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Psion Series 5 mx pro with EPOC Release 5

The British company Psion Plc. [ ˈSaɪən ] was one of the leading manufacturers of electronic organizers in the 1990s and is one of the co-inventors of this device class. Models following the model Psion Organizer II were no longer marketed as organizers, but as Psion PDA .

Until 2012, the company based in London , England, offered PDAs, smartphones and electronic organizers with the Windows CE operating system and wireless networks for industrial applications under the name Psion .

On 15 June 2012. took over Motorola Solutions , the company for 200 million dollars . In 2014 Motorola sold its Enterprise Solutions business including Symbol Technologies and Psion to Zebra Technologies . As of April 2015, Zebra no longer offers any products under these brands, so that Psion devices that can be purchased come from remaining stocks.


Historical logo

The Psion company was founded in 1980 by David E. Potter (* 1943 in South Africa ). The acronym stands for " P otter S cientific I nstruments O r N othing". Psion initially dealt with computer games for home computers such as the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (best known was Psion Chess ) and the office programs for the Sinclair QL (word processing Quill , spreadsheet Abacus , database archive , business graphics Easel ), which was later named PC- 4 was also offered in a version for MS-DOS and was surprisingly easy to use and stable for the time.

1984 appeared with the Organizer I, the first portable computer or electronic organizer with keyboard and long battery life from Psion. The later devices Series 3 (from 1991) and Series 5 (from 1997) set standards in terms of reliability and user-friendliness. In particular, the ease of use of the keyboard in such a small device is worth mentioning. Nevertheless, Psion increasingly lost market share compared to keyboardless PDAs (especially from Palm, now PalmOne ) and discontinued the production of electronic organizers as a consumer product in 2002.

Psion developed its own operating systems called SIBO and EPOC for its electronic organizers . The further development of the EPOC32 operating system was incorporated into Symbian Ltd. in 1998 . outsourced, in which besides Psion also Ericsson , Motorola and Nokia were involved. In 2004 Psion sold its shares in Symbian, which was then the market leader in smartphone operating systems.

After the operating system division was outsourced and organizer production was discontinued, the Canadian company Teklogix, which was acquired in 2002, remains the only manufacturing part of the company. PDAs, smartphones and electronic organizers with the Windows CE operating system and wireless networks for industrial applications are manufactured under the name Psion Teklogix . After the discontinuation of netpad and netBook pro on July 1, 2006 due to the EU RoHS regulation "lead-free solder", the Workabout MX (with SIBO operating system) remains the only real Psion device on offer.

Psion devices

  • Psion Organizer I
  • Psion Organizer II CM / XP / LZ / LZ64
  • Psion HC 100/110/120/150
  • Psion MC 200/400/600
  • Psion series 3
  • Psion series 3a
  • Psion Siena
  • Psion series 3c
  • Psion series 5
  • Psion workabout
  • Psion series 3mx
  • Psion series 5mx
  • Psion series 5mx pro
  • (Ericsson MC218 Communicator)
  • Psion workabout mx
  • Psion Revo
  • Psion Revo plus (sold as Diamond Mako in the US)
  • Psion 618c (Chinese version of Psion Revo)
  • Psion Series 7
  • Psion netBook
  • Psion netpad
  • Psion Revo Conan (prototype of a Revo plus with Symbian OS 6 enhanced by Bluetooth and backlighting, never on the market)
  • Psion LX (prototype of a netBook pro with its own Linux distribution. Discontinued shortly before completion)

Compatible devices with SIBO operating system

  • Acorn Pocketbook (equivalent to Series 3)
  • Acorn Pocketbook II (corresponds to Series 3a)
  • Xemplar Pocketbook III (corresponds to series 3mx)

Compatible devices with EPOC operating system

  • Geofox One (licensed product with extended hardware compared to Series 5 classic, EPOC ER3)
  • Oregon Scientific Osaris (EPOC ER4, screen smaller than 5mx)
  • Ericsson MC 218 (corresponds to series 5 mx)
  • Philips Ilium Accent (prototype)
  • Ericsson R380 (own, non-expandable EPOC version ER5u with special surface)
  • Psion MBook (largely corresponds to the netBook, but was specially developed for a school project in Malaysia, hence the abbreviation M)

Psion organizer

Psion Organizer II (without protective cover) 1984

The organizer has a characteristic hard plastic housing with a sliding protective cover, which releases an alphanumeric 6x6 keyboard. The first organizer (1984) had a single-line LC display and the basic equipment had a simple database, computer and clock. The Psion Organizer II (1986) was provided with a slightly larger display and more applications (alarm clock, appointment planner, ...) and, above all, was very easy to program and expand. Hardware add-ons such as serial or parallel interfaces, printers, barcode and magnetic card readers as well as a wide range of software made it a universal tool, which greatly contributed to its commercial success - estimates amount to 750,000 to over 1 million units sold.

The first organizer only had 2 kB of working memory; data was stored in an exchangeable module, the DATAPAK, on ​​an EPROM . Psion had the method patented, which is why this technology - which was revolutionary for the time - was not available to other companies.

The Organizer II - initially with 8 kB RAM and 2 × 16-character display (model CM) - was continuously developed: first the model XP with 16, later 32 kB, then the LZ with 4 × 20-character display and finally the LZ64 with 64 kB RAM. Special point-of-sale models sometimes had different keyboard layouts and up to 96 kB of RAM. In addition to the internal memory, PAKs, DATAPAK (EPROM), RAMPAK (battery-buffered RAM ) and FlashPAK ( EEPROM ) with up to 256 kB also served as data storage .

The organizer has two slots for PAKs (storage media) and an expansion port. The programming language is already Open Programming Language (OPL), at that time “Organizer Programming Language”, the first implementation of the OPL.

Due to the stable case, the organizer is almost indestructible, the battery life is months (!), Probably for this reason - and although the watch suffers from the year 2000 problem (excl. Model LZ) - there are still a surprising number of copies of the "grandfather of." all handhelds “in use in mobile data acquisition.

Psion MC 200/400/600

In 1989 Psion demonstrated its innovative strength with the MC 400. The device was way ahead of its time - and yet a commercial failure that almost ruined Psion.

The A4-sized, elegant notebook had an excellent 640 × 400 pixel LCD and - at a time when Windows was still at version 2.11 (without window management, multitasking) - a graphical user interface with multitasking. Instead of a mouse, there was a touchpad for the first time - a technology that would not be taken up again until years later. The newly developed SIBO operating system allowed hot swapping of the flash memory cards in the 4 memory slots, and with the two hardware expansion slots, the device seemed to be ready for all future developments.

But it turned out differently. For one, the price was quite high at £ 845, and the memory cards were extremely expensive. On the other hand, the software was not yet fully developed when it was launched: the word processing was disappointing, the OPL programming language was adopted almost unchanged by the Organizer II and did not support the graphics capabilities of the device, and professional developers had to wait over a year for the SDK. The announced voice compression module was never completed, and apart from a parallel port, there were no hardware extensions. In addition, the press accused the device of incompatibility with the PC.

The sales figures were anything but great, and SIBO Version 2, released as a free update in 1990, didn't change anything, although it came up with a WORD-like word processor and a significantly improved OPL version. The slimmed-down MC 200 version with a blue and white, half as high screen and 128 kB RAM (instead of 256 kB) sold even worse.

The MC 600 was just as hastily thrown onto the market. It used MS-DOS as the operating system - probably in response to press criticism - and had 768 kB of RAM and a 1 MB RAM disk, which drove up the price again. The touchpad was dropped in favor of a function key bar, and the screen resolution was only 640 × 200 pixels according to the CGA standard. The machine was a flop from the start.

Psion series 3

Psion Series 3; on the right in the closed state

In September 1991 the most successful PSION product to date - the series 3 - was officially presented. The unique folding mechanism - the clam shell design, which protects the screen, application keys and keyboard, the further developed SIBO with the integration of Word and the agenda. The purchase price was £ 199 (DM 600 / € 300) for the model with 128 kB RAM and £ 249 (DM 700 / € 350) for 256 kB RAM.

Further equipment features:

  • monochrome LCD , 240 × 80 pixels
  • Dimensions: 165 mm × 85 22 mm
  • Weight: 300 g including batteries
  • expandable with 2 × SSD slots
  • 128 or 256 kB RAM
  • RS-232 interface

The start-up time after the presentation to full availability on the market (1992) was a bit long. Then, however, the Series 3 was a complete success, which was reflected in more than 100,000 units sold.

Here, too, it took almost a year until the SDK was available, but with OPL / G, the graphic expansion stage of the built-in programming language, the starting shot was given for a flood of shareware and freeware, which not least led to the success of the device and all of its successors .

Psion series 3a

Psion Series 3a: user interface

Even if the only minimally changed name 3a suggested otherwise, the progress that the Series 3a brought with it was enormous. The screen doubled in both directions with 480 × 160 pixels, the twice as fast NEC V30H processor with 7.68 MHz, expanded ROM with table and digital sound, would have given many other companies a different name. Or maybe this was just an expression of British understatement.

Despite the initially quite high price of £ 329 (900 DM / 450 €) for the version with 512 kB RAM (in addition to the 256 kB entry-level version), the Series 3a was a mighty sales success from the start that was to last for three years. After the somewhat coarse pixel graphics of the Series 3, the shareware market literally exploded, with 1,500 applications, including numerous games. A value that no other computer had achieved before.

In the next five years only minor model modifications were added without significantly changing the overall package. A 1 MB and a 2 MB version represented the maximum of the S3a.

Psion series 3c

The version jump to Series 3c that followed in 1996 brought for the first time an infrared port (which, however, was not designed to be IrDA- compatible), a serial port three times as fast (with 57 kBit / s) and, for new software, the notes (Jotter), the file manager ( File) as well as the schedule overview. The purchase price was £ 450 (DM 1200 / € 600).

The background lighting, which was initially only available on the American market and which can be switched off, was only supplied after protests on the European market in newsgroups and online forums. The credo of low battery consumption combined with the legendary running time of up to 60 hours with two alkaline batteries was put before technological innovations. A move from PSION that should be repeated in the market trend towards color screens.

Psion series 3mx

The last Psion consumer model to be equipped with the 16-bit operating system SIBO (Sixteen Bit Organizer) is the 3mx series, released in 1998. It has a robust, matt gray metallic finish, 2 MB RAM, a NEC V30MX processor three times as fast (clocked at 27.68 MHz) and a serial interface with 115 kBit / s. The purchase price was £ 300 (900 DM / 450 €). Shortly after the start of the revos in 1999, the Series 3 series was finally discontinued, the only devices with SIBO are the current Workabout mx. The new features of the operating system include the switch for the speed brake on 3a / c level as well as the graphic display and the editing function in the Sounds application. The speed of the 3mx can keep up with the later devices, thanks to the slim operating system.

The Series 3 (classic, a, c, mx) thus became the VW Beetle from Psion with over 1.5 million Series 3 devices worldwide.

Psion series 5

With the launch of the Psion Series 5 on June 16, 1997 in London, a new era began for PSION. An ARM 710 RISC processor with 18.43 MHz, 8 MB RAM and the completely new EPOC 32-bit multitasking operating system made people sit up and take notice. The screen is now half-VGA size (640 × 240 pixels) and is pressure-sensitive, i. H. The pen stored in the device could be used to perform “mouse actions”, ie click, drag, etc. At the edge of the screen there are screen-printed icons that provide basic functions such as zoom or IrDA infrared transmission ROM software for direct access. The newly introduced CompactFlash slot finally led the memory expansion along a standardized path that now extends to over 2 GB in size and is also PC card compatible with digital cameras and MP3 players and with the help of an optional adapter. However, only a few PC cards could be connected, such as the "Gold" modem cards, also from Psion.

The folding mechanism of the Series 5, which allows one of the smallest full-fledged keyboards to slide out of the device, the accommodation of the pen for the pressure-sensitive screen and the slots for Compact Flash cards and backup battery as well as the interface and loudspeaker are integrated into the housing.

The starting price of £ 499 (1500 DM / 750 €) was high, but the device was so interesting that sales got off to a good start. The Series 5 won many awards for good industrial design. The design sketches of the device with the code name "Protea" later published on make this obvious. Skipping version number 4 was explained with the unpleasant meaning that the English number "four" is supposed to have in Japanese and Chinese. The largely compatible Osaris from Oregon Scientific, which can be seen as an intermediate between the Revo and the 5 Series, was equipped with a version 4 operating system.

Longstanding PSION users soon complained about some compromises that the device and the operating system had. The screen was more gray-green than black-and-white due to the background lighting and touch foil, the battery life was “only” 20 hours in contrast to the Series 3, and with the rubber coating there were always warranty claims that were mostly met without any problems. The operating system had to make do with some restrictions, despite the interface that has remained very similar to the Series 3. So only an up-converter for data from the 3 to the 5 was delivered, but not the other way around. The RTF capability of the word processor fell away with the argument that the PC synchronization of the new version of PsiWin enables sufficient PC compatibility. The agenda lacked functions such as the appointment overview and list view. The table could not be sorted. What was new, however, was the "Web" web browser, which had to be installed at a later date and could be used in the form of the message suite (including mail and TCP / IP stack ) from version 1.52.

The inadequate battery supply was always a cause for criticism: Anyone using rechargeable batteries had to live with inaccurate run times. Duracell batteries, which have built-in test buttons, were often wedged in the narrow battery compartment in such a way that the test buttons were pressed continuously and the batteries discharged in minutes.

Series 5 Classic prototypes with serial numbers engraved on the top, which were issued in yellow and green to employees and developers for field tests, have become rare collector's items.

Psion Revo
Psion Revo

Psion Revo

The Psion Revo is a particularly small representative of the keyboard PDAs at around 200 g .

With the 36 MHz ARM710T RISC CPU, it has the same processor as the larger Psion 5 mx (pro), an infrared interface and a loudspeaker for reproducing "monophonic" signals. The unlit touchscreen display has a resolution of 480 × 160 pixels with 16 gray levels. The contrast is very good thanks to an incorporated reflective film .

The memory is 8 MB in the standard device and 16 MB in the "Plus" version, which was available in the USA as S3 or Diamond mako, practically identical in construction. This amount of memory is fully available to the user because the operating system is housed in its own ROM. Memory expansions in the form of flash cards or the like are not possible; the accumulator is also permanently installed. The purchase price for the Psion Revo was £ 300 (900 DM / € 450), for the Revo Plus £ 350 (1050 DM / 525 €).

There are countless programs for the 32-bit EPOC Release 5 operating system , including satellite navigation systems. The connection of the GPS turns out to be a bit cumbersome, since the Revo only has an RS-232 C interface and IrDA via the docking station , but no Bluetooth .

The Revo folds like most Psion devices, which protects the display and keyboard well. Due to the folding movement, however, as with the 5 MX, the internal connection cables are exposed to stress that can lead to failure of the devices. A typical effect is switching off the device when a tone is generated. With the increased power requirement, the voltage drops too much due to the damage to the connecting cable, so that the device switches off. The charging electronics and the NiMH batteries used were also a source of errors, but they could be brought under control through charging behavior, monitor programs (e.g. Chadis) and battery replacement.

Psion series 5mx

Wikipedia in Mobipocket on a Psion Series 5

5mx is the name of a Psion organizer series that was produced from 1999 to 2002 and is still available in post-production.

Since the 5mx is operated with two commercially available rechargeable batteries or batteries of the type AA, the user is not typically PDA independent of sockets when traveling, since Mignons are available practically everywhere and various chargers (solar cells, dynamo etc.) are available for AA batteries . The CompactFlash card slot makes it possible to expand the storage space by 2 GB and to transfer data between different devices.

In contrast to its predecessor, the Psion Series 5, the 5mx has a 36 instead of 18 MHz fast ARM710T RISC processor, 16 (5mx), 24 (5mx PRO) or 32 (5mx PRO) MB RAM, a faster CompactFlash card -Slot, WAP and web browser and the newer operating system EPOC Release 5 with some optimizations that ensure noticeably smoother work and enable data exchange via IrOBEX . The case design has been changed marginally; The main difference to Series 5 (classic) is the use of a coating material that does not have the "peeling effect" that can lead to the peeling of the rubber casing on older devices. The purchase price of the 5mx series was £ 400 (DM 1300 / € 650) to £ 500 (DM 1600 / € 800) for the 5mx PRO. The 5mx series weighs 365 g, has a 640 × 240 pixel touchscreen screen with 16 gray levels, switchable greenish background lighting and a slightly improved contrast compared to the 5 series (classic). In addition to the infrared interface, there is a serial RS-232 interface so that other devices can be easily controlled. Since there is both a loudspeaker and a microphone, voice notes can be conveniently recorded and individually accessed, which is also possible when the housing is closed using the three control buttons.

A special feature of the 24 and 32 MB-5mx-PRO models is the RAM-only design: the operating system is completely loaded into a protected area of ​​the main memory during a cold start (once necessary after loss of any power supply) and is not located - as usual - in a ROM. Operating system updates or changes are very easy. However, this option was hardly used by Psion, even if it was allegedly planned to offer specially made operating system variants for large customers.

Ericsson MC218 Communicator

The Ericsson MC218 is identical to the Psion Series 5mx with the exception of a few small software changes (“Ericsson Mobile Internet” web browser pre-installed in the ROM and a few other small differences to the Psion) and the Ericsson branding . The Ericsson MC218, like the Psion 5mx series, was launched in 1999, but did not sell particularly well, which is why production was discontinued in 2000. For devices that were sent in after 2000 due to a warranty claim, the defective parts were quickly replaced with original parts from the Psion 5mx series, as there is no mechanical difference between the devices.

Psion series 7

The Psion Series 7 was the cheaper consumer version of the Psion netBook. Size, weight and design matched those of the subsequent netBook series. The Series 7 has only been sold in the UK. The purchase price was £ 650 (DM 2100 / € 1050). The Series 7 had a 133 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM (expandable to 32 MB), a 7.7 "touchscreen with 4096 colors. The operating system used was EPOC ER5 (similar to the Series 5MX). The device had one PCMCIA slot, a slot for CompactFlash cards (up to 2 GB) and a full-fledged keyboard. The 7 series lasted almost eight hours of operation on one battery charge. Due to their similarity (CPU and operating system) to the 5MX series, many "old ones" ran "Programs of the 5 series on the 7. The Psion Series 7 was manufactured between 1999 and 2000. The Series 7 can be converted into a netBook (also called 7Book) with a netBook Personality ROM. The changed ROM (pluggable) changes the CPU clock from 133 MHz to 190 MHz, the RAM from 16 to 32 MB (with expansion card to max. 64 MB), the operating system can be booted from the CF card, which also enables a German-language system version.

Psion netBook

The Psion netBook is no longer part of the Electronic Organizer family , as its size (larger than A5 and over 1 kg in weight) can be described as a subnotebook . With its "70 percent keyboard" (keyboard area compared to 100 percent of a normal PC keyboard; the key grid is 17 mm, ie 89% of the standard width and depth), its colored DSTN screen with 256 colors and a resolution of 640 × 480 pixels Almost common work with the 10-finger system is possible. The program range corresponds 5mx / Pro of Psion, while the interface is a PCMCIA - I / O slot are added for network cards, etc. - a then-for the time though but costly revolutionary development. The purchase price was £ 900 (3000 DM / 1500 €).

A variant of the netBook that was outwardly identical except for the color, but slimmed down and a little cheaper, was available in Great Britain as the Psion Series 7. The processor speed is reduced to 133 MHz by firmware (the so-called personality module), the operating system is in a ROM and the memory only comprises 16 MB RAM. Depending on the motherboard version, the PCMCIA slot is also provided with a current limiter, which excludes the use of power- hungry cards such as WLAN or MicroDrive (in the CompactFlash adapter).

The last model to appear in 2004 was the netbook pro with a similar structure, but with an Intel XScale PXA255 processor with 400 MHz, 128 MB RAM, and a higher resolution (800 × 600), backlit TFT screen with touchscreen function. It was no longer equipped with EPOC, but with Windows CE and had interfaces for PCMCIA , CompactFlash (Type II), SD / MMC as well as IrDA , USB and RS-232 . Externally a little less noble (with a textile cover instead of leather), the netbook pro had the same high-quality keyboard as the netbook and, thanks to its large battery, enabled long periods of work without a power supply.

Controversy over naming rights: The term netbook was used by the PC manufacturer Intel for mini notebooks in February 2008 , although Psion had been marketing its "netBook" since 2000. In addition, there was a German word mark registration from October 2, 2008. Psion Teklogix claims the name "Netbook" for itself. In a letter to websites and portals that use the term in their reporting, the company instructed them not to do so in the future - the trademark would be theirs.

As a result, Google added the popular term “netbook” to its blacklist for Adwords advertising in February 2009. Psion announced on its website in June 2009 that any company was now allowed to use the term netbook. The company "peacefully settled" in the legal dispute with Intel, the statement said.


SIBO means " SI ngle B oard O rganizer" or " SI xteen B it O rganizer" and is a generic term for the architecture of older Psion PDAs, on which developed by Psion OS EPOC16 running.

SIBO machines are:

  • The Series 3, 3a, 3c, 3mx and Siena handheld computers and organizers.
  • The HC / Workabout / Workabout MX industrial handhelds z. B. for the logistics sector.
  • The MC 200, MC 400 / Word were notebook predecessors.

Of these devices, the Series 3 and HC are the ones that can only work with an older version of EPOC16. You can only show black and white on the display, all others can do four shades of gray.

SIBO already has preemptive multitasking, but all processes are limited to data segments of 64k each; only 24 processes can be active (of which the operating system alone occupies six); the maximum memory is 512 kB.


  • Botho W. Lebe, Peter Noehbauer: Mobile Computing with PSION . wjr-Verlag, Eching 2000, ISBN 3-9807229-1-0 .
  • Fredy Ott, Thomas Schmidt, Thomas Ullrich: The PSION Power book . X.Media, 2002, ISBN 3-932888-34-0 .

Web links

Commons : Psion  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f g h i j
  2. Psion netBook review in May 2000
  3. IDF: Intel shows Classmate PCs with 9-inch screens , ZDNet, April 3, 2008
  4. DPMAregister - Official publication and register database - German word mark registration "netbook" on 2 October 2008 for the brand classes 09, 35 and 42
  5. Psion wants to prevent the use of the term “netbook” ( memento of December 31, 2008 in the Internet Archive ), DerStandard, December 25, 2008
  6. ↑ The dispute over the term netbook ends peacefully ORF Futurezone from June 1, 2009