One thing several people have asked for in recent months
is a comprehensive roundup of all Psion pocket computers and software, past and
present. Now, I did this in Palmtop
magazine (issue 20, backissues still available) and republished
here in fairly gory detail, covering even
David Potter's beginnings and the Sinclair software days, but I'd like to
concentrate here on a summary of the hardware. Most importantly, I've also
included comments on second-hand prices where relevant, which should aid you in
your search for older equipment.
Dr Potter's original concept was the Organiser, a
one-piece information store with an alphabetic keyboard and a tough sliding
plastic cover. Basically just a flat-file database and clock feeding
information onto a one line LCD display, the Organiser fired the imaginations
of both end-users and developers. On the second-hand market their value to
serious collectors is over a hundred pounds, due to their rarity, especially in
Over the years from 1984 to the present day, the Organiser
was developed and refined, with most models classed in the Organiser II range.
Typical was the LZ64 with 64k of onboard memory and a 4 line display. These
machines are still used in some companies, as data collection devices, due to
their legendary ruggedness. On the second-hand market, their value is
negligible, and you can often pick them up at car boot sales for under ten
Psion's first stab at what is now called the laptop
market. Brilliantly innovative for their time, with touch-pad, long battery
life and a graphical user interface, the MC range was priced far too high for
most of its life and it failed to sell at all well. Still loved by many, these
machines can raise up to hundred pounds on the second-hand market. The '600'
variant was a horrible kludge that ran MS-DOS and is best avoided. The 'WORD'
version was easily the best, incorporating an early version of the Series 3's
best-selling word processor.
Developed at the same time as the MC range, with a little
of the original Organiser thinking, and usually seen running it's own version
of DOS, the HC was designed specifically for company use, with hardware and
software addons suitable for scanning, probing etc. Rarely seen in the
Series 3 ('Classic')
Launched in 1991. The original 'clam-shell' organiser, the
Series 3 boasted 128 or 256k of main memory and a fully graphical, though
keyboard driven, user interface. The bedrock on which modern Psion PDAs are
founded, and with a full set of 'office' applications, the Series 3 'Classic'
is still a good little computer and worth £20 or so second-hand in good
Launched in 1993. A significant development of the Series
3 concept, the 3a was made available in 256 and 512k variants originally and
then 1 and 2Mb versions later on, with built-in spell-checker and a patience
game. The 480 by 160 screen really did justice to the SIBO multi-tasking
operating system and a 3a can still fetch £40 second-hand if in good
The final redesign of the rugged Organiser concept, the
rubberised Workabout is the perfect company field workhorse. A subset of the
SIBO applications are built-in, but most Workabouts spend their lives running
bespoke company software and attached to wierd and wonderful devices out in the
'real world'. Rarely seen in private hands.
A refinement of the 3a, the 1996 3c boasted a 57k serial
port (3 times faster than that of the 3a) and a (non standard) infrared port,
plus on later models a backlight. Available in 1 and 2Mb versions, the 3c can
usually be obtained for around £70 second-hand.
Also released in 1996, the Siena was Psion's attempt to
create a new market. Smaller and lighter, with a half-size screen, the Siena
had most of the usual SIBO applications. Now sadly fading away, it always trod
a delicate line between appealing to people who wanted a 'real' computer and
those just needing an organiser to store phone numbers etc. Priced rather too
high originally, like the MC range, and with an unreliable keyoard and a
reputation for fragility, the Siena can now be found for around £40
second-hand. Available in 512k and 1Mb varieties.
The final 16-bit SIBO variant, the 1998 3mx wore a
hard-wearing bullet-grey finish, had 2Mb of memory and featured a triple-speed
processor and 115k serial port. Since Psion discontinued the line at the end of
1999, the 3mx has been in some demand, as the 'ultimate Series 3', fetching
over £150 second-hand.
Series 5 'classic'
Despite criticisms over its paint finish, build quality
and screen contrast, the Series 5 sold well throughout the world between 1997
and 1999. It featured a touch-screen, a truly great keyboard, real
multi-tasking 32-bit operating system, a standard IRDA infrared port for
wireless connectivity and a truck-load of built-in software. You can get a good
Series 5 for around £60 on the second-hand market if you shop around,
although take a close look at the case for cracks and the screen for
ribbon-cable cut-out problems before buying.
Launched in June 1999. Building on all the features of the
original Series 5, the 5mx has significantly enhanced and optimised software
(EPOC Release 5), together with 16Mb of memory and twice the processor power. A
Java 'machine' appears on EPOC for the first time in the 5mx, giving access to
interactive web pages and a lot more. On the second hand market, these can
fetch reasonable prices, up to £120.
Launched in September 1999, the '7' was aimed at whole new
markets for Psion. Competing directly with traditional Windows sub-notebooks,
the Series 7 offered the standard ER5 software in a larger format. Colour,
touch-sensitive screen and both CF and PC-Card slots. Shipped with 16Mb of
memory as standard, expandable to 32. Typical second hand prices start at about
£120. An 'industrial' variant, with the OS loaded in from CF card, was
also launched, called the netBook, with more RAM, faster processor and
other higher spec components.
Launched in October 1999, the Psion Revo also marked some
firsts (for Psion). With built-in rechargable batteries, supplied mains adaptor
and docking cradle, tiny form factor and super-reflective screen, the Revo was
just about the smallest useable Internet device available. Launched with 8MB of
RAM, a non-backlit screen and running ER5. Second hand models usually start at
Launched in September 2000, the Psion Revo Plus
was basically a Revo with twice the memory. 16MB should be enough for most
users though, and the 'Plus' model does include some nice extras on CD,
including registered versions of the Opera web browser and the Psion WAP
browser. Second hand models usually start at around £70.