How do you use yours?

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Daren
Posts: 70
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2023 10:03 pm

How do you use yours?

Post by Daren »

On the last iteration of the forum we had this topic, and as I remember there were some interesting uses being employed by users from Ham radio (Martin, others) , Land surveying (Nick), and others which escape me now.

So how about we tell how we use our Psions again?

I’ll get the ball rolling, and very interested to hear how others use theirs too of course.

Currently I am working on writing some OPL programs to use for various function related to electronic music, nothing too fancy, mostly just calculations of things like how many ms for an echo to be in time with a given tempo, or how many samples in x number of bars at a given sample rate and tempo, that kind of thing but also some more specialised bespoke stuff too. I also have a few more ideas and half done programs which relate to the beep command and using it for simple music applications. Some other things that I intend to do are various timers, loggers, inventory dbs, and eventually also some comms control stuff, like scheduled turning things on/off, reading sensors and whatnot. I have made a little progress here, but nothing worth taking about yet.

I also enjoy using the notepad for reference stuff, a lot of the equipment I use has various (sometimes cryptic and not easily remembered) button combinations for functions, so the notepad is ideal for quickly finding this info. I did originally intend to use the xfiles but due to some limitations I think notepad works better for this, most of the time.

Why the Psion? Well for me the fact that even a non programmer like me can cobble together a bespoke OPL program that does exactly what I need, whilst being very portable and with as near as damn it instant access, and most importantly does not get in the way or depend on internet access.

I originally used a CM in the 80’s when my Dad gave me his which my Mum had bought him for Christmas one year, I wrote a few simple OPL programs and used it as a contacts database mainly, I can’t remember what happened to it, probably ended up on a boot sale.

Then about 10-15 years later I ended up working at Maplin Electronics for a few years, I was quite surprised to see that they still used Psions for inventory management and stock control duties, by this time (late 90’s) they were considered obsolete to most. Those poor old things were regularly dropped and chucked around, yet never stopped working.

In the years between my first Psion and those following I had a few different devices, first S3, Sienna, Revo, S5 and also a few Palm OS devices. Then with the advent of the smartphone I inevitably moved on to those.

But I could not help to notice that as each device became more sophisticated, they also seemed to become less interesting and less accessible from a tinkering perspective, eventually around 2015 I started googling about the old Psion2 and stumbled upon the forum, and my Psion journey resumed and continues…..
PaulK
Posts: 50
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2023 11:54 am

Re: How do you use yours?

Post by PaulK »

OK,

So my Psion journey began back in the 1980's when my mum, who was working in the NHS (I'm in the UK) was given an Psion Org 2 CM, to use for logging details of the home visits she undertook as part of her job. She was never a fan of technology, and preferred a notepad and pen, but she did attempt to use the Psion. She captured info. on it, and if I recall correctly, she saved them to datapaks which she then handed in at work, who I presume uploaded the info. into their IT system for further processing.

Anyway, at the weekend, when she wasn't working, I would pour all over the manual, typing in OPL code examples and tinkering with them to make my own versions. On one occasion, I remember making a password program, which would not let you in without the correct password. Needless to say that I forgot the password at some point and had to reset the machine, loosing all my other bit and pieces I had coded. My mum didn't let me save anything onto the Datapaks, as she wasn't supposed to use it for non-work stuff!

Time went by, the Psion roll out at my mums work never caught on and the machine was returned, and I lost my portable coding device.

Fast forward to what must have been about 1996, and I had graduated from uni and got my first job as a chemist at a nuclear power station. By then, the Psion Organiser 3 was on the market, but the Psion Org 2 was cheaper, and I wasn't earning much, so I decided to buy my own Psion, and plumped for an LZ. I loved that machine - spent ages reading "IPSO FACTO", dreaming about all the progamme packs I'd like to buy one day, and really got stuck into OPL programming. I did have an Atari ST at home, which I also tinkered with, but having a programmable machine in your pocket was so exciting to me!

As a chemist, I did all sorts of different jobs at the power station, and quickly saw that my LZ could help me with some of the mundane calculations I undertook within my role. This included things like:

* Titration calculations for various analytical chemistry procedures
* A calculator to work out how much sodium hypochlorite (used to reduce build up of mussels in the cooling water systems) a plant would make, based on flow rates, current and voltage
* Calculating reactor analytes from the peak heights from an on-line Gas Chromatograph
* Working out various gas purging regimes to ensure high hydrogen purity in various plants following outages

I also used it to store important info. such as catalogue numbers of consumable items from the stations stores, including PP9 batteries! I had a huge list of items, and their catalogue codes, stored in a Notes file, which I could quickly search, and which was much faster than my previous paper based system!

About this time, I also wrote a datalogging programme for my brother to use on a Psion my parents brought him, to complete a study he was carrying out as part of his biology A-Level. He was basically logging the species and size of fish caught in beach set nets, and was capturing the fishes weight and size. The plan was to capture data on various fish species and seeing if it would be possible to accurately predict a fishes weight from measuring its length alone. I wrote him some code (I wish I still had it!) which allowed him to select the fish species when he was removing the fish from the net, select whereabouts in the net it was caught (top, middle, bottom - from memory!) and its weight and length. I used UDG to produce various fancy fish icons to make it more interesting than just selecting the fish name as text! Thinking back, they must have been very crude, but I remember thinking it was cool at the time. We also got a BlackRoc RO1 (think that was it) case, to protect his LZ from the sand and water. I remember it worked very well, keeping the Psion safe and dry, but over time, the sand did scratch up the viewing window, making it a bit difficult to use after a while.

Upon completing the data collection, I also wrote a simple program to calculate various statistics, which eventually enabled you to just measure the length of the fish (much quicker than getting scales out, especially when on the beach!) to predict its weight. I recall that it also calculated the R2 Regression value - the closer to 1 that this was, the better the correlation between the fish length and weight. I remember it was actually pretty good - about 0.94 I recall. I have some digital photos of my brother using the LZ on the beach, in its RO1 case on an old Kodak PhotoCD somewhere. If I come across it, I'll post some up!

Anyway, time went on, and over the years I got a Psion 3C, Psion 5 (not the MX), and much later, a Psion 7. They were all good machines, but I found I never programmed them as much as my LZ, and although you could do much more on them, I found that I never really did. I just liked the form factor of the Psion Org 2 so much more. It was bullet proof in its build, and while it lacked the graphics capabilities of the later machines (I so wish the Org 2 had a programmable graphics screen - even if it just had the same number of pixels as the current machine (20 x 4 characters at 5x8 pixels), so 100 x 32), it was just so reliable and simple to use.

Even today, where smart phones, iPads etc.. all do so much more than all of the Psions that came before them, the Org 2 still stands out as the one that is less replicated in terms of function than the later models. Its simplicity and basic format makes it more competitive at some tasks, than even the Psions that came after it. For instant, no nonsense, simple coding, in a format that runs forever on a cheap battery, and that has relatively no moving parts that can fail (screen hinges etc..), it takes some beating, and for me, modern hardware just can't capture the same excitement that that low resolution, black and white, beepy computer provided all those years ago!

What a machine :-)

I still use a Psion LZ64 as a Todo list, for alarms/timers etc.. and run a few programs on it now and again (stopwatch, Khem (periodic table), days (calculate the number of days between 2 dates), dice (when playing board games with my son and we can't find the dice!) I also use it to store various data sets on, but find it quite slow and frustrating now the number of records has exceed 800 or so. When I get time, I want to code some more "apps" to help me in my current role. Nothing that will be of use to anyone else, but thats the beauty of developing on such a personal machine - it doesn't matter if it doesn't solve anyone else's problem, so long as it works for you, then who cares! Also means no-one gets to see my spaghetti, amateurish code ;-)

Finally, I'm really keen to see how Andrew's re-creation turns out. What clever folk we have on this Forum. I wouldn't even know where to begin, but am in awe of him and others who know so much about the hardware and are looking to keep the Org 2 dream alive by modernising the Psion Org experience! While the original machines will forever have a special place in computing history (and will likely keep on being used by us Psion nerds for decades to come!) I'm very excited to see how Andrew's modern take on the Org2 will turn out! Maybe it will inspire a whole new generation of Psion geeks.

Many thanks,
Paul.
Daren
Posts: 70
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2023 10:03 pm

Re: How do you use yours?

Post by Daren »

Cheers Paul, a lot of what you wrote I was nodding in agreement :)

Interesting about the slowdown with large number of records, I guess a workaround might me to have them on datapaks divided by different types on different paks?
amenjet
Posts: 237
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2023 7:54 pm

Re: How do you use yours?

Post by amenjet »

I have an LZ on me at all times for notes. I am also using it for testing as it's got one of the 512K flash packs that I use for the notes. All OK so far. I also have a 256K RAM pack, also for testing.
I have it in a case on my belt, when the new recreation arrives, I'll have to have two, I think, or something. Maybe switch to the new one?
PaulK
Posts: 50
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2023 11:54 am

Re: How do you use yours?

Post by PaulK »

Andrew,

Is the flash pack one you've designed and built, and if so, do you have plans to sell them?

Glad to hear the recreation is still in development. Can't wait to see what you do!

Many thanks
Paul :-)
amenjet
Posts: 237
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2023 7:54 pm

Re: How do you use yours?

Post by amenjet »

PaulK wrote: Sat Mar 30, 2024 8:12 am Andrew,

Is the flash pack one you've designed and built, and if so, do you have plans to sell them?

Glad to hear the recreation is still in development. Can't wait to see what you do!

Many thanks
Paul :-)
Yes, the 512K flash pack and the 256K RAM pack are ones that I designed and built. They are for sale here:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/204068203366 ... R9Td1JDSYw

and here:

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/204685025932 ... R87B3pDSYw

The seller is also on this forum...
thesourcerer
Posts: 72
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2023 1:00 pm

Re: How do you use yours?

Post by thesourcerer »

Waiting for some more 512k flash datapacks. Sold out recently!
thesourcerer
Posts: 72
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2023 1:00 pm

Re: How do you use yours?

Post by thesourcerer »

512k flash datapacks now in stock.
thesourcerer
Posts: 72
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2023 1:00 pm

Re: How do you use yours?

Post by thesourcerer »

USB Comms Links now back in stock.
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