Court Guinness // CourtFax

3 Vs 5

It’s the late 90’s and you an executive on the move. You need a tool to keep everything in check and keep things organised. Palmpilots look good but lack the all important keyboard. Casio have a few low powered devices as do Sharp and HP. But these are lacking in one area or another and some negligent in more than one area.

Luckily there are some solutions.

Psion have two suitable machines for the busy businessman. The 3 series and the 5 Series. But which really nails it?

Before I carry on I will declare that I did for Psion for a while in the 90’s.

The 3 series came first and then the 5 series was launched in 1997. 

Let us deal with the 5 first. I owned a 5mx for quite some time. It was a good machine. It was an evolution of the 3 series really. It had more memory, good performance, a bigger screen and a stylus. The keyboard was pretty neat too. Internet was still basic but it was better for email than the 3. But. These machines could be unreliable. Not all faults could be fixed with the paperclip “soft reset” method and quite a few I know about required very expensive outside of warranty. The series 5 had only one expansion slot for a Compact Flash card and Compact Flash cards came in larger memory sizes than the expansion cards for the 3 series.

The 3 series was excellent machine and I owned 2. Both met their maker by being dropped unfortunately. Thankfully I had very good backups.

The 3 series was smaller, lighter, had less memory than the 5, no stylus or touchscreen. I had a 3A machine which was followed by a 3mx. When I worked for Psion we nicknamed the forthcoming 3mx the “3c Gti” on account of its excellent performance. The 3mx had better connectivity than the 3a, a better screen and a backlit screen. It wasn’t great for internet but it was capable for email on the move. The 3 was also more reliable and so many problems could be fixed with the magic “soft reset” involving a paperclip and a hole next to the On key. The 3 also held a big sartorial advantage over the 5. It didn’t ruin the lines of a good suit when placed in an inside jacket pocket. With the 5 you tell it was there. With the 3 you could not tell it was there unless the suit was badly cut or a TopShop special! Lastly battery life. I managed 50 hours out of a set of AA batteries on one of these machines!

Lets move on to talk about software. I always felt that the 3 series had a better software catalogue than the 5 especially with stuff from the shareware sector and there were some excellent gems out there! Some external software for the 5 seemed rather buggy at times. As a sometime software developer I explored the programming languages for both machines. EPOC16 for the 3 series and EPOC 32 for the 5 series. I wrote some beautiful little utilities for the 3 series in EPOC16 but when I looked at moving these to the 5 series it was a pain and EPOC32 seemed very buggy in itself so I gave up bothering.

So lets get back to the original question, what is the 90’s executive on the move to do? My response would be a 3mx with some accessories, namely a travel modem and some expansion cards. The 3 series would be more reliable, more easily fixable – remember what I said about the paperclip! The executive in question would feel more reassured with critical data and in critical situation with the 3 than the 5. It would be less likely to let him down. Lastly there is the sartorial advantage. A good executive about town doesn’t want to let the world know what he is carrying in his pocket especially as both machines were rather attractive to thieves.

So The Psion series 3 definitely wins this contest!

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