The Psion Organiser was the brand name of a range of pocket computer developed by the British company Psion (now Psion Teklogix) in the 1980s. The Organiser I (launched in 1984) and Organiser II (launched in 1986) had a characteristic hard plastic sliding cover protecting a 6x6 keyboard with letters arranged alphabetically.
Early Psions are very robust (as witnessed by tech support people who were able to retrieve data from machines run over by cars and even forklift trucks) and they have been sold in very large numbers (about a million). Some continue to be used commercially, although the firmware of the two-line models fails to acknowledge dates after the end of 1999. However, there is a patch available. The Organiser had an independent user group (IPSO) for nine years, with a worldwide following, until the establishment of the Series 3 made it largely redundant.
Production of consumer hand-held devices by Psion has now ceased; the company, after corporate changes, now concentrates on hardware and software for industrial and commercial data collection applications.
On an episode of The Gadget Show (first aired on 30 March 2009), the Psion was pitted against the BlackBerry for a place on the show's Hall of Fame. Whilst the Psion was highly praised as a device that pioneered portable computing, the accolade was ultimately given (by host Jon Bentley) to the BlackBerry.
The Psion Organiser I model, launched in 1984 was the "World's First Practical Pocket Computer". Based on an 8-bit Hitachi 6301-family processor, with 4K of ROM and 2K of battery-backed RAM, and had a single-row monochrome LCD screen. The size in mm with the case closed is 142 x 78 x 29.3 , and the weight is 225 grams. This form factor is similar to the Apple iPhone which debuted 23 years later in 2007.
The machine provided a simple flat-file database, calculator and clock, and had no operating system. The Organiser I supported removable storage write-once devices which used EPROM storage. The machine could host two of these so-called DATAPAKS (or simply PAKs), to which it could write data but which needed to be removed from the machine and erased by being exposed to ultraviolet light before they could be re-used. As Psion had patented the use of EPROMS as storage device it was impossible for other device manufacturers to copy this innovative approach to mobile storage.
The original 1984 cost was £99 (GBP) and $199 (CAD) and included one Datapak and one Utility pack.
In 1986, the successful Organiser II introduced a number of hardware improvements, a better keyboard and display, a much larger ROM and either 8K or 16K of battery-backed RAM, and featured a capable newly-designed single-tasking operating system. The first Organiser II models featured a two-line display. The new model supported a number of different types of improved DATAPAKs containing either EPROM or battery-backed RAM storage each storing between 8k and 128k of data. Later flashpaks (EEPROM) and RAMpaks were added to the range, capable of storing up to 256k on each extension slot.
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