mako (a US re-badged Psion Revo). Actually it is still
going strong!

Keyboard is still good and it only needs charging once a week. I
seldom close it (just leave it open on my desk) unless I'm traveling.

My killer applications are Agenda (of course), Spell, and RMRBank.
Also it is very useful to be able to knock up a quick spreadsheet.

I bought the Mako plus 2 spares for $99US each in 2001 when the US
company was shedding stock, and I'm still using the 1st one.

There's nothing out there to replace it.
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