Psion Series 3 palmtop EReader

Put a 90s classic into everyday use as a seriously retro EReader.

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If you can live without e-ink, and don't mind splitting your favourite novels into 100 kilobyte-sized chunks, the classic Psion Series 3 palmtop computer from the early 90s makes a fine e-reader.

Its long battery life, wonderfully clear monochrome LCD screen and lack of distracting internet capabilities make it the ideal device for reading on the move, even in 2020.

What's more, there's no need to surrender your every reading move to the likes of Amazon and Google. Whoo-hoo! :-)

The Psion Series 3 is a classic British handheld ('palmtop') computer. Introduced in late 1991, it continued in production for many years with occasional updates.

I believe the device was the first mainstream palmtop computer to use a user-friendly GUI instead of a DOS command-line interface. It was designed to be easy to use for the ordinary consumer, and was sold in many high-street shops, from Dixons to Boots. Launch price in '91 was £200 for the 128K model and £250 for the 256K model.

Legendary UK computer manufacturer Acorn sold the same device (with slightly different built-in applications) as the Acorn Pocket Book. Whilst the Series 3 was designed as a business/executive tool, the Pocket Book was marketed as a pocket computer for use in education. Acorn computers such as the BBC Micro & Archimedes were found in most UK schools at the time.

The Series 3 was very well regarded in its day, and many vintage computer enthusiasts still look back on them fondly. Fully-working models continue to command decent prices on eBay.

Aside from a nostalgia kick, it is hard to find a 'serious' use for the Psion Series 3 in the modern world - which is where the EReader idea comes in. The long battery life and easy-to-use interface (which still feels slick nearly 30 years on) make it an ideal device for the purpose. Plus, it has a lovely clear monochrome LCD with no headache-inducing backlight, meaning it is *almost* as comfortable to read as a real book.

  • 1 × Psion Series 3/3a or an Acorn Pocket Book I/II More recent models (3c/3mx) will also work but the method will be slightly different
  • 1 × Psion 3-Link or Acorn A-Link cable A device that allows you to plug your Series 3/Pocket Book into a computer serial port.
  • 1 × USB-to-serial converter Let's face it, your computer doesn't have a serial port any more :-)
  • 1 × 1-megabyte Psion SSD (optional) Optional - expands your Psion's storage capacity so you might be able to fit a whole novel on it - at once! Oh the luxury.

  • 1
    Install a terminal emulator program on your PC

    Minicom on Linux works excellently.

  • 2
    On your PC, download TextView for the Psion

    TextView 1.1 from 1993 is a text file reader that will work both with all 3/3a's and Pocket Books. As of October 2020, you can download it from

    If you have a 3a/Pocket Book II you might like to try a different program called eTxtReader which (I think) has more features.

    Extract the '' file from the zip file.

  • 3
    Connect your Psion to your PC

    Plug the 3-Link/A-Link into the side of your Psion and connect up the other end to your PC - probably via a USB-to-serial connector.

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