Upgrading A 20 Year Old PDA

Before we had our iDevices and Androids, even before Blackberry, we had PDAs. The most famous of these mid-90s computing appliances are the Apple Newton and the Palm products, but the world of 90s PDAs was significantly more diverse than these two devices. Palm had a competitor in Handspring who released a cheaper and better version of a Palm OS device with the Visor. HP made hardware at one point, and you could run Windows – including Excel and Word – on a handheld device in 1998.

A company name Psion made PDAs with a clamshell design and a keyboard back then, too. Disregarding the operating system, these little clamshell PDAs could arguably be called the forerunners of yesterday’s netbooks and today’s Surface tablets. [RasmusB] is turning his Psion 5 PDA into something modern by replacing all the important bits while still keeping the clean design of this 20-year-old PDA.

The goal of this project is to completely replace the electronics of the Psion 5, while keeping all of the mechanics. That means the keyboard will stay the same, the device will run off of two AA batteries, and all the switches and ports will work. This effort began by making the Psion keyboard Arduino compatible by reverse engineering the keyboard matrix with a pencil and paper, and turning the keyboard into a USB keyboard.

Efforts to turn this Psion into a modern device are ongoing, but at least the outline of the main board is now in KiCad, with a microcontroller to decode the keyboard, switches for the lid and other buttons, and the correct space for the CompactFlash card and battery contacts. The next step is selecting a microprocessor and designing a circuit, but [Rasmus] is off to a great start to make this ancient PDA a modern computing device.

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Hackaday retro edition roundup

It’s time for another update chronicling the adventures and misadventures of getting really old computers to load our retro edition!

First up is [Andrew Hull] and his brilliant use of a Raspberry Pi to get an old Psion 5mx PDA on the Internet. The Raspi served as a wireless bridge, taking in Internet from a WiFi dongle and sending it back out via a serial port. Here’s a great guide for enabling PPPD on the Raspi, and giving just about anything with a serial port an Internet connection.

It may push the limits of being a retro submission, but [Glen]’s use of a modem to get on the Internet calls to us like a siren song.

Did you know Corel made computers? Well, [Victor] has one, and it’s actually a pretty interesting machine. ARM processor, an actual hard drive, and dual Ethernet ports. It was built in the late 90s and the hard drive has since died, but [Victor] booted it into Red Hat over his network and loaded up our retro site.

Finally, we come to [Greg]’s submission. He could have sent in a Mac SE/30 submission, but figured that was old hat (do you see one on there, [Greg]. No. And it’s the best computer Apple will ever make). Instead, he had an old Powerbook Duo 2300c with a Duo 230 screen lying around.

Powerbook Duos are pretty weird; they only had two ports – a single DIN-8 serial port and a dock connector. [Greg] had a Powerbook Duo dock that surprisingly had an Ethernet port. Third-party peripherals to the rescue, it seems. After plugging his Duo to his network and launching iCab, [Greg] was able to browse both the retro and main Hackaday editions. Picture Not bad for the smallest laptop Apple made before the Air.

Oh, [Greg] was also cool enough to write a tutorial for getting just about every Macintosh on the Internet. We’ve put that up on the retrocomputing guide portion of our retro site, and we’re always looking for new submissions.

You can check out the pics from all these submissions in a Web 2.0 WordPress gallery after the break, or head on over to the retro site and view them the way the gods of HTML intended.

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