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I have inherited a Psion PDA Series 5, from 1997, along with a serial port RS232 cable, and power supply. It takes industry standard Compact Flash cards, which can be removed and used to transfer information to a 64-bit Windows PC. I would prefer to use the serial cable to:

  • synchronise files with the PC
  • install software on the PDA
  • connect the PDA to the internet.

What hardware and software solution(s) would best allow me to do this?

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  • Would a 32-bit Windows 10 be an option? May 17, 2022 at 14:03
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    A 32-bit Windows might be able to run the original software coming with the device, where as a 64-bit most likely won't. May 17, 2022 at 15:43
  • 2
    Bear in mind that physically transferring a CompactFlash card has a vastly greater bandwidth than the serial cable (max ~10KB/sec), so for significant amounts of data, you might still prefer the hassle of closing apps, unmounting, unplugging, plugging, and mounting a CF (twice). (Of course, for small amounts of data, or if you have lots of time, serial is easier, especially if you have suitable software.)
    – gidds
    May 17, 2022 at 17:20
  • @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen It turns out that a 32-bit windows explorer alternative is all that is required, not a full reinstall of Windows. Thanks for the pointer. I have added the solution to my answer. May 17, 2022 at 19:50

2 Answers 2

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Hardware

It is possible to connect the RS232 serial cable with a current Windows PC using a compatible RS232-USB adapter. I have a 'Belkin PDA Adaptor', which works well and has 64-bit drivers for Windows. I have read that PsiWin prefers COM ports 1-4, and also needs to use the RTS / CTS signals, so any adapter must provide these.

PsiWin

The latest version of PsiWin is 2.3.3, which can be found online. It will install successfully on modern Windows PCs, with the sole exception of ORG21.EXE, a component for synchronising Lotus Organiser files. Backing up, syncing with Outlook and installing software all work.

It is not possible to browse the Psion filesystem from the 64-bit Windows Explorer, as the shell extension is a 32-bit DLL. However, installing a 32-bit alternative file browser such as Q-Dir works perfectly.

Internet

The easiest way to connect the Psion PDA to the internet was by running a PPP server on the Windows PC. I tried 'MochaSoft PPP'. Use the options for a 'Windows CE' PDA and choose the appropriate serial port.

It should also be possible to connect the Psion to a Raspberry Pi Zero W (or similar) via USB or the GPIO pins (with an adaptor) and set up pppd on the Pi to act as an internet gateway, which might allow for a more portable solution.

The Psion needed to be configured for PPP as follows:

  1. Go to System > Control Panel > Modems. Then click 'New' or press Ctrl + N. Enter the name of the modem as whatever you want, so you can recognise it in the future, but for now I will refer to it as 'Mocha Connection.'
  2. Under the 'Modem' tag in this Control Panel window, set these options:
  • Name = Mocha Connection (or whatever you wish)
  • Speed = 115200 baud
  • Connect via = Serial Fax Class = Auto
  1. Under the 'Options' tag, set these options:
  • Loudspeaker in use = Until call answered
  • Volume = Quiet
  • Pause time for "," = 0 seconds
  1. Under the 'Initialisation' tag, set these options: ALL FIELDS TO BE BLANK.
  2. Under the 'Handshaking' tag, set these options:
  • Flow control = none
  • Terminal detect (DSR/STR) = (Not ticked)
  • Carrier detect (DCD) = (Not ticked)
  1. Go to System > Control Panel > Internet and click 'New' or press Ctrl + N. Now choose Based upon = 'Standard Settings' and click 'OK.' Now enter a recognition name for this method of connection. Under the 'Service' tag set these options:
  • Connection type = Direct (This will then disable the other options)
  1. Under the 'Account' tab, tick the box next to 'Manual Login,' and this will disable the other options.
  2. Under the 'Addresses' tab, tick the 'Get IP Address from Server' and 'Get DNS address from server' boxes. This will disable other options that you should leave blank.
  3. Under the 'login' tab, make sure the 'Use Login Script' box is not ticked. If it isn't, the other options will be disabled.
  4. Finally, under the 'Advanced' tab, make sure ALL the boxes are un-ticked. Now click 'Done' or press Ctrl + D and it will be ready. Note that the Psion Link must be set to 'Off' in System (Ctrl+L) to free the use of the serial cable for the PPP link.
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I have now found an alternative way to sync data between the Psion and the Windows PC (including 64-bit Windows 10), which is harder to set up but easier to use.

  1. Install the Symbian EPOC SDK, including the EPOC32 Emulator. This will emulate a Psion EPOC device on the Windows PC.
  2. Connect the PC and the Psion 5 using a serial cable. A USB to Serial adapter is fine, but ensure that the serial port is set to COM1 on the PC end.
  3. Install the EPOCSYNC software on both the real Psion and the emulated Psion. Turn off the Remote Link on both machines (CTRL-L from System).
  4. Set up a sync relationship on the primary machine. For example on my real Psion I use the relationship D:\Documents>C:\Documents to sync the Documents folder on my Compact Flash card with the Documents folder in the emulated C Drive. Note that the emulated drive is just a folder on the Windows PC and can be accessed using normal tools.
  5. Run the sync between the emulated and the the real Psion: enter image description here

The sync relationship is 2-way, so editing / creating files on either device will work, and backups can be kept.

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