For a few years a Series 3 Psion is my daily attendant. Started with a 3a I use a 3mx now. Compared to all those modern palmtops the 3mx of course is something like a dinosaur, but I still prefer this pet as a faithful friend as despite its versatility this one is most simple in its functions and operation. I could list all the technical details now (no one would be impressed) but I better tell you something about the way I use that palmtop. This opinion for example I typed in its first German version into the word processor of my Psion while I was waiting for customers in my taxi. Although the keys are quite small after a while you can use the keys almost as fast as on a conventional keyboard. A handheld with a keyboard besides the option of working on spreadsheets was one of the most important reasons why I choose a Psion instead of anything else. Other instruments with touchscreens, coloured displays or MP3 functions may be much more enviable, but if they don't work on spreadsheets or force me on exercises with a touchpen they are nothing but a toy for me. (a fascinating as I have to admit) The Psion is my preferred attendant in all those situations where a notebook would be too bulky or too complicated. Have you ever been working on a notebook in a taxi while waiting for customers? "Hello...may I enter? Can you take me to..." Ooops, save file 1, close application A, save file 2, close application B, exit the computer.....wait.....wait....done. Put the notebook back to it's bag, put the bag into the boot...where's the customer??? Uuh, gone. In the same time I could have worked on several messages, dates and notes, or...push the exit-hotkey and start a worthwhile tour with a passenger. Did you ever have a brilliant idea while being busy in the bathroom? Do you often despair of your missing Filofax or notebook just in the moment you need it most to look for a telephone number or a clients ad
dress? The hourglass icon you are used to while booting your desktop PC or loading an application is nothing you will ever be bothered with while using a Psion. Every application starts immediately as it's called up, even when using multitasking. The only limitation is the memory of 2 MB (don't laugh...) but even this is only marginally as the applications demand only little space. While using the word processor I may as well work at the same time on 5 different text-files, 3 data banks, 2 spreadsheets, 2 files of the application "Money", 1 sound-file, the agenda, the world time clock, and the file manager just to give an example on it. Between any of the used applications you may change with just a short-key, move contents and cut and paste for example. You might think the 30MHz processor may quit with a crash soon when working that hard. But far from it! Since 1996, when I started with my first Psion I couldn't count the crashes on my desktop PC but I never had even one with my Psion. Blue screen? A Psion doesn't know, what that means! I am still waiting for a computer to be as reliable as this handheld. The screen has a size of 5 inches x 1,72 inches which really isn't too bad and still even much wider then most of the other handheld models. Almost every application may be zoomed in 3 to 6 steps to give you the variety from a well overview until a detailed view. In case of bad lighting you may switch on a background light or change the contrast in 16 steps. The resolution is 480x160 pixels. Nothing breathtaking you might reply having the stunning quality of the latest digicams in your mind. But you are not going to install something like Corel Draw on a handheld, will you? For the intended purpose the screen really is o.k. The energy consumption is low. With two AA batteries you may work up to 40 hours which means a period of about 3 months in the way I use it. And this is several times a day.
With two slots for additional memory cards you can either extend the memory or use additional applications. I do the latter with using "Psion-Money" and the 4-languages "Berlitz-Interpreter" steadily. "Psion-Money" manages all my private cash expenses and my bank account. All common statistics are included with that software. Any desired categories, standing orders and currencies may be configured freely. But even with the standard software you may solve many ordinary problems. Besides the MS-WORD compatible word processing you find a d-base-compatible database, an MS-EXCEL/MS-WORKS compatible spreadsheet, an agenda, a clock with a large variety of different alarms, a world-time-clock, a calculator (standard and scientific), a notepad, a file-manager, a sound-editor (microphone included) and an OPL-programming-language. My own priority is the agenda. The daily schedule reminds me to important dates either with or without sound, shows a to-do-list and changes to a weekly, monthly or yearly overview as I like. Overlapping dates cause an alarm and are marked. Recurring dates may be set automatically, even if it's only the 2nd day of any third week or something like that. Since I use my Psion no dustbin keeps being left without being emptied, no date for the next vaccination of the dog has been missed and no birthday forgotten. A nice option if using an acoustic alarm is to take an own recording. What about the loving voice of your wife to remind you about the shopping to be done after work? Or the laugh of your little baby to wake you up the next morning in your hotel abroad? But mind you not to leave the handheld unobserved on your desk. You might be faced with an embarrassing alarm if your colleagues or your wife leave an inappropriate message on the sound recorder. ;-) To avoid that you may protect your Psion with a password. Quite often I use the data base as well. Private an
d official addresses are saved in different files as well as a list of my favourite books or an overview for all those different insurance numbers, just to name a few sensible examples. The configuration follows your demands and only active items are shown. The search-engine presents the results without any delay, even if the database is big. The spreadsheet is tremendously handy. If you are familiar with the basic Excel commands you can create any calculation you like. In my case it's a spreadsheet about the fuel-consumption of my car, another spreadsheet to calculate the taxi proceeds, another one to calculate different fares and so on. If required diagrams are shown as well. The file manager lists the files in two windows and is MS-DOS based. Copying, moving, deleting and working on the file attributes is very similar as you are used to with any of the common programs on your home PC. If you are still familiar with MS-DOS you get quickly used to the short keys of any processing. The sound editor is well for short jobs but you should avoid longer recordings. 10 seconds in a standard quality demand 80 KB. This is bearable for short notes or the cry of joy of your little baby, but it does not replace a dictating machine. The recorded file may be treated with different options such as echoes, different speeds, reverse play and pasting of other records, but let's face it, this feature is not really to be taken seriously. Take it for fun, it's a nice game. As talking of games: There are lots to be found at the internet as well as hundreds of other applications, many of them offered as freeware. One of my favourite games is "SameGame", very simple but still challenging even after the 50th lap and ideal for a short brake. Saving the files is a pushover. The included serial cable and the software "Psi-Win" (current version 2.3, Freeware if downloaded from the Psion website www.psio
n.com, but 25MB!) allow a fast and most simple backup. As a whole the Psion for me is an indispensable and unbeatable companion in my every days work. Of course Palms, Handsprings, or whatever the current models are called, are looking better and are much more enviable. But for me no other handheld can hold a candle to a Psion. Although - if I had to choose once more I have to admit I wouldn't buy the Psion 3mx. It would be the Psion Revo Plus! ;-) But as my 3mx still works without failure I wouldn't spend a fortune on a new Psion just to have a better design and a few more options. I recommend this handheld to everyone who is satisfied with a high performance reduced to the essential options.
I was fortunate to win a Psion 3c, which I presumed was given as a prize as the newer models were about to come out. However, that has not been detremental. The machine has the standard programmes you would expect these days and has proved a useful companion, both for work and for personal use. The keys can be a bit fidgety, however, you soon get use to them and you can type reasonable fast. The database is excellent with a braod field to allow all the information you need on family and friends as well as business contacts. It is a shame that to interface with the home pc you need to buy additional cables and software, however, I do not synchronise my computers so it is not a problem. It is good to know that you can have this facility if you need to. The world facility ensures that I do not wake my brother up in Australia or my brother in law in America. To pass the time while commuting (bus and train) I write about what I see or play the card game. It would have been nice if the battery was rechargeable rather than having to be replaced, but the lifetime is good at six months. The Psion is more robust than I expected which is helpful as it has received a few bashes over the last year. I am sure that it has the capacity to do more complex tasks than that which I use it for. The lsit of programmes available for it prove this. It is a pleaseure to use.
Last year I bought a Psion 3mx because of the lack of keyboard on my Palm Pilot III. The grafiti hand writing recognition used by the Palm machines is intuitive and easy to use but typing is quicker than writing. That is unless you know shorthand which seems to be a lost art and stopped being taught in my school from the year I took Business Studies. Grafitti is not shorthand though, it's only fractionally shorter than real writing. When I bought my Psion the Revo had not been released and the new series 5mx was far too expensive. Had I waited I would have been better off with a Revo because the keyboard on the series 3 machines is not that good. The keys are more like small buttons and it is easier to type away not realizing that some of your key presses have not been recognized. One area though where this keyboard design does have an advantage is if you actually use in your palms. That is holding both sides of the machine with your thumbs hoovering other the keyboard to type. With a more conventional design it would be easy to press the wrong keys by mistake. The screen is fairly clear and there is a backlight and contrast control. The screen can only diaplay two colours though, black and gray. Later Psion models do offer more grays. A timeout can be set for the backlight but this is a flawed idea. If I set the backlight to timeout after three minutes I would want it to be three minutes of inactivity but this isn't the case. The battery life is good too though and I usually only need to change them, 2xAA, once every other month. A standard calculator CR2025 battery is used for memory backup. To connect a Series 3 Psion you need to purchase the PsiWin (or PsiMac) software separately which adds £50 to the overall price. A shame since this is effectively for freely available software and a cable, both of which come free with other Psion machines. Unlike the Palm desktop software which effectively is a dekstop versio
n of the Palm computers main utilities, address book, memo and calander, the Psion software just backs up files. You can synchronize this information with other specialized utilities, as with Palm, but the abaility to quickly load up Palm data on a desktop is incredibly useful and missed. The jotter (memo), agenda and word (word processor) utilities are very useful and easy to use. The agenda lacks a very by month but compensates by views by day, week, year, list, anniversaries and to-do details. The data utility is a simple database which doubles as the adderss book and this is a let down. It is incredialbly basic and not much fun to use. The advantage it does have is that it can dial the phone numbers for you, although with mobile phones this is of no use. Sheet, the speadsheet, is also rather simplisitic but it is also very slow, even when there isn't much in the way of calulations. Inserting rows or columns into largish sheets is not recommended, and they have to be added individually because there is no option for multiple insertions. Some commercial software is available although most new programs are written only for Series 5 and Revo machines. Shareware and freeware can be found on the internet and downloaded if you have the PsiWin/Mac cable and software. If you just want something to make notes and keep a diary then this machine is perfect and should be available rather cheaply. If you want to use the internet or have a powerful contacts manager then you may be better off looking elsewhere.