Computers You Should Know

Organizing Your Life The Psion Way

Psion Series 3a


Its time to step back and remember the devices that led to that smart phone and tablet you use daily. Today we start with the Psion series of handheld.


Psion Series 3c


This week we learned that the Motorola not owned by Google had purchased the Psion handheld company. This started a lot of us down the twelve steps path. First we started to dig through our old tech junk drawers in hopes of finding our tired old companion. Next we remembered that we had given to a friend in need a of a PDA and took comfort in that shiny new tablet sitting next to us. Still to more then a small handful of us this wouldn’t be enough. So we headed over to our favorite auction sites to get a replacement only to find that the prices now make this prohibitive. So what do you do when you can’t afford to replace an old piece of technology? You sit back and reminisce.


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Psion memory modules


For those of you under the age of 35 you may be asking yourself a simple question. What is it that I am looking at? Well that’s easy, this is the Psion personal organizer. Which is a nice way of saying personal data assistant. Think of the Psion as the Linux of today’s world. While everyone else was starting to walk around with various Palm devices there was a more business oriented competitor.

Psion allowed you to create programs for your devices. This led to a community that existed to support and enhance the Psion series of handhelds with free programs. In today’s world it was very much an app mind set.  So you could either buy the programs on memory cards or you could install them directly to your devices. Sure you could get programs for you Palm Pilot as well but this was different.

Well no it wasn’t really different but it didn’t seem the same either. You thought you knew something special that others didn’t. Even after they shipped a million and a half of these they were still pretty unknown among the normal population. Which is why after more then a decade of making these Psion moved to industrial hardware; such as the first Netbook but lets not start the argument.

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Living La Vida Loca at 56k or as fast as AOL would allow


I was given a Psion 3 and then a 5 back in 1993 and 1995. Once you moved your life to the little box you would find you couldn’t live without it. Something that is being said of tablets today. It was small enough to fit into a pocket or a woman’s handbag easily. It could even dial a phone number from your address book. It portended the future two decades early. With the full keyboard you never had to learn to scribble like Palm forced you to do. It was a handheld computer in a computerized world. The right form factor for the time. My guess is that I am not the only one who will miss our little handhelds.

[all images copyright]



  • jakebonz

    I can't say for certain, but I think I may have played around with one of these before. Back in college, working in a tech support role for a campus-affiliated research institute, I found this (or something very similar) cleaning out a storage area in our office. Considering this was pre-netbook-era and the fact that I had (still have) a HP Pavilion zd8000, I was rather amused by it's diminutive size. I spent the next few days teaching myself how it worked before I eventually became bored with it.