This will be my last post of the PDA & PIM series. According to my standards, the previously presented models were pretty modern. By this, I mean that they were made in or after the ’90s. But this doesn’t mean that nothing has happened during the ’80s. Au contraire! Let me prove it by showing arguably the first true electronic PDA ever released. At least, Psion, the British manufactured, claimed it loudly in its ads in 1984. This first PDA, priced just under £100, was marketed as a pocket computer. And indeed it was a pocket computer, even if you compared it with the home computers of its time.
The Organiser had few remarkable characteristics too: it was autonomous (with a 9V battery it could last for weeks), small (even if the keyboard layout was alphabetical), and had a clock. This last feature is vital for this kind of device, and not many pocket computers had it. The Organiser was expandable, and one could add up to two modules to expand the storage capacity or the feature set. Various companies provided specialized modules such as AD converters, code bar canners, etc. At the heart of the beast was a Hitachi 6301 (8-bit) processor running at ~1MHz supported by 4 KB of ROM and 2 KB of static RAM. But to be a computer in the ’80s, you had to have a programming language.
Psion went with its own interpreted lingo: the OPL (Organiser Programming Language). This language was pretty cool and introduced the user to procedures where BASIC was still disentangling spaghetti code. An interesting trait of the language was the ability to specify with a % prefix if a variable was an integer. This led to faster code by bypassing the floating-point processing routines. In 1986, Psion introduced Organizer II with three different models (I cannot show the CM that I, unfortunately, do not own). The XPs (mine is, in fact, an LA (XP 32K), ROM version 3.6) and the most advanced LZ64. I am sure that our U.K. friends know some more exotic versions, so please enlighten us. The LZ64 is really a mature computer. It kept the philosophy of the Psion Organiser I and II lines but made the machine fast and enjoyable. The four-line LCD display is an integral part of this enhancement. Later on, Psion released a very different line of organizers (a bit like the Windows CE machines presented here earlier this month). Even if these machines are OK, I do prefer the 80’s series by far. Nice job Psion!