Monday, May 23, 2016

Psion 5MX Impresive even if its 17 years old

The Psion 5MX

Hi All,

     Last week I was doing my weekly round on the flea market when a PDA got my attention, the last PDA that got my attention is the IBM PDA8602-20X but thats just beacuse it had the IBM logo, as I`m not a very big fan of PDA`s.

     I bought this PDA for 2 bucks as it looked like new. (Picture is from the net) The other reason I bought this 17 year old computer was the fact that the clam-shell design and folding keyboard is just awesome!
     I cleaned it well with some light alcohol and inserted 2XAA batteries. It powers up perfect, touchscreen works, keyboard, everything! Now I started Googling about this machine and also on the Internet Archive  and it seems this 17 year product without doubt is one of the most loved electronic organizers of the modern world, the Psion, in particular the 5MX
The UK firm Psion’s machines in particular (the 3-series and the 5-series) are singled out for devoted praise, being well-designed writing tools with good built-in software and a programming language (OPL) that let end-users easily write new applications of their own.

The MX5 model is a targeted device that a lot of geeks had managed to overrun its performance by changing the software or modding the keyboard in such a way they can use it for their laptop or phone as external. The quality of the keyboard is nothing less than a good laptop keyboard. The feeling is not of a PDA but a normal size notebook. 

These machines were loved by journalists, writers, and even soldiers on the front line. Then the world moved on to tablets and smartphones so PSION stopped production in the early 2000. There was a much modern variant of the 5mx called the PsiXda that ran Windows XP, but it had disappointing battery life and launched at the same time as the iPad. R.I.P. :)

Would you use one on the daily basis in 2016?

First impressions:

They are bigger than the new smartphone standard, heavier and not easily pocketable. However they are rock solid and the quality of the materials that were used tend to premium, the keyboard of the 5mx can take some serious hammering.

In its time the embedded software on the MX5, the EPOC system, was trully powerfull, the excell sheets and word processor was very well balanced for day to day business activities. 

In 2016, with a 36 MHZ processor you are rated at 3% of processing power of today's equivalents (like your smartphone). It's still pretty... as long as you don't need any form of music, videos, internet, camera, Bluetooth, WiFi, e-Mail, etc. The word-processor, spreadsheet and especially the PIM functions are powerful and intuitive even today, though online syncing is obviously not practical. I mean... you receive emails on your Computer than you transfer them to your PDA to read them later? Who does that? I mean... who`s got the time in 2016?
Documents Window on the MX5

You want to upgrade your system so you can browse the net over a IRDA adapter modem type? 


A guy just put some version of Linux on this machine and he stated that snails can move faster than the internet connection or the OS itself. But lets forget the limitations: it's the form factor of this machine that's important. There is, as far as I'm aware, nothing like this today! The keyboard take up more space than the monochrome, green-back lit screens.

These are production tools first, consumption devices is clearly a distant second, and with no worries about battery life. This device can run for 25-40 hours from a pair of AA cells, with the standby time measurable in weeks and months.

Most of Psion's engineering teams went on to work at successful companies such as TomTom and Apple and it's not hard to see why: the design and implementation of these machines was nearly faultless. A device that tends to perfection!
MX5 32MB

The Psions make writing enjoyable, dissolving the barrier between thoughts and the written word. Even slider keyboards on smartphones don't come close.
Maybe I will upgrade my MX5 with a Raspberry Pi... I Googled, nobody has done so :)

Meanwhile, if George RR Martin can write his Game of Thrones books on a DOS PC running WordStar, there's no shame in using retro kit like this to produce content without distraction.

Since I bought this machine a week ago I decided to write an article on it and then export the word document to My Computer (Windows 10 machine) using an IRDA dongle.
Of course I could write my next article on my laptop, phone or tablet, but I think its going to be more pleasurable to use my own MX5 clam shell PDA.


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