PC & Tech Authority - - RETRO | PSION ORGANISER -

Any­one who was any­one who was do­ing busi­ness in the late 1980s and wanted to look or­gan­ised will have shunned the Filo­fax and em­braced the modern world via the British-made Psion Or­gan­iser. The rst Or­gan­iser ap­peared in 1984 and ce­mented its po­si­tion in brief­cases through­out the decade.

These were the days of writ­ing things down and get­ting pocket-sized ad­dress books for Christ­mas, or from the Post

Of ce while you were queue­ing to post some­thing; pos­si­bly a cardi­gan or a Black and Decker Work­mate that you had or­dered from a pa­per-based cat­a­logue and wanted to send back. If you needed to know some­one’s phone num­ber, most likely a land­line, you had to rely on a tele­phone direc­tory or, if you had the cash and the swag­ger of an or­gan­ised em­ployee, a Psion Or­gan­iser.


The orig­i­nal Psion Or­gan­iser came with 4KB of ROM, which was prob­a­bly about enough for the textbased stor­age that it was re­quired to do. Users also got a cal­cu­la­tor ca­pable of ad­vanced math­e­mat­ics, a 24-hour clock and cal­en­dar, and a slid­ing pro­tec­tive case. You also got pub credit for be­ing an early adopter, and for hav­ing take­away and taxi num­bers at your nger­tips.

The Or­gan­iser II had a small dis­play screen for up to four lines of text, and a phys­i­cal key­board that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a sci­enti c cal­cu­la­tor.

This model is per­haps the most recog­nis­able. It was launched in 1986 with ei­ther 8KB or 16KB of bat­tery-backed RAM. Later models of­fered ex­pan­sion op­tions of up to 256KB, or stan­dard hard­ware with 32, 64 or 96KB RAM.

Any­one who thinks the new mil­len­nium has the made the metal techno-slab a part of the daily work­ing rou­tine thanks to the tablet com­puter and smart­phone must have for­got­ten just how good, how handy and how cov­etable the grey and yel­low Or­gan­iser was at the time of re­lease.

We are not here to sell the things, how­ever. Even Psion doesn’t do that any more. You can nd them on eBay, as is of­ten the case for these Retro de­vices, but you’ll nd that the ex­pe­ri­ence doesn’t of­fer much more than warm, fuzzy, old-school com­fort in modern hands.

Psion, which was borne out of Sin­clair Com­put­ers in 1980, con­tin­ued to make or­gan­is­ers into the 1990s, but soon found that its hard­ware and soft­ware was be­ing usurped. As late as 1996, the rm was part of the Sym­bian con­sor­tium with Eric­s­son, Mo­torola, Nokia, Mat­sushita, and was to be found try­ing to li­cense its soft­ware and tech­nol­ogy. That same year, the

rm launched the Psion Siena clamshell or­gan­iser, with a whop­ping top-deck mem­ory of 1MB.

Though it had a cell bat­tery on­board, the Siena took two stan­dard AA bat­ter­ies and in­cluded no ex­ter­nal power op­tions. It of­fered in­frared con­nec­tiv­ity, but no room for any ex­pan­sion slots. It was still very handy though, and could con­nect to a PC.


While the rm of cially ceased trad­ing in the con­sumer de­vices mar­ket­place in 2001, it car­ried on in the en­ter­prise space as a pro­ducer of rugged mo­bile de­vices. Mo­torola an­nounced that it was buying what re­mained of the com­pany in 2012. The sug­ges­tion is that there were signi cant tele­coms and en­ter­prise bene ts to be had.

“The Psion direc­tors are pleased to rec­om­mend this of­fer by Mo­torola So­lu­tions at a price which of­fers a signi cant cash pre­mium to both the cur­rent and re­cent mar­ket prices,” said John Hawkins, chair­man of Psion, back in 2012.

“Psion con­tin­ues to suc­cess­fully de­liver on its strat­egy of in­tro­duc­ing ex­cit­ing new prod­ucts while strictly manag­ing the cost base. The of­fer by Mo­torola So­lu­tions pro­vides Psion’s share­hold­ers with cer­tainty in an en­vi­ron­ment where cer­tainty is in short supply.”

Mo­torola has kept quiet in the in­terim four years or so about what it’s do­ing with its pur­chase, but we like to think there’s a whole load of en­gi­neers and moun­taineers dig­ging and climb­ing, fur­nished with a mo­bile ruggedised hand­held de­vice based on Psion

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