Have you ever had a dream to create something that, on the surface, seemed pointless? Then, when you scratch away that surface, you realise exactly how insanely difficult that dream would be to achieve?
I have one of those dreams.
I want to build a device that will add modern storage and Wi-Fi to my ageing but beloved Psion Series 3c. If possible, I want it to fit into the SSD slot of the 3c and power it straight from the 3c.
- Build a storage device that mimics the Psion SSD using a modern microprocessor.
- Add Wi-Fi capabilities to this device so that files can be uploaded to and downloaded from cloud storage.
- Write EPOC16 drivers to control the Wi-Fi, maybe more.
- Convert files on-the-fly to and from Psion formats.
- Write an application that controls the "non-standard" functions of the device.
- Eventually... write a better word processor, perhaps offloading some tasks to a modern microprocessor.
THINGS I NEED TO LEARN
- C and C++ for Psion EPOC16 development
- Python for writing sigrok decoders
- Programmable Logic Devices and VHDL (for the bi-directional serial line, possibly more)
- 8086 Assembly for writing new (and possibly analysing existing) EPOC16 drivers
- APIs for at least one cloud storage service (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox)
- EPOC16's Filesystem Formats; each storage type has its own filesystem. RAM SSDs use FAT16, ROM SSDs have their own format, Flash SSDs use yet another format.
- EPOC16's File Formats, especially its word processor
- A lot more that I haven't even thought about yet
For years I have had an affection for the Psion Series 3 and Series 5 machines. I got my first Series 3a back in 2002 and loved it. Over the following years I used it as a journalling device, a platform on which to write while commuting. When the hinges on that 3a broke, I bought another one on eBay. Eventually the hinges on that one broke, too. I later bought a Series 5, but manage to crack the screen on it. I lived in a Psion-less abyss for many years. Life took over and my passion for these machines faded into the background.
This year I bought a Psion Series 3c. I loved getting back into the world of Psion, but things had changed in the 11 years since I had owned my last Series 5. The Internet had gone from a useful tool to being a ubiquitous, omnipresent entity. In addition, the Maker movement had taken off, along with a dramatic reduction in the cost of ARM-based processors and Wi-Fi devices.
Also, while it was amazing that I could carry around a word processor in my pocket once again, the disadvantages of the Series 3c in the modern world became apparent. Using a serial cable to transfer files to and from a PC isn’t very practical, especially given that most computers don’t even come with a serial port any more. Although the 3c can communicate via IrDA, even fewer PCs come with infrared ports nowadays. And after having said all of that, the idea of a mobile computer - whether that be a smartphone or a PDA - being dependent on a PC feels antiquated.
This is when that pointless and insanely difficult dream popped into my head.
What if I could add Wi-Fi to my Psion Series 3c?
The more I thought about it, the more features I felt I could add. What if I built something that would fit into an SSD slot? Could I maybe get it to pretend to be an SSD, giving the 3c some proper non-volatile flash storage? Could it have switchable banks of storage? Could I add file converters to it, maybe getting it to directly open Word documents? How about Markdown documents? Could it get it to sync with Dropbox or Google Drive? Could I get it to directly edit Google Drive documents? How would I control the Wi-Fi? What about the storage? Would I need to write drivers for the Psion? Could I even write a better word processor?
As I thought more about it, I realised...Read more »