Any former Psion 5 owners out there?

Liam Proven lproven at
Mon Jul 19 20:30:36 CDT 2010

On 19 July 2010 21:37, Tony Duell <ard at> wrote:
>> On 18 July 2010 20:25, Tony Duell <ard at> wrote:
>> > The HP95LX/100LX (and I assume the 200LX, although I have never used one)
>> > have 1 feature that is essential for me, and another that is highly
>> > desirable.
>> >
>> > The first is a good terminal emulator, with plain text, kermit and xmodem
>> > up/down loading.
>> I'm sure you're right, but in all my years on the Psion 5/5mx, I never
>> ever used a terminal emulator, as far as I can recall.
> As I said, it depends on what you use the machine for. 99% of users want
> a device to carry data from their desktop machine (appointments, phone
> number database ,etc) around. I don't. I sue my palmtop as a tool for
> fixing classic computers. And a temrinal that I can fit just about
> anywhere (rather than having to get a real VT100 to fit in somewhere) is
> very useful.
>> The series 3 had one in ROM, but the ROM was in the serial interface.
>> Plug in the RS232 cable, suddenly, a VT100/200 app became available.
>> :=AC)
> Right. The serial port is built into the HP machines you just need a
> cable, and it is a simple cable with no internal electronics (I've built
> enough of them over the years...)

I am very happy to say that I have not used a serial port for anything
in a good 2-3y now, and not for anything more than a very occasional
sync of my Psion 7book (and one old PC - Freecycled away a couple of
years ago - with a serial mouse) since the turn of the century. There
were only a small number of times in the late 1990s.

I really hate RS232. It is the most troublesome interface of any kind
on any computer I've ever used. I celebrate its disappearance with joy
and I hope never to have to use such a port again. All the crap with
baud rates, stop bits, parity bits, flow control and all that hateful
1960s-ish nonsense is just a fading memory now and I hope I never have
to refresh it.

Apple did serial ports right on the Mac. You plugged things in, they
worked, thankyou and goodnight. But try interfacing non-Apple kit to
Macs, or to anything else, and the horror-story of RS232 dropped you
into the nightmare of RS423 and so on. I shudder to recall.

I really like USB. For storage, I preferred Firewire, but that's going
away now, sadly. But USB works, is wonderfully versatile, fairly
idiot-proof and does everything I want or need: keyboard, mice,
scanners, printers, storage, modems and networking once in a blue
moon... It's terrific.

> The advantage of having it built-in, in ROM, is that it's always there.
> If the batteries have gone so flat that the memory is lost, you can put
> in a couple more AA cells (and those are available _anywhere_) and have a
> working terminal again. No need to have to find some way to download
> something to the machine. And you can bet that the batteries will be flat
> when you're called to fix some obscure machine somewhere, well away from
> your workshop/PC.

Not an issue. I kept all the software on my S5 and 7book on a
CompactFlash card, so it was non-volatile and survived power loss,
flat batteries etc.

>> Primarily, the machines were a pocket database/diary, secondly a
>> writing tool, thirdly mobile phone backup & SMS messagebase
>> management, and peripheral to these, a calculator and occasional web
>> browser. I tried out the email but never actually used it apart from
>> the occasional emergency.
> Most of those applications I would have no use for at all.

/De gustibus non est disputandam./ However, I would point out that,
quite aside from my personal life, in my career as a field engineer
and general IT bod, my Psions were great helps to me. They held my
appointment books, my client contact details, and numerous databases
of reference info, from RSR232 (F/X: *spit*) pinouts and PC I/O port
and IRQ assignments, standard definitions, command references and all
sorts. That, surely, would be of use to you?

> Hmmm. I found (and this is not atypical from discussions with others)
> that it takes a couple of hours at most to learn to use an RPN
> calcualtor, but after that you never want to go back. It's simply so much
> more convnient and easy to use. You don;'t ahve to worry aobut the order
> of operations -- the operatios are performed in the order you type them.
> So remembering whether -2^4 is (-2)^4 or -(2^4) is not a problem any more.

I very rarely use a calculator at all any more - usually just for
totting up bills and things. I am perfectly happy with conventional
arithmetic, never find it a limitation or hazard, and generally
dislike having to adapt my habits to the patterns of logic of
machines. The purpose of computers is as an aid to my mind; they, I
feel, should come to me, not me to them. Thus I never learned, nor
even tried to, any assembly language or machine code; I bought faster
computers and continued to use BASIC. I dislike C, Perl and so on. I
seldom used to use hex, preferring decimal and binary.

There is of course an art to finding the right balance, but I tend to
favour ease over efficiency, simplicity over complexity and so on.

Liam Proven • Profile & links:
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