Psion 5 miniature palmtop computer

The first Epoc miniature computers

The first EPOC32 computer, ahead of the rest in 1997.

Announced on 16 June 1997, as the first 32 bit Psion palmtop, a considerable increase in horsepower over the earlier Series 3. Unlike the Windows CE palmtops, the Psion can easily operate completely independent of any other computer, however desktop connectivity and conversion software for Windows 95 and Windows NT (but not Windows 3.1 or MS-DOS) is readily available via the included PsiWin 2 package.


32 bit 18.432MHz ARM 7100 CPU with cache and MMU. This is an ASIC (code-named Eiger) with the ARM core, and all peripheral drivers. There is a buffer to the memory, and separate RAM refresh clocked by the 32kHz real time clock. The non maskable interrupt is used for power down support.
Touch sensitive 640 x 240 backlit display with 16 grey scale. 133mmx50mm (5.25"x2.0") 100 characters by 26 lines maximum. Multi level zoom of character size.
Weight, Size, Power
360 grams, or 13 ounces. 170mmx90mmx23mm (6.7"x3.5"x0.9"). Up to 35 hour battery life from two AA alkaline cells, although if you use the backlight about 10 hours is more likely. 3V CR2032 lithium backup. Optional 6V external power supply.
6MB ROM, ROM was increased in later models. 4 or 8MB dynamic ram. I haven't seen the 4MB, and the Psion 5mx has 16 MB. Additional Compact Flash slot.
Vertical expanding keyboard, 9 application buttons, 5 command buttons. Unfolds from case, large vertical travel (for a palmtop).
Includes external buttons for record, stop/play, rewind, silence alarm sounds. Can be used while computer is closed. Codec support.
115kbps RS232 serial port (Honda connector). 115kbps IrDA infrared port direct to printer, and to other computers after software updates. I use the IrDA to a Hewlett Packard 5MP laser printer, to a Canon BJC80 ink jet printer, to an Ericsson SH888 GSM mobile phone, and via PsiWin to a Micron notebook computer running Windows 98 SE. Serial UART is shared between IrDA and serial port.


Word Processor
Multiple fonts, bold, italics, bullets, borders, etc. Paragraph styles. Embed sketches, spreadsheets, sounds. Spelling checker. Zoom display. WYSIWYG. Password protect files.
Text formatting similar to word processor, auto-sum, 100 functions, zoom, seven chart types including 3D. Up to 16 row by 17 columns visible.
Unlike Windows CE 1, you get printing support for a selection of printers, via cable or IrDA infrared, or via Windows using True Type fonts. Print preview multiple pages at a time.
Drawing tools, using stylus provided with Psion. Clipart library, zoom, resize. This is a paint (pixel oriented) drawing package, not a vector oriented package.
Time management, with day, week, month and year views and alarms. Attach notes, sketches, sound. To-do items. Very powerful.
Card view of records, list view of multiple records, embed sketches, sound or objects, sort.
Record voice and sounds, even with case closed. Store 2 minutes per megabyte with compression, up to 4 minutes with ADPCM.
Four function with "tape". Scientific, multi function, with ten memories. Use touch screen if desired.
Select sounds or recordings for alarms, local times in 700 locations, add your own. Flexible multiple alarms. Daylight saving.
PC Docking
Serial cable with Honda connector. Windows 95/NT PsiWin2 conversion program included, Psion appears as an icon in Windows.
Programming language
OPL built in.
VT100 and TTY terminal emulation, ASCII, Xmodem, Ymodem protocols. Free Message Suite software provides fax, limited web browser, email.


As per Psion 3c and Siena.

Psion have announced an upgrade (change the ROM) service to commence in the second half of 1998, to upgrade to ROM version 1.1 (from v1 or v1.01). It will be a return to Psion Service centre deal, costing about £50 probably. An upgrade kit will also be available to technically competent owners, however this will void their warranty. No other details of this scheme are available to me at the moment. This scheme was never provided, nor was any upgrade path made available, except via limited software patches from the web site.

Manual and Help System

The manual is sufficient to get you started, and being wire bound, is easy to keep open on the desk. Although worth re-reading several times, it really lacks details of a lot of the facilities in the Psion. Luckily the Help key opens a really extensive manual that covers a lot more than the printed manual.


Varies. Expect around A$1100 within Australia in 1997. Buying overseas especially in the USA is a cheaper option.

Serial Port

The Psion serial port connectors are as below, but there is a suggestion the voltage swing is 5 volt only, not 12 volt (I haven't chcked these pinouts myself yet).

 1      15
RS232 (9 pin)  (Psion)
 1               nc
 2               12
 3                8
 4               11
 5                1
 6               13
 7                9
 8               14
 9               10

Some have suggested making up your own cable, to a standard 9 pin make serial RS232 connector (so you can use regular commercial cables). Consistent with the previous one it isn't.

Psion plug  9 pin male
DCD         1
RxD   8     2
TxD   4     3
DTR   3     4
SG   15     5
DSR   5     6
RTS   2     7
CTS   7     8
RI    6     9

Power Consumption

Measured power consumption from the mains 6 volt DC plug pack is only indicative of battery use, however I saw 13.8mA when the Psion was off (almost certainly mostly the power LED), 33.6mA when on but with no action taking place, variable up to about 70mA when processing, around 100mA when closing files, and 95mA to 110mA when copying disk to Compact Flash.

PsiWin 1.1

Available from the Psion web site, with new Psion 5 systems, and with the Palmtop magazine CD-ROM. This is a free file transfer and conversion utility that runs with Windows 95.

Installs a "My Psion" icon on the desktop, and a "Psion" in Windows Explorer. Auto docks and optionally auto syncs agenda and contacts. Double click icon or "Psion" to explore Psion remotely. Drop and transfer files. Multiple different Psions are identified and separate files maintained. Converts Psion 3a or 3c files to 5 (but not the reverse).

File conversion utilities are compatible with Microsoft Word 2, 6, 95 (7), Works 3, 4, Excel 4, 5, 95 (7), Schedule+ 7-7.5, Outlook 95, FoxPro 2-2.6, Access 95. Compatible with Lotus AmiPro 3, Organiser 2.1, 97, 123.wk1, .wk3, .wk4 files, Corel, Novell, Word Perfect 5.1, 5.2, 6a, 6.1, 7, 8 QuatroPro 5, 6, 7, 8. also RTF (Rich Text Format), text, dBASE III, IV, 5, CSV files, Windows BMP (to Sketch), Windows WAY (to record). You can buy additional converters for Novell GroupWise 4.1a, 5, 5.2 Windows clients, Lotus Notes calendar and address book ,and for PowerPoint 7 and 8.

Transfering files

If you don't have a Windows 95 PC on which to run the included PsiWin file transfer and conversion program, you will have to improvise. Here is how to do it from an MS-DOS PC. Use the Psion serial cable. Load Psion Comms application from the Extras bar, Tools menu, Communications setting, and set to 19,200 baud, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, parity none, handshake RTS/CTS. On the PC, "MODE COM1:19200,n,8,1".

On Psion, set Transfer menu to Capture to File (select an appropriate directory and file name also). You may need to also select Tool, Translate codes and NOT provide "Add LF to incoming CR" since the PC should already have that. On PC use "type c:\filename > com1:" After it has all flashed past the Psion display, set Capture Off.

If you need a bunch of file, try using any communications package that handles XModem.

Message Suite 1.1 (current version 1.52)

Another free download from Psion (or NWT or the Palmtop magazine CD-ROM). Email and fax, single inbox for email and fax, fax from any application, use automated faxback, has a recipient history, spellcheck messages. Supports SMTP and POP3. Fax supports Class 2.0 and earlier in normal or fine resolution. Web browser handles tables, including nested, with colour tags, image maps, animated GIF, local EPOC bit maps. Bookmarks, history, forms, mailto links, zoom. TCP/IP stack, scripts for dialup and connection. This originally appeared just prior to December 1997.

Internet connection via Windows NT RAS

arjan at Arjan Moraal reports he could connect his Psion using Windows NT Remote Access Service via a direct cable connection.

WinNT settings ControlPanel, Modems, Add, check to NOT detect a modem, Next, if left column click "Standard modem types", in right column "Dialup Network Serial Cable between two PCs", Next, select cable comm port and let NT install the modem.

Win NT Check in Network Neighbourhood, Properties, Services tab, and if Remote Access Service isn't present, Add it. In RAS properties, you should have Dialup Network Serial Cable, if not, add it. When installed, click properties and select "Receive calls only", in Network, click "Allow any authentication including clean text". In the "Allow remote clients running" select TCP/IP, and configure "Usestatic address pool" to begin at and end at Ckeck "Allow client to request", and OK until all is done.

NT Admin Tools, User manager, give user dialin access, no callback.

On the Psion, install Psion's Message Suite. From system screen, go to Control panel, select Network, Ctrl N to create a new service, based on Generic. Tab Service and give it a name, tab Account and fill in the NT username and password. Tab Addresses and fill in, in DNS fill in the NT's address (or the corporate DNS address if on a network), tab Login Port setting 8, none 1, check "login script" and use the generic script.

On the Psion, set Control Panel, Modem to Direct Cable Connection, and press Ctrl E. Tab Modem, all init strings should be empty, fax class auto. Tab Port and set speed to 57600, connect using serial, Tab Handshaking and make flow control RTS/CTS, in Terminal detect uncheck carrier ddetect.

On the NT, install a freeware Proxy server, such as WinGate.

Epoc 32 Operating System

Like Microsoft's Windows CE, this is a proprietary operating system, being sold to hardware manufacturers wishing to make PDA and phone systems (other users include GeoFox palmtop commputers, and Philips cellular phones). The description below is based on Dick Pountain in Byte.

It provides preemptive multitasking, hardware memory protection, and a low interrupt latency task threading model. It also includes a full set of personal productivity applications (see above). Uses current design principles, including a microkernel, client server structure, and object orientation. The kernel provides memory allocation, threat creation, symaphores and timers. Other services are system threads acting as servers, running as processes outside the kernel. The ten servers include window, file, database, communication, and font/bitmap. Servers clean up resources used by clients. A smaller embedded version limited to a single thread increases speed and decreases interrupt latency.

Uses the ARM MMU to provide a separate address space for each process, with threads preemptively scheduled within processes. Application threads access all services via the privileged mode kernel, and are not allowed direct access to system hardware, I/O or interrupt hardware. Thus interrupts are enabled almost all the time, and are very response to user actions. A null thread, active only when nothing else is happening, controls the powersave circuitry.

Lowest latency tasks can have a superthread that allocate their own resources without going through the kernel server. This is for items like satellite phone, where a guaranteed response is required within a millisecond with a tolerance of a few hundred microseconds.

Each data structure in EPOC32, files, clipboard, text, sound or bitmap, uses stream stores, similar to Microsoft's Structured Storage, but built into the core of EPOC32 from the start. To make a new application able to embed pictures and sounds, you use a Rich Text view as a component.

A simulator program called WINS uses EPOC32 code to emulate a Psion in a screen window under Windows NT or 95.

Securing Data

In your database, insert a "Sheet" document, put secret info in sheet document, assign a password, close the sheet, format the object as an Icon. Double click on the Icon and you are asked for a password.

Alternate, use the SwitchTask macro "Ncode" or "Codesafe". Quick.

Create a separate database and encrypt it using a third party encryption or protection program.

Service Release 1

Psion make available a service release for the Psion 5 (not 5mx). It patches Agenda, to allow mmddyyyy printing to show the date. Patches Sheet operator precedence, inserting blank multiple rows and columns, and string concatenation. Word spell checking patches, receiving text by IrDA, inserting page break does not replace highlighted text, range of pages now prints, style with border and insets ok now with bullets, shift ctrl 5 no longer causes a panic. 370 k zip file formerly at

Software Updates from Psion

dBase III, IV, 5 Converter upgrade, for files after 31 Dec 1999, with PsiWin 2.1 to 2.3.1 only. 132KB

Email Synchronisation update 1.1 for PsiWin 2.3 and 2.31 (1.18MB).

InSync Pro upgrade for PsiWin 2.2 for Lotus Notes 5 (1.98MB).

InSync Pro(e) upgrade for PsiWin 2.3 for Lotus Notes 5, Lotus Email and Contact Manager (1.98MB)

Lotus Organiser 5.0 and 6.0 plugin for PsiWin 2.3 and above (1.34MB).

MacConnect 1.1.4 upgrade for Macintosh OS 8.5 (194KB)

MacConnect 1.1.4 upgrade for Macintosh OS 9.0 (132KB), also 1.1 upgrade (407KB)

PsiWin 2.3.3 PC connectivity and synchronisation for all 32 bit Windows (25MB). Also available on CD.

PsiWin 2.3.1 PC connectivity and synchronisation, provided for users of InSync Pro(e). All others use latest version. (25MB).

Series 5 IrDA Update improves IrDA (not required if Message Suite 1.52 or above is installed). (44KB).

Series 5 Printer update, supplied as a .sis file, installs in System\Printers. (37KB).

Series 5 Software Service Release, patches for Agenda, Sheet, Word. (370KB). Do not apply to any other model.

Synchronisation upgrade for PsiWin (helps with duplicate entries in Contact) (132KB)

General notes

To come.

This site will look much better in a browser that supports W3C web standards but it is accessible to any browser or internet device, including Psion Web and similar PDA or limited browsers. Netscape 4.x users - turn Style Sheets off. Your style sheet support is too broken to use (sorry). -> epoc -> epoc hardware -> psion5

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