Continuing the list of mobile devices, after the Psion Revo presented in my last post, we make a small step to his bigger brother: the Psion 5mx.
I have bought this one in Germany at a “superangebot” in the winter of 2002 (if I recall exactly). Although significantly more chunky as the Revo and less refined, because of his larger keyboard it allowed a quite comfortable typing. At 360g is not that light, but also not very heavy to carry in your bag (I guess you can cary it in your pocket, but you really need some sizeable pockets and very good stitching).
What I Liked about It:
The keyboard was larger but Revo had a better feel. 5mx’s keyboard was rather stiff and required a little bit of effort to type, but you could get used to that pretty fast.
Probably the most important advantage was the use of normal batteries (AA) that could be replaced. You could also use rechargeable AAs and the machine would work nicely for a whole week – even more – between battery changes. I have never seen another device matching this. You could also use an external power adapter but that would not recharge the batteries (in case rechargeable batteries were used).
The display was slightly larger (640 x 240) than Revo’s (480 x 160) and had backlight that could be turned on and off from the keyboard. Although that was an improvement, I found that the display was not that sharp as the one in Revo.
A significant improvement was the addition of a Compact Flash reader. I used 32MB cards at that time (they were quite expensive…) but there are reports on the internet for cards over 128MB working fine. Obviously using the cards had a significant impact on the battery life.
On one side of the 5mx there were 3 buttons and a LED that allowed recording of notes without opening the clam case. That was pretty nice, making the 5mx into a Dictaphone (albeit a quite large one).
The same brilliant EPOC 5 powered the machine and it included (along the great Word, Sheet, Contacts, Agenda and Email applications) a Database application – a very useful addition.
Interestingly enough at the beginning of this year (2012) I’ve noticed someone in the office where I was working still using one of this machines. Impressive!
Some really cool accessories were available for the 5mx and obviously yours truly forked for them. Let’s see.
Psion Travel Modem
At the beginning of the last decade WiFi, 3G and other wonderful things we take for granted today were yet to get into mainstream. What we had was the old trusted modems. But having a modem that was large as a laptop and needed its own power supply was not exactly the definition of mobility. Psion came up with a very elegant solution: the Psion Travel Modem. The size of a mouse, this modem used 2 AA batteries and all you had to do was to plug it into a telephone socket. On the other side of the modem it presented an IrDa port that could be used to connect to another IrDa equipped device (like the 5mx). Brilliant! You could place the modem on a table and then roam around the room sitting wherever you felt like as long as you were in the line of sight. The modem supported up to 56kbs (sounds ridiculous at the current speeds but at that time very few analogue copper telephone lines were capable of more than that).
A little wonder, this device was marketed at the beginning of 2000s by a small Dutch company Palmtop. Started by a few senior people that used to work for Palm (remember that company? – there is something coming up later about this) they developed two very successful software products: Route Navigator and Street Navigator. Due to the very low available memory (remember that the 5mx had 16MB and the CF cards could store 32-48MB ) the program allowed you to selectively install the areas (for Route Navigator – that gave you navigation between cities) or cities (for Street Navigator that gave you navigation within the city). At today’s standards that seems clumsy, but trust me at that time it was like StarTrek.
Voted as the killer app for the Psion machines, this was the one thing that put the mobile devices in a different league. Palmtop will soon take the name of their product – TomTom and the rest is now history. Now TomTom is everywhere, even more so considering that the new Apple Maps uses the information from TomTom.
Next time: SonyEricsson P800.