Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th Jun 2007 11:37 UTC, submitted by JCooper
Hardware, Embedded Systems "The Series 5 pocket computer from Psion was launched 10 years ago this week. It was a remarkable achievement: entirely new silicon, a new operating system, middleware stack and applications were developed from scratch in just over two years. This was the last time anyone undertook such a daunting task: it may be the last time anyone ever tries, either."
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A wonderful little device
by Dave_K on Tue 26th Jun 2007 13:05 UTC
Dave_K
Member since:
2005-11-16

The Psion 5 and its successor the Series 7/Netbook were stunning little computers, easily better than the WinCE based competition from far larger companies.

EPOC was a truly great little OS; fast and stable, with a user interface that was actually designed to be efficient on a small screen, rather than simply a scaled down desktop UI. Even when the Psion 5's CPU started looking slow compared with 100Mhz+ competition; the OS and applications meant that it still remained more responsive and usable.

The included office software was excellent, comparable with full 'Works' packages on desktop computers, not like the crippleware with most PDAs/palmtops. As well as being fast, elegant and easy to use, they included some powerful features that weren't available in Microsoft's mobile apps. For example OLE between applications, including those released by 3rd party developers. This allowed you to do things like embed a section of spreadsheet into an entry in your electronic diary, or insert a diagram from a 3rd party vector graphics app into a wordprocessing document.

The keyboard was probably the most notable hardware feature of the Psion computers. The Psion 5 was one of the only computers of its size where fast and accurate typing was possible. I wrote full essays on my Psion 5 with a typing speed close to that on a desktop computer. Typical PDA keyboards, or handwriting data entry, were incredibly slow and painful in comparison. Even today expensive portable computers, including ones that are significantly larger than the Psion 5, are released with keyboards that are much, much worse. It's a tribute to the designers at Psion that so few can match the keyboard on their 10 year old product.

Like the Acorn RISC OS computers in the late 80s and early 90s, these were products from a small company that beat the industry giants for quality. They really deserved to be a huge success, but of course the best products rarely are...

Such a shame that the Series 7/Netbook was the end of the line for Psion/EPOC computers. It was truly the end of an era for British computing. If nothing else it would have been nice to have had one with USB ports and a more modern web browser.

Reply Score: 5

RE: A wonderful little device
by Laurence on Tue 26th Jun 2007 14:31 in reply to "A wonderful little device"
Laurence Member since:
2007-03-26

Though I've never owned a PSION, I have used several PDAs and I do agree with your points regarding Windows Mobile. In fact to elaborate on your point, I've lost count on the number of times WM has crashed unnecessarily due to the over complexity of WM.

That all said, I don't hate WM as it offers the laptop comparable-functional power I need as was as the ease of porting programs to it.

It's a pity the portable market isn't as flexable as the laptop market in terms of OSs. (though I 100% understand the level of development envolved in porting OSs for each portable device model)

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: A wonderful little device
by ElCabri on Tue 26th Jun 2007 22:10 in reply to "A wonderful little device"
ElCabri Member since:
2006-11-28

I think that in digital technology, being a small company and "beating the giants on quality" is not very hard in general, because of the nature of technology work, where most of the difficulty comes from the frictions of legacy and interoperability. The problem is that the odds of securing market share are very slim. Acorn, Be, Psion, Transmeta, etc, the ranks of "also-ran" are a thick as the ranks of the "ran-too-soon" (Netscape, Xerox workstations, Altavista, Digital, ...), that other story.

Capitalists know that, that's why there aren't so many new Psion getting funded even the relatively modest entry ticket to an "incrementally better" technology.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: A wonderful little device
by rhyder on Wed 27th Jun 2007 02:48 in reply to "A wonderful little device"
rhyder Member since:
2005-09-28

Great assessment of the strengths of the little machine.

Psion are still on the go but they only make industrial hand held units. As far as I know, MS entered the consumer hand held market and they decided to pull out rather than be put out of business.

The only thing stopping me from using my Series 5 is that I can't find a way to synchronize it with Kontact. With full sync capability, my Palm (of similar vintage) is more useful for me.

I still keep two units stored away ready for the next camping trip though.

Reply Parent Score: 1