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The Psion Series 5 Remembered

Over at The Verge you can find this review of the Psion Series 5 by Adi Robertson. Its an interesting piece which looks at the Psion's decades old hardware with a modern eye. Unsurprisingly it turns out to be pretty bad, especially when trying to connect it to anything modern. What did you expect?
What the story doesn't tell you is that the Psion Series 5 was just as terrible when it was brand new, funky keyboard nothwithstanding. I can hear the sound of PDA old-timer's jaws dropping as I write this, but unfortunately it is true.
My history with Psion goes back to the Organizer II which was not an organiser in any way, shape or form. It was a very good programmable computer for mobile users, with the ability to store and run programs on ludicrously expensive memory packs. Psion evolved through the 3 and 3c, before the arrival of the 5 and latterly the 5mx.
I never really got on with any of them. The concept of a keyboard on a device this big was ludicrous, the clamshell design never worked well for content consumption or creation (as Robertson found out) thanks to its extreme letterbox format which gave you a very wide but short view on whatever you were doing.
The Palm III, a contemporary of the Series 5, did things so much better and when that was replaced by the Palm V, the first device to make a virtue of being smaller than the competition, Psion's goose was cooked. The 5mx, the updated version released to compete, was unreliable to a previously unheard of level and within months of release was competing with colour screened devices from Palm, Casio, HP and most significantly Compaq.
The Psion's operating was folded into Symbian, where it managed to power a generation of truly awful Nokia smartphones before famously becoming the 'burning platform' that Nokia jumped from, straight into the arms of Microsoft. And we know how well that turned out.
So an outwardly competent device that managed to be terrible to use, quickly outdated, hugely unreliable and brought down the original powerhouses of the PDA and mobile phone markets.
They should have sold it in yellow.


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