Psion Organiser II as a portable RSS reader

A project log for Getting online with a 1987 Psion Organiser II

Bringing an Eighties handheld classic into 2020 with a little help from a Raspberry Pi and a Bluetooth chip.

James FosseyJames Fossey 06/07/2020 at 11:410 Comments

Hello again!

The last few months have been difficult for us all, and I hope everyone reading this is well.

In my last log, I had completed my project to bring my Psion Organiser II into 2020, by Bluetoothing the Comms Link. So now I can easily connect it to my laptop, or a Raspberry Pi, and download files to it.

The process itself is easy, but there are some obvious limitations. You've got the issues of the tiny 16*2 screen (unless you've got a fancy LZ model) and the limited memory - about 23.8KB on my machine! So what can we actually use this device for in 2020, besides as an alarm clock?

This got me thinking about RSS feeds. These give very brief summaries of (e.g.) news headlines, designed for mobile devices - though maybe not 35-year-old ones ;) 

Using the Python feedparser library I was able to write a very simple script that prints a summary of some chosen RSS feeds in 'Organiser-readable' format, i.e. with the different 'fields' in each post separated by tabs, and each post presented on a new line. I can run this script on my laptop or Raspberry Pi and then transfer the results to my Organiser II via my Bluetoothed Comms Link. No programming on the OrgII side needed - and let's face it, hardly any on the modern side either! I look forward to whipping out my Organiser on the train to catch up with BBC News, once I get back to work!

I'm writing some brief instructions, which should be fairly easy to follow for anyone familiar with the Organiser II & Comms Link. It should also be possible to read emails (or email subject headings at least) in a similar way.

For now though, I'll share with you the obligatory low-resolution video is up on my Psion Twitter.