That Psion feeling. It never leaves you.

Photo 05-03-2017, 10 08 07

For those of you who did not experience the Psion PDAs, you maybe think that those of us who bang on and on about them are just wishing to go back in time in a rose coloured time machine.

We are, sort of.

It was a time when there were few computing products in the market and when few people even owned computers, but this object appeared that was not hugely expensive and which could do many different things.

I won’t go into detail here because I have covered it many times before, but the reason the Gemini PDA struck a chord with some of us was because of how the Psions worked and why they still feel fresh today.

The apps worked with each other and in some cases provided productive flexibility that no portable device has since. The calendar and contacts apps were fantastic and helped me a great deal in the early 90’s, and ultimately drew me into the world of mobile technology. With the ability to add new apps and game (in my case by posting a memory card to Steve Litchfield for him to install them) and an ease of use that showed how much care has been put in to the OS, it felt like the future had arrived, it truly did.

Photo 05-03-2017, 10 09 10

However, it was the reliability and practicality that did it for me. A month of battery from 2 AA batteries was seriously impressive, the way the hinge mechanism worked was even more so and the sheer reliability of the hardware and software have only been matched by what I see in newer iPhones.

There were problems of course (ribbon cables), but those of us who really want to see a device like this re-appear are not doing so purely on sentiment. We are doing so because the Psions offered an experience that has never been replicated in any mobile product since, and it was an experience which with some tweaks would not feel out of place 2 decades later.

Categories: Articles

15 replies

  1. My history will always lead me to be a Palm nostalgia loyalist (and it’s amusing having a first gen on my bedstand, scratching out occasional “journal” notes is really pleasant) but still, always respect what I know of the Psion.

    It didn’t have sync’ing to PC, did it? Besides the form factor that prophesied the iPhone, maybe that’s the other thing Palm really brought. Something now on the verge of swamped by connectivity and cloudy options, but still – knowing that I had a post-disaster plan of “put new hardware device on cradle, press button” was terrific (and getting new programs didn’t involve the post office)

  2. This got me thinking about games on Psion in general. I ran into which also mentioned OPL, built in… so probably a more fun device for programming on the go than a Palm, but PocketC was a lot of fun…

  3. That was cool to have a look back at what Tom did, I used a lot of the same stuff on my Palm. The Psion for me was like a mini computer, but the Palm or the Pocket PC were so something you just had at hand when you needed it. But they frustrated me in the fact that they couldn’t do everything the Psion could, without the help of a computer. Stil, they all had their different uses and problems. I have fond memories, but I prefer the set up I have now!

  4. Though I started with the Series 3, it was the 5mx that was my mini computer btw!!

  5. Heh, managed to snag a copy of Igzo (hopefullly the 13Kb zip didn’t strain my wifi too much) – I’ll see if i can put it on an SD card and try it.

    There was a solid version of SF Cave as well that was legit fun. Also I conceptually liked but never got into a tribute to old 8-bit “Elite” called “Void”.

  6. I do love this site sometimes – though then I worry we’d qualify for a page in 😀

  7. Sometimes I wish “LOL” was only used literally, ’cause I did.

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