David MacKay

My experiences with the psion 3a

This page originates from http://www.inference.org.uk/mackay/psion/psion.html and is mirrored at http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~mackay/psion/psion.html.


Psion Surgery


Photos taken with a Sony DSCF1

[For a similar site, see Inside, and another with right-hinge fixing info (link now expired).]

Fixing the button bar connector

(see part 3 of the FAQ at http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/8130/faq.htm, UK faq site, local copy here
15.jpg ( 168 K) : Step one: battery compartment removed. If you are doing the button bar surgery, you should remove the backup battery, but you won't need to remove the main batteries. If you leave the batteries connected then during the surgery you may get strange bleeps and screen patterns happening, so it is probably best to disconnect them, unless your set-up takes a long time to restore.
16.jpg ( 168 K) : The battery connector released from its retaining tab, but not disconnected from the body.
17.jpg ( 176 K) : Rather uninteresting view when battery compartment removed.
01.jpg ( 200 K) : After removal of the keyboard cover. (I did this by lifting out the front, next to the space bar, first, then easing the back out.)
18.jpg ( 192 K) : Removing the keyboard cover.
19.jpg ( 160 K) and 20.jpg ( 168 K) : The back of the keyboard cover is held down by a total of six tabs; the edge ones point backwards and the centre ones hook downwards. This is why `considerable force' is needed at this point.
02.jpg ( 256 K) : After removal of the keys. When I removed the battery compartment, my button bar bowed out under the strain of the springs. I think it might have been a good idea to remove the springs. WARNING: When I proceeded with the surgery for the button bar, my left hinge broke.
09.jpg ( 240 K) : WARNING: when lifting up the keyboard cover, ONLY insert your tools in the dead centre, where there is a dimple in the circuit board. Preferably use a blunter plastic instrument. Notice I used a metal screwdriver, and at the tricky moment when lifting the keyboard cover's two prongs out, I scratched the circuit board underneath. No real damage done, but if I had been clumsier, it could have been terminal, I guess.
04.jpg ( 168 K) : WARNING: When I lifted the main circuit board, my port protector popped out. Maybe the FAQ could give advice on how to prevent it from so popping. My guess is it might help to tape the protector back, but I couldn't see how the spring fitted into things. I left this out when I reassembled. Here is a picture by mikehughes showing how the spring should be fitted - The right angled end fits into the small hole and the tiny "lip" on the plastic part hooks over the pcb. It forms a kind of "runner" to keep it on.
03.jpg ( 200 K) : After lifting the main circuit board. Note the blue connector strip which is hanging loose. Note also the main top to bottom connectors in white. The blue connector should go back in the centre white connector at the bottom front.
05.jpg ( 184 K) : Another view of the blue connector. Note the tabs on the white connector underneath, which are sticking up. They compress back in, as you see later.
06.jpg ( 208 K) : another view
07.jpg ( 184 K) : Feeding the blue connector into its hole. This was tricky.
08.jpg ( 200 K) : This blue connector is not home yet.
21.jpg ( 176 K) : I found it helped to attach a piece of tape to the blue connector, to pull on it. I pulled with my fingers and with a pair of plastic tweezers at the same time. Notice I have pushed down the two little white ears in the white connector.

Left Hinge Surgery

10.jpg ( 184 K) : Here is the broken hinge piece.
11.jpg ( 200 K) : This is what your psion looks like when you open it when your left hinge is broken.
12.jpg ( 184 K) : Another View of broken-hinged psion when psion is open.
13.jpg ( 184 K) : Another View of broken-hinged psion when psion is open.
14.jpg ( 192 K) : Another view showing the gap between batteries and body.
15.jpg ( 168 K) : Step one: battery compartment removed.
16.jpg ( 168 K) : The battery connector released from its retaining tab, but not disconnected from the body. (I don't know why the FAQ recommends disconnecting the batteries; it didn't seem necessary for this operation.)
22.jpg ( 160 K) : The battery connector has been removed; here is a hinge and spring.
23.jpg ( 168 K) : Spring removed to one side.
24.jpg ( 160 K) : Here I am twisting the button bar so you can see the stump of the hinge.
25.jpg ( 160 K) : I drilled the hole using a sharp precision screwdriver as a drill. The plastic is quite soft.
26.jpg ( 168 K) : I made the new hinge out of a paper clip. I bent it double to give it some thickness, then put a right angle in it. Tony Humphreys said I created the new hinge pin from a small round headed nail. I sawed it to a stump of the right size and filed the head to a D. Then I pushed it through the drilled hole and superglued it into place. The D shape allowed the head to fit snugly among the various mouldings This was one of the few occasions I have succeeded with superglue! Though if the superglue does give way then the spring holds the nail head in place anyway.
27.jpg ( 168 K) : New hinge installed but not yet trimmed..
28.jpg ( 152 K) : Hinge trimmed and held in place
29.jpg ( 176 K) : The battery connector snug under its retaining tab.

Fixing the display cable to get rid of the vertical lines (jail bars)

99/11/27, my psion 3a developed vertical lines on the screen. This is apparently a well-known problem, caused by the cable to the screen having internal cracks in its copper or bad solder at its end in side the screen.

I read dejanews and found a few fixes including using car-windscreen-repair-gloop for restoring the defroster wires when they break.

Then I tried a simpler hack, which worked for my jail bars: I removed the battery case (4 screws), and half-opened the psion. (Held it open with tape from jaw to jaw.) In this position, you can get at both sides of the cable, and there is just enough space to fit a piece of tape 5mm wide through. I reckoned the problem was associated with bending and straightening of the cable at the place where it disappeared into the screen. So I taped several pieces of old plastic card (credit card) to the cable there, on both sides of the cable, to try to stiffen it and discourage it from bending. The straight state appeared to be the reliable jail-bar-free state, as tugging on the cable improved things on the screen. The bars still come and go, but the problem is much reduced, and I plan to retire the psion into a home-vt100-terminal role.

Alternative solutions:

A good squirt of WD-40. (oil)

Open the cover about 25% and squirt wd-40 in onto the ribbon cable (not too

Remove batteries from compartment and squirt ribbon cable from rear.

The wd-40 allows the copper contacts to work again.

fixes 90% of the Jail-Bar problems. (Tried it on two different Psions, and
worked well with both).

doesn't work for ever and wd-40 may need to be re-applied a month or so
later, but worth a try.

Laurie Williams


 I sent it to Pinnock Organiser
Services who did a smashing repair job, and I actually got back a better
functioning machine than the one I sent away! They even mended the squeaky
hinge! For the price of the repair, you get a full (very full!) service of the
machine and some new batteries. Invaulable repair, and turned round in about
five days (from post to receipt!) Can't recommend it enough! Cost about 60ukp
as I remember.
0181 677 9246
Address for website is http://www.posltd.com (was co.uk)

My Toolbar (Psion Application Buttons) is Dead!

Every few days, someone says:
I turned my Psion 3a on this morning to discover that it won't respond to
pressing any of the "System", "Data", ... buttons.  Aghast, I did a soft
reset to no effect.

Anyone had this happen to their Psion?  Suggestions either as a self fix or
(horrors) who I could send away to be fixed cheaply and quickly?

Also, does anyone know in the meantime if there is any other way to skip
back to the System screen when in an application, other than the "System"
This happened to me after 14 months' careful use of my psion 3a. I never dropped it on the floor or got it wet. I am very upset about this, as I expected my psion to last for years, and psion uk seem unwilling to fix the problem without a huge (75 pound) charge. I think this is outrageous, as the product is clearly defective if it stops working after 14 months careful use.

There are hardware fixes and software fixes. The Psion FAQ (the relevant bit is copied here contains a hardware fix recipe involving skillful use of a screwdriver (by Kevin Reilly). [You could also send the Psion off to a repair company - Pinnock Organiser Services (0181 677 9246) who are supposedly better, cheaper and quicker than Psion.] Here are the software fixes....

Here are the software fixes.
  • First, some fixes which are innate in the psion itself:
    • For Series 3a owners, several programs are available to help you switch back to the System screen. The worst case is if you're stuck in the Time app since you cannot close it anymore. It has been found out by a 2 year old (sic!) that you can "emulate" the Sheet button with the key combination of "up cursor, down cursor and Esc". Yes, it seems strange but it works! This will either put you into an open Sheet file or bring you to the Sheet icon on the System screen. To go directly to the Sheet icon each time, press the Psion key at the same time as the above combination.
    • Another such key combination has been reported by Timothy Giles: "up cursor, p key and Esc" will emulate the Calc button. Apparently, there is a pattern and this key sequence was found by studying the keyboard values of keys...
  • http://www.palmtop.co.uk/issue06.htm#ShareShorts points to TOSHELL.OPO (just 192 bytes in size). "This handy little program simply allows you to hit CTRL-Z to perform exactly the same function as the System button"
  • Pfund's DPSwitch, found at http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/8130/, allows you to very quickly jump back to any open task AND the system screen of course! (Useful, but superceded by kbdmap and macsys below).
  • Iain Tuddenham uses kbdmap.htm to remap the toolbar. This is perhaps the best solution of all. e.g. Control-Shift- act as application buttons. Cost is 40DM. More info.
  • macsys (macro system) is another very nice software package for creating keyboard shortcuts for arbitrary operations. It is free. The overhead is 34K disk space plus 23K to run. The macros themselves generally take much less than 1K of disk space, and use memory only when actually running - much better than separate apps to implement task managers, etc. More info.

More about psion I called psion UK tech support on 0990 143 061. It took *ages* to get through their queue. They sent me to 0181 575 9919 (why is this number not on the psion web page?). Another huge phone queue. (Their address is
Psion UK service centre. Unit 6 Derby Rd. Metropolitan Centre, Greenford, Middlesex. UB6 8UJ.)
The OUTRAGEOUS bastards say that there will be a 75 pound charge for repair. I am unlikely ever to buy another psion. I have encouraged several friends to buy them, but if they go wrong after less than two years, and psion won't admit that this is unsatisfactory, I can't recommend them any more.
I asked to speak to the director. They pointed me to (name deleted) 0181 839 1700. I couldn't get through to him. I gave up, because feeling angry with psion is a poor use of energy. All the same, here is what the newsgroup said:
David MacKay  writes:

> I think that anyone who sells a personal digital assistant has 
> a legal obligation to produce something that lasts longer than 
> 14 months (irrespective of what warranty they give). They shouldn't
> be able to market stuff that breaks down so soon and get away with it. 

    In the UK, any warranty is subservient to the Sales and Supply of
Goods Act, 1994, which says: "All goods must be of satisfactory
quality.  Satisfactory means goods must be safe, durable and free from
minor defects."  If quoting this at them doesn't work, and you feel
you have a sufficiently strong case, you could consider taking them to
Small Claims Court.

> Can anyone advise on the legal situation?

    Phone your local Trading Standards Officer for advice, usually
reachable through your local council.

Psion 3a Hinge breakages

The psion 3a has at least four hinges. Two visible ones just beyond either end of the button bar, which seem to have a metal rod down the centre, and two hidden between the battery compartment and the button bar; these are simple plastic nipples which go into plastic holes.
I have owned several psions and have seen two hinge failures. (May 2000: Now I have seen all four! Right and Left fixes are identical.) All hinge breakages are easy to fix.
  • Left hidden hinge nipple breaks off. This makes the back side of the psion look crooked hile opening, and leaves the button bar flexing out. To fix this broken hidden hinge, see the gory photo sequence mentioned above.
  • Right visible hinge breaks 2mm above the hinge proper; the 8mm-wide neck connecting the hinge to the lid shears off. This is presumably caused by over-opening of the lid which bends the metal pin in the hinge and puts torque on the 8mm-wide neck.
    I know two fixes for this right-hinge problem.
    • I used epoxy adhesive and a thin piece of steel to glue the broken off piece back in place. The second time a visible-hinge broke, I just used a blob of epoxy (araldite) without steel. In both cases the epoxy is working fine.
    • Geoffrey Mathers used paperclips, solder and pins: external-hinge fixing info THIS LINK IS GONE.]

From tonyrosser@thefreeinternet.co.uk  Wed Jul 11 09:56:53 2001
From: "Tony Rosser" 

Battery Connector problem, where wires break at 2 pin

With a steady hand, small soldering iron, small cutters
and pliers and componenets from RS Components I managed
to renew the battery wires and 2 pin connector.

2 Way Housing RS 279-9156
Crimp Lead RS 279-9516


From: Sven Killig [sven@killig.de]   December 26 2011

The housing RS 279-9156 doesn't fit perfectly, but good enough.
Only the wire RS 279-9516 is too short as a replacement for the
long one, so I replaced it with RS 279-9443 that has double the
length and even is cheaper.

As they come in packs of 10 and only to commercial customers, I
sell my surplus at cost for 4,12 €/assembly. Just send this amount
via PayPal to sven@killig.de to get one.

My experiences with hooking a psion 3a up to a workstation.

Getting hooked up for the first time

I bought a psion 3a in April 96 having heard that they can be happily connected to Sun workstations. This requires
  • A 3-link
  • A 3-link to workstation connection
  • Software
All of these steps have proved more troublesome than expected.
  • Getting a 3-link without having to buy PC or Mac software too seems to be impossible. I wanted to do this, as, on environmental principle, I don't want to buy stuff (packaging, manuals, floppies) that I have no use for, and I don't like to be ripped off. But psion customer service seem adamantly opposed to any personal service of this sort.

    When I said I had bought a Psion and wanted to connect it to my unix machine, the lady said that they only advertised the Psion as being connectable to PCs and Macs, so I couldn't expect them to cooperate. I was not expecting such hostility to a potential market of unconventional users.

  • Once you have a 3-link (I borrowed one) you need a 9 pin to 25 pin adaptor, male to male. This is impossible to buy from any ordinary computer hardware supplier; they only make 9 pin *female* to 25 pin male adaptors. After searching through several catalogues I did find a 9 to 25 male to male cable, and I called them up, but it turned out to be a misprint! So the easiest thing to do is to get the 9 pin *female* to 25 pin male adaptor and add to its female end a 9 pin male to 9 pin male gender convertor. These parts can be obtained very cheap from Hills components (01923 424344) part numbers 26-3063 and 15-3572. The prices are more than 3 times cheaper than other places, so you won't mind having to buy the parts in threes.
    9-25way adaptors can also be obtained from Clove Technologies at a greater price. UK 01202 302796.
    Alternatively you could make your own adaptor. I believe the correct wirings are: nine(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) <-> 25(8,3,2,20,7,6,4,5,22).
    Having the thing made professionally by BlackBox would have cost 30 pounds including delivery.
    Final alternative: Apparently you can get a psion 25 pin connector that plugs into the 3-link; but none of the psion vendors ever had such a thing in stock when I called them. I called about four places.
  • I have got the p3nfsd software. When searching for it, you need to know that the package is called p3nfs.pl (not p3nfsd). The latest version of p3nfs is here: ftp.uni-erlangen.de:/pub/psion3/local/utilities/. (Thanks to rfkoenig@immd4.informatik.uni-erlangen.de for bringing me up to date.) Now it is called p3nfs51.tgz or p3nfs-5.1a.tar.gz (see also 3lib This package has a lot more in it than the version 10 which I installed. However, all that follows in this section refers to version 10, and having installed the new version I don't find the old one is now inadequate for my purposes. (But see comments below.)

    I got a friendly sysadmin to get and apply the patches which the Sunos kernel apparently needs.

    Big problem

    All the software packages require that there be an executable program sitting on your psion. How are you supposed to get it there? (Assuming you don't have PCs or Macs, which I don't.)

    I decided the only thing to do was to type in the whole damn nfs program (about 200 lines). (I am amazed at myself!)

    In fact Tim tells me I could have used the drive C in the psi-link as follows: run a comms program `in the cable' to transfer files (in fact the program is already present in the 3a's ROM, and replaces the software in the cable). The workstation would have had to be told to use the relevant protocol. We're not sure how to get a unix machine to do this, but maybe kermit would do the trick. Or even cat file > /tty/deva might have worked. If there are simple ways to transfer files between psions and unix machines, why does the FAQ not mention them? It would have saved a lot of effort. More information can be found below.


Once all these things were done, I succeeded! I immediately transferred the real nfsc.opl over and started using it, instead of my bug-filled copy. I copied the real nfsc.opl over again, and checked that it had copied OK. I am now a happy camper --- but pissed off with psion that they force me to buy some PC software to get my own 3-link. What is a PC?

What is success?

One thing I was not clear on was what should happen when p3nfs was working correctly. So here is a little description of what happens.
  • Exit all applications (not essential)
  • Run the Nfsc program on the psion.
  • A welcome message comes up on the psion
  • On the workstation, type
    p3nfsd -u mackay -tty /dev/ttyb -oldnfsc
  • If all is well, you'll get
    p3nfsd: version 2.0 beta, pl10, using /dev/ttyb (19200), mounting on /psion/mnt
    p3nfsd: to stop the server do "ls /psion/mnt/exit". (pid 613)
    and a new prompt. If something is up, you won't get a new prompt, you'll get error messages instead. At this point ">>" appears on the psion.
  • You can now access the psion as if it is a hard drive mounted at /psion/m ; for example:
  • 69:bee:/home/mackay/reviews> ls /psion/m
    agn     dat     opl     spr     wdr     wrd
    app     opd     opo     sun.opl wld     wve
    71:bee:/home/mackay/reviews> cd /psion/m
    agn/    dat/    opl/    spr/    wdr/    wrd/
    app/    opd/    opo/    sun.opl wld/    wve/
    72:bee:/psion/m> cd wrd
    biocom.wrd      dublin.wrd      life.wrd        txt/
    coderesu.wrd    how2talk.wrd    sb1.wrd         word.wrd
    dublin.txt      htm/            tex/
    73:bee:/psion/m/wrd> tar cvf ~/backup.tar .
           (this backs up everything in the psion's wrd directory
  • Note that there is nothing to be done on the psion except watch confirmatory character strings pop up on the screen. If the psion times out (switches off), you will get
    Stale NFS file handle
    on the unix machine when you try to do stuff. But when you switch it on again all is well.
    Sometimes you will get messages like
    NFS server psion not responding still trying
    NFS server psion ok
    which are cute. What a cool system!
  • To exit, you need to make sure that no users are using the mounted drive. (i.e., cd ~); and then type
    ls /psion/mnt/exit
    on the workstation. This gives the response
    ls: /psion/mnt/exit: File exists
    which means you have succeeded. You'll also get a
    p3nfsd: exiting.
  • Psion-Esc gets you out of the opl program on the psion.
  • Sometimes I find I don't have to exit either program. I find I can just detach the psion and then plug it in again later on and the connection works fine. This is a big plus. But it doesn't always work.
  • Be careful not to type
    ls /psion/mnt/exit
    when p3nfsd is not running. This can turn into a zombie process. Also avoid changing directory into the psion and then trying to kill the daemon!

Using the comms package to transfer a file from a unix machine

How I tried to do it

Here I report my experiences with raw file transfer. p3nfsd should not be running when you do the following.

Plug 3link into psion and into serial port of unix box. On the psion system screen select install and change to drive C, and install comms. Enter comms[C]. Use menu to select Transfer-Receive. Give a file name. On the unix machine, type

 cat file >> /dev/ttyb 
where file is the file to be transferred, and ttyb is the port you have plugged el gizmo into. Outcome: I found that I transferred a file but most of its characters were garbled, or maybe 50%, apparently with one bit being changed.

What to do? Could try changing protocol. Could try capture instead of receive. Tried Menu-Capture, followed by

 cat file >> /dev/ttyb 
followed by Menu-Capture-off. Don't think this had the desired effect. The received file is a pile of weird characters. Tried changing the protocol from ascii to xmodem crc. This time nothing seemed to get across at all.

Conclusion: it is possible to get *some* bits across using the comms package and cat >> /dev/ttyb, but I didn't find the right protocol yet. (And I've tried almost every protocol combination I could think of.)

Please mail me a clear description of how to do it, if you know how, and I'll put it here.

How someone else did it

"OK this is what I did to get the OPL program down to my Psion and compiled for the NFS program.

"I used the terminal program that comes with the comms link to login in to my UNIX machine. I changed directory to where I put the source code for the Psion part of the NFS stuff. Then I turned on "logging" (Sorry I can't tell you the exact menu pick as I do not have my serial link with me today) this will write to a file everything that is displayed on the screen. Then I just did "cat filename" on the source for the Psion. Then turned loggin off and logged out of the UNIX machine. I then copied the "log" file into the OPL directory on the Psion, did a small amount of editing on the file to tidy it up and compiled it. Q.E.D. (Quite Easily Done)"

Steve Waterworth

What happened when I tried to quite easily do the above

I attempted to follow the above directions and only succeeded with effort and random luck. I didn't know how to get my unix machine (sunOS) to accept a login, for starters. I tried
/usr/etc/getty ttyb
, with the psion plugged in and the comms program running, but all that happened was that the login prompt came up in the window where I typed /usr/etc/getty ttyb and nothing seemed to happen at all on the psion. And the login prompt was all garbled too.

I tried /usr/etc/getty 02ttyb (looking in the file /etc/ttys for hints) and this didn't work either.

/etc/ttytab gave some more hints. I tried /usr/etc/getty std.9600 02ttyb and this seemed to be promising - it produced an error message on my console.

  /usr/etc/getty std.9600 ttyb 
seemed close to the mark. When I hit the psion, funny little i's come out on its screen. I have tried using ascii protocol and switching the xon/xoff on and off, and I've tried xmodem and ymodem.

Setting the parity seems important. By experimenting I believe that I need to use odd parity, rather than even or none (because odd gives no errors and even gives them). However, the sun manual says that even parity is the default for getty.

At this point I read the SunOS system and network admin manual (p.322-355, Ch 11) and changed the psion default settings (?). I made these changes: under Port, set data bits to 7, stop bits to 1, parity to even. Now characters are correctly echoed to the terminal, but no prompt. I tried running the same command as root. And then the key step was this:

I edited /etc/ttytab, changing the ttyb entry from

ttyb    "/usr/etc/getty std.9600"       unknown         off local secure
ttyb    "/usr/etc/getty std.9600"       unknown         on local secure
then typed
 kill -1 1 
to inform init of this change. Then

SUDDENLY! - a login prompt comes on the psion. Miracle!! Here are the magic settings:

    • protocol xmodem CRC
    • PORT
      • Baud rate 9600
      • Data bits 7
      • Stop bits 1
      • Parity Even
      • Ignore No
    • Handshakes All off, except xon/xoff = On
    • Translates - default
Note, however, that Steve Waterworth says that
19200 baud 8 bits XON/XOFF flow NO parity
is more likely to be correct. More from Steve.

I cd'd to the place with opl file and did Transfer-Capture, then cat file, then Transfer-Capture off, and the file is transferred OK (to the wrd directory) except it has had all return characters turned into double returns. But it'll translate anyway.

Hohoho! It seems now that I changed /etc/ttytab, I can no longer use ttyb to run p3nfs! I'll change it back. I also had to chmod 666 /dev/ttyb to get it back to normal.

Other problems with nfsc

The same day that I achieved the above `quite easy' (not) transfer of nfsc.opl to a new psion, I had my first ever failure of nfsc. Using the .opo program, I found that when copying files onto the psion by cp or by tar xvf, the transfer would fail with error messages on the unix machine like "p3nfsd: select: timeout" and on the psion "XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX SYS$PRGO.$07 exit number 27". This crash left the unix machine in an unpleasant state with the cp command in a zombie state. Fortunately Juergen Weigert (jnweiger@uni-erlangen.de) was superbly helpful. He told me I should use the nfsc43d.app program instead. (I used to always use the small and simple nfsc.opl program, and didn't see any reason for using the bigger .app program, which can do terminal emulation and other things.) Apparently the .app program does better transmission. I set the serial line parameters to the defaults with the exception of flowcontrol -> hardware. Also set the baud rate to 19200 (strangely, with the baud rate at 9600, it failed). Then I ran this
 p3nfsd -u mackay -tty /dev/ttyb
and I found that the file transferred OK. Without the flowcontrol the transfer failed in the same way as before. Was this just coincidence? I transferred the file for a second time, no problem. I have not figured out what caused this problem. I guess it's a hardware problem, but I tried it on two tty ports and on two different suns and with two different psions, and all of them were unable to copy a 60K file without crashing --- a problem I never had before.

Three cheers for Juergen! Conclusion: use up to date p3nfs. I have used version 4.3 happily for a long time now.

More from Steve Waterworth

This is in response to my email to him asking how to get the psion to be accepted as a terminal by the unix box. You are on the right track with getty, it has the syntax of:
        getty line speed
Where line is the device /dev/tty???? speed is an entry in /etc/gettydefs which describes the tty settings on my machine the entry in gettydefs looks like this:
        #login: #P
The MRTS flag is HP specific I think, so you might need to remove this one. You can check your entries with "getty -c filename"

Obviously you will need to ensire that the comms on the Psion is set up to match the gettdefs: 19200 baud 8 bits XON/XOFF flow NO parity

If you have the man pages installed on your machine or a machine you have access to I suggest you check the entries for getty and gettydefs.

If you want to permenantly enable login you can put a line in /etc/inittab but be careful because if you make a mistake editing /etc/inittab you can stop your machine from booting up.

how to transfer ASCII files between a PC and a UNIX machine

I ran across your PSION link in your homepage, seems like
I can add my 2c to some of your problems. My comments are
valid for a SPARC 5 under SunOS 4.1.3_U1.

- how to transfer ASCII files between a PC and a UNIX machine:

  The problem is differing character sets - but as nearly always
  on UNIX, there is a tool for it already ... check out manpages
  for 'unix2dos' and 'dos2unix' which should be available as
  commands under your SunOS.

  E.g. to transfer a SUN file to PSION, use first on SUN
  and then transfer  to PSION.

- how to transfer data between PSION and SUN without p3nfsd:

  You have digged into the getty settings already ...  me too.
  For me the following procedure has worked fine:

  On SUN                                    On PSION
  ------                                    ----------

                                           Close all active applications
                                           Start 'Comms' application
                                           Check serial parameters:
                                              9600 Baud, 8 data bits,
                                              1 stop bit, no parity,
                                              ignore parity = yes
                                           Check handshake:
                                              Switch off all handshakes
  in a shell  : sleep 60000 < /dev/ttya
  in 2nd shell: stty raw    > /dev/ttya
                                           Select 'receive file' menu entry
   cat   > /dev/ttya

   Note: The default speed of my ttya is 9600 baud which happens to be    
         the default speed on PSION as well. If this is different on your
         SUN, then you need to add a '-speed ' flag to the
         above 'stty' command.

         I'm not sure why I had switched off XON/XOFF - but it worked.

Best Regards,

Oliver Meis                     Group Manager EED/X/TPC
Ericsson Eurolab Deutschland    Tel. : +49 2407 575 267
Ericsson Allee 1                email: eedolm@aachen.ericsson.se
        Aim: to get nfsc.app and p3nfsd talking to each other
                with a new linux machine (a linux laptop
                IBM thinkpad)

        My diagnosis of the problem:
                I think I don't know the right name for 
                the serial port.
                I have tried /dev/ttyS0 and /dev/ttyS1
                because both of these are said to be
                the standard names for the 9-pin
                ports at the back of the machine. 

	Explanation: by default, the stupid IBM machine comes
	        with its 9-pin port DISABLED. (So that the infrared
		port can be enabled.)

	Solution: we put the machine into windoze, followed the simple
	        instructions for disabling the infrared port and putting
		the 9-pin port from COM4 to COM1 (/dev/ttyS0).
		Rebooted windoze, then rebooted linux (which inherits
		the windoze settings).

        Then p3nfsd worked just fine. Unresolved questions: whether
	we could also use the 25-pin port next to the 9-pin port;
	what that port would be called; whether we could have used
	the 9-pin port by talking to 'COM4' somehow....

Connecting to a linux workstation

If you fail to compile the nfsd, try this bug fix: (Thanks Rudi!)
 From what I've heard on the net, in mp_inode.c you should move the lines
	#include "nfs_prot.h"
	#include "mp.h"
below the line
	#define HASHSIZE 99
The above is a fix for the following bug report:
(Linux skye 2.0.34 #1 Fri May 8 16:05:57 EDT 1998 i686 unknown)

I have tried both 5.3f and 5.4, and either way, I get the same
error message after 

There are many warnings, then make fails with this message: 

/usr/include/linux/nfs.h:152: storage size of `atime' isn't known
/usr/include/linux/nfs.h:153: storage size of `mtime' isn't known
/usr/include/linux/nfs.h:144: storage size of `ctime' isn't known
make[1]: *** [mp_inode.o] Error 1
make[1]: Leaving directory `/home/mackay/psion/p3nfs/p3nfs-5.4/nfsd'
make: *** [all] Error 2

Connecting to a linux laptop

OK, I've been a happy p3nfs user for two years now; can I get it to work on linux? (Linux 2.0.27 running on an IBM thinkpad.)

I got p3nfs-5.3f and installed it.

Several things seem to be different in linux.

What the serial port is called.
I found the following hints in a linux manual:
 COM1 is usually called /dev/ttyS0 if you are using it as an input
 and /dev/cua0 if as an output. If getting a tty, try these settings:
 9600, no parity, 8 bit, 1 stop bit. See the linux serial-HOWTO.

> I need to know that correct device name for the 9-pin serial port.
> My guess is that it is /dev/ttyS0 or /dev/ttyS1, but I would like
> to know how to find out for sure (because neither is working yet).

The best(?) way to tell is to go into your computer's BIOS setup and
for the serial port settings.  If that doesn't tell you, then in DOS use

"debug" to query the i/o ports with an "i " command.  It is most
likely COM1 or COM2, and the chart below shows the pertinent info.

name    port addr    irq    linux name

COM1    3F8-3FF    IRQ4    /dev/ttyS0
COM2    2F8-2FF    IRQ3    /dev/ttyS1

When in debug, if "i 3f8" returns FF and "i 2f8" returns something else,

then your serial port is /dev/ttyS1.  If it is the other way around, you

have /dev/ttyS0.  If they both return FF, then your serial port is
disabled or broken.  If they both return something else, then you have
two serial ports - probably an internal modem.  In that case, use any
terminal/communications program and type AT.  The one that sends
back OK is the modem.

More helpful advice: ls -lisa /dev/modem shows where the modem is.

Where /etc/ttytab is --- /etc/inittab
I reckon that for normal use of p3nfs the serial line entry
s1:12345:respawn:/sbin/agetty 19200 ttyS0 vt100
needs to be disabled.
Here was the initial result
I am using the nfsc.app from version 5.1 on my psion. (psion 3a) When I type p3nfsd (with the default tty being ttyS0) I get the message
and no symbols appear on the psion, which is running nfsc. I try ls /psion...m/wrd and get the same 'select:timeout' message. I am pretty sure that no getty is running on the port. The 'serial link active' symbol on the psion system screen comes on when I run nfsc.app but it never 'moves'. And the "cts dsr" symbols in the status line are lower case, not upper case (which is how they are when it is working). (REASON: the 9-pin port was disabled)

Then when I exit p3nfsd using 'ls /psion.stand/mnt/exit', and try to restart it, I get 'ttyS0: device busy'. This above story happens even if the psion is never connected to the machine.

If I try p3nfsd -tty /dev/ttyS1 I get slightly different behaviour. There are no timeout messages, and ls /psion.stand/m immediately returns the list containing one file only, the symbolic link.

Rudi (E026390@Vereinsbank.de) advises:

Please enable more debugging on the psion and on the UNIX side,
and tell me what you see.
On the UNIX: -v -v -v
On the Psion: switch on the status line, and tell me if the RTS/CTS
lines are changing...
This is a typical case of cable not really connected, but we'll see

Terminal only mode

I edited /etc/inittab to allow tty access, and switched the p3a to terminal only. To restart the tty's without restarting linux, you type
/sbin/telinit 5
This didn't work either.
end joke
By the way, RedHat is porting Linux to Psion 5, so soon you may be able to mount your psion3a as a hard drive of your psion5!

Remaining questions

  • How to avoid having files full of ctrl-M's (the usual PC problem) when they are transferred to the unix machine. My present solution:
    perl -pi -e 's///g' 
           perl -e 's///g'  
    To replace pounds symbol by something (here, |):
           perl -pi -e 's//\|/g;' 
    See this further advice.

From: Detlef Gausepohl 
To: mackay@mrao.cam.ac.uk
Subject: p3nfs

Hello David,

I just tried out to install p3nfs and was lucky (finally). The problem of
bootstrapping the Psion was easy to solve:

1. Install the builtin Comms app
2. on Linux (or else) start minicom -oz
3. choose the protocol ymodem 1 k on psion comm app
4. choose receive on psion
5. on minicom send nfsc.app via ymodem
6. install nfsc.app and start

               Detlef Gausepohl
          Institut fuer Psychologie
               der RWTH-Aachen
               Jaegerstr. 17-19
                 52056 Aachen
            Tel. +49-241-806558
           Fax. +49-241-8888-318
 Email: Detlef.Gausepohl@psych.rwth-aachen.de

Nick Waterman's NCP software - an alternative to the p3nfs system

X-Homepage: http://www.cimio.co.uk/~nick
From: Nick Waterman 

I am currently writing software to serve NCP from a unix machine,
meaning you can see unix files in "REM::" from the psion, and can use
the standard "Psion-Shift-B" to backup your files, etc. "p3nfs" requires
you to run a little progette on the psion, to serve files to unix. This
works the other way around - you run a program on unix to serve files to
the psion. You run nothing extra on the psion.

It's in beta at the moment, it hates you trying to do things like
editing files on rem::, but it works enough to browse around with
"Psion-*", and to backup with "Psion-Shift-B" and restore with
"Psion-Shift-R" which is what most people want.

At the moment it's only been tested on SunOS, at 19200, to a Psion 3a,
but in theory it ought to be easy to port to other unix, run at
different speeds, or serve different psions.

As I said, it's very beta at the moment, but if anyone is interested in
helping me to test it and/or tidy it up, please get them to mail
nick-ncp@cimio.co.uk. The software will probably be very cheap shareware
when it's eventually releaseable.
I will report my beta testing of this software here.

Luke GB sent this description of

Logging into Linux with a PSION 3c

You need to be able to "SUDO" stuff, so if not get friendly with someone
that can!

PSION> Start Comms
PSION> Set Port settings to:

LINUX> Plug in serial cable
PSION> Plug in serial cable
LINUX> Type "sudo /sbin/agetty ttyS1 9600" where 9600 is the bitrate and
ttyS1 is the terminal port.
PSION> Up comes the login prompt!

Please note:
* You might have difficulty getting the PSION to NOT muck up the control
characters. You might have to use ksh.

p3nfs and the 3-fax-modem

March 97. I received a fax-modem as a present! Rudi told me to upgrade to p3nfs 5.1.

Here is how I use it.

  • What I want to do: (1) log in, read email, etc. (2) copy files from psion to host machine.
  • It is important to switch from "Terminal+New p3nfsd" to "Terminal only", otherwise it is all very slow (this was true under version 4.3 anyway). This option is under the Unix-protocol menu in version 5.1.
  • One way to copy data is to use Bring.
  • Trying to get xmodem working.... Rudi says:
    Nfsc only uses the Psion builtin X/Y modem support. The S3c is rumored to
    have Z-modem support built in.
    The X-modem is a quite primitive protocol.
    Y-modem extends it with the capability to send more than one file along with
    the filename. Z-modem is a more advanced (i.e. faster) protocol, but needs
    more memory for his windows, thats why the early psions did not had it.
    rz belongs to the only X/Y/Z-modem package I know for UNIX, it is hard to
    understand, and the newer versions are copyrighted.
    It consists of two programs: rz (receive zmodem) and sz (send zmodem). If
    you rename sz to sb then it uses Y-modem as default, if you call it sx,
    it runs the X protocol.
    If you try to send a file from the unix to the psion, you should start
    "sx " in the UNIX-shell, then return to the psion, and receive it 
    using the 128 byte (default) X modem protocol. As you are using X-modem,
    you have to give the local file a name.
    I only got the X-protocol working as far as I remember.

Using version 5.1 of nfsc to do automatic dialling over a modem

I now use the nfsc/p3nfs system to do two separate things:
  1. I mount my psion on my unix box via a 3-link, as above.
  2. I use a 3fax-modem to connect in to unix machines over the phone line. In this case, nfsc runs an excellent vt100-like terminal.
A third possible way of using nfsc, *if* you are logging into a machine that has p3nfs on it, is to log in using the terminal functionality and then get p3nfs running so that the host machine also mounts the psion via the modem. This option has several advantages but its big disadvantage for me is that the terminal emulator then runs *much* more slowly. (So slowly that receiving one's daily allotment of junk mail could quite likely give you a bigger phone bill than you've ever had before.) [Cultural note: I am in the UK where local calls are not free.]

In this section I describe how the modem side of things works.

Modem Basics

  1. Plug in the modem into the psion and into the phone. Run nfsc. Switch it over to terminal only mode. You are now free to type things in which the modem interprets. Read your modem manual to see how to use it. The universal protocol appears to be this: to dial phone number XXXXXX, type
    If that number is connected to a unix machine's modem then you may get a login prompt, in which case, you can log in and subsequently life feels just like a normal vt100 session, except perhaps the number of lines will be wrong for the font that you are using.
  2. To change the number of lines and columns, use one of the following:
    1) stty rows ; stty cols 
    2) set environment variable LINES & COLUMNS, syntax is login shell dependent.
       sh/ksh ($): LINES=19; export LINES
       csh/tcsh (%): setenv LINES 19
    (If you use p3nfsd on the other side, there is no need for you to send the terminal size to the application. p3nfsd -shell takes care automatically for this problem, each time you resize the font.

Automating things

If you wish to automate the dialling process, the login, and things like setting the environment variables, you can automate all this using the a "dial" program.

The idea is that you modify the dialme.opl program, and specify it in the dial menu. When you "dial" (e.g. at startup), this program will be started by nfsc. If nfsc receives a string, it sends to this program, which in turn can send some strings back to nfsc, which again sends it to the serial line. Nfsc will notice if the dial program exits.

So, what do you need to do? You take the two opl programs.

has the auxiliary functions for talking with nfsc.app In fact there are 3 functions defined in it, which can be called by your dial program. It should be translated on your psion, but you don't need to modify it.
this is an example for a "login program" It waits till there is the string "assword:" (for Password), and then sends your password (mypw in the example) and a newline. After that it exits.
So you could copy dialme.opl to p1.opl, replace "mypw" with something meaningful, and translate it. Now create a configuration called p1.nfs, and set the "Filename:" field in the Dial Support menu to "p1.opo".

As a fancier example, if you want to automatically (a) dial; (b) log in (c) respond to the `terminal type unknown' message with `vt100', then set the number of rows to 19, you could use the following:

PROC dialme:
	global nfscPid%
	loadm "nfscdial"

	puts:("stty rows 19"+chr$(10))
	puts:("stty cols 80"+chr$(10))

Doing file transfer

This is the identical task over the modem to the task discussed above of using xmodem/ymodem and all that to capture/receive files. I have not figured it out yet. An additional option is to use the built in fcomms application to do this instead of the capture/receive capabilities of the nfsc program.

The 3-fax-modem is rather slow, so what about connecting to other modems?

From Jochen Siegenthaler (Alcatel Telecom, Switzerland) Modem FAQ
> I am a new psion 3c user and I would like to know what Leads & plugs I
> need to connect my 3c to a standard external modem (not the psion one - too
> slow)

 a) PsiWin RS232 cable (as supplied with PsiWin)
 b) Psion modem adaptor 
    Homemade nullmodem adaptor, see my web site
 http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/Jochen_Siegenthaler/ (click above)

> (not the psion one - too slow)

Note that there is no point getting anything faster than a 14400 modem as
the Psion processor and TCP/IP stack cannot handle much faster speeds.
The speed bottleneck is the TCP/IP stack, and not the modem connection.

Connecting to a printer

I have found remarkably little information on connecting psions to printers. I have got an epson LX-850 with both serial port and parallel port and I have the psion 3-link and the parallel link. How should all the little switches on the printer be set, and how should the psion settings be set?

Serial connection

mjh@cee.hw.ac.uk (Malcolm J. Hutchison) advised me:
1. on the print setup menu, there is a choice of Epson LQ / Epson RX / General, all of which seem plausible.
I would go for Espon RX as it was a predecessor to the FX range ie very old so any modern Epson should 'emulate' it.
more advice:
Epson LQs are 24-pin printers, so this won't work properly with an LX (9-pin) printer. I'd advise trying the RX instead.
2. On the side of the Epson LX-850 there are about 15 little switches each having at least two positions. Presumably these control what sort of printer the Epson thinks it is emulating. (I don't have the printer manual)
If you have the serial version of the printer these would control things like speed, handshaking as well as the initial start-up mode of the printer (Draft/NLQ, NOrmal/Narrow font etc).
Hunt around the printer for some tables, eg under any removable cover etc. Failing that you contact Epson UK see if they can help.
Actually I found a manual!
Or you could just experiment. Have all the switches ON - this will probably put it at max speed (19200 or 9600 at a guess) then start altering the settings on the Psion - start at full speed (19200) if that does not do anything try 9600, no handshaking.

Epson Manual

There are several possible serial interfaces: 8143, 8148, 8165.

#8143 serial interface: [On is up] [SW1 are the first 8 switches, SW2 are the other 4]
SW1-7, -1, -4 and -3 control the baud rate.
19200 is 00?? (where ? denotes either).
9600 is 0100.

8143 uses xon-xoff.

To open the case, remove the tractor then shove a screwdriver in holes at the front. Serial interface is attached by 3 screws.

How to make it use the parallel port? Maybe I just have to remove the serial port. Yes, this worked! Apparently if you want to use the parallel port, you have to pull the other out.

According to the manual's encyclopedia, the switches have the following meanings.
switch function on off
SW1-1 pitch 12 10 cpi
SW1-2 shape of zero 0-slash O
SW1-3 character table graphic italic
SW1-4 tear-off if using tractor or printing labels
SW1-5 printing speed (Draft) normal high
SW1-6-8 selects character set: USA=111. UK=100.
SW2-1 page length 12in paper 11in paper
SW2-2 cut sheet feeder on off
SW2-3 skip over perforation if using continuous paper and dumb software
SW2-4 auto line feed insert extra line-feeds don't
Always switch off and on to enable changes. Summary: I am going to try 01001100 0001.
Choosing printer driver. The manual doesn't recommend either Epson LQ / Epson RX.

Psion links

|| Netogram psion page || Busy View's homepage || programmers ||

Psion Links

Psion: Product Guide - Series 3a
Psion Frequently Asked Questions part 1
Brendan W. Breede's Psion Page
Dan's Psion Series 3a Page
Psion programmers on the web
PSION Programming Reference
Byson Psion Prices.
Amanda Walker's PalmTop PC 110 Page
Steve Litchfield Home Page

 Used for posting announcements about new programs/hardware; the FAQ
 is also posted to this group.  This is a low volume group and it's
 moderated, that means that all postings must get approved first by
 the moderator (Michael L. Kaufman).  If your news program does not
 send your post to the moderator, you can send it yourself directly
 for approval at: psion@acm.org

 Used for posting questions/answers to all Psion related programs;
 frequented by all Psion programmers to get your feedback of course ;-)

 Used for selling/buying Psion articles

 Used for any subject which does not fall into one of the other

 Used for posting programming questions ( OPL / C / ... ), NOT

 Used for posting reviews about Psion programs/hardware.  This group
 is also moderated by Michael L. Kaufman and you can also send your
 postings directly to him at: psion@acm.org

software on my psion3a that I use all the time

  • to replace dead toolbar buttons:
    • kbdmap
    • kbdedit
    • macsys.
    • dpswitch (superceded by the above)
  • JB data
  • p3nfs (for communication with unix system and for vt100 over modem)
  • nfscdial (for modem)

other software on my psion3a


www.cellpacksolutions.com | CR1620 for £1.76. 0191 4274577

Buying power supplies for psion 3a/3c/3fax

You can order a power supply for Psion 3a at any Radio Shack store. Their catalog lists only the 3c, but it is really the same thing.

I would like to share with you my success in finding an AC adaptor that is
an inexpensive alternative to the Psion accessory. Not wanting to go
with mail-ordering an AC adaptor, I found one 
where the end that plugs into the 3a fits perfectly (it seems to be an
odd size). It is designed to fit Nintendo's Game Boy.
The Psion 3a manual indicates that an AC adaptor with a negative tip, and
an output of 9 - 10 volts and 150 mA is required. The Performance-brand
adaptor I purchased (see below) is rated at 6 
volt/200mA DC output. It has a negative tip, the same polarity as used in
the Psion.  However, as seems typical of the AC adaptors I've tested, the
actual output (8.7 volts) is greater than the
rated voltage. Although slightly shy of the 9 - 10-volt Psion
requirement, everything seems to work well after a week of testing,
including use of the 3Link cable, which requires more power than
the Psion alone.

Though made in China, the third-party company that distributes the
adaptor that I purchased is Performance (STD Entertainment , Inc), 110
Lakefront Drive, Hunt Valley, MD 21030, USA.  

Retail stores here in Utah sell it for only $6.99 (US)!  I assume that
there is a Game Boy AC adaptor distributed by Nintendo with similar
specifications, but I would guess the price to be
somewhat higher.

--- Alan in Sandy, Utah, USA
I am using for over a year now a third party multi voltage adaptor without
any problems.

Itamar Engelsman
 London, 04/09/97


You can bulk-buy batteries from various places including Hills components. Also:
watchbattery@watchbattery.fsbusiness.co.uk Wed Sep 06 09:56:10 2000
From: Andrew Fish 
Subject: Psion Batteries

 The Psion I believe takes a 2032 battery which we sell for 1.75 post free.
These are Rayovac batteries and not some cheap equivalent!

Which Psion 3a to get

I bought a 512K then gave it away and bought a 1M after a couple of months. Here is why...

I bought the 512K first because I didn't want a Patience game and I wanted a low battery consumption. The 512K only takes about 26mA, which is significantly less than the 1M and 2M. However, once I loaded on JBdata and any one other useful application, I found I had to continually squeeze my memory usage to avoid running out. 512K just isn't enough if you want to add more software.

When I bought the new 1M, I chose it rather than a 2M on the assumption that the current drawn would increase uniformly with the memory size. This is not so. Both the 1M and the 2M in fact draw 46mA, so this was a bogus choice.

Another reason for wanting a 1M or 2M is that it has the spell checker on board, which may come in handy.

I am finding I am happy with just 1M rather than 2M, but I can believe that I will run out again soon enough.

The Psion 3c came out about two months after I bought my 1M psion 3a. I think I am content with the 3a.

In the UK they refuse to sell the version with the backlit screen, so the only thing in its favour is a new agenda feature allowing you to see a month at a time (just like the agenda on the old Psion 3 in fact!).

Some pages of psion software documentation:

  • Iain Tuddenham's dnupload software.
  • GRAPH3A.TXT : see here for GRAPH3A zip file (version 1.5, April 2000)

  • Other useful info

    > Please could anybody tell me where I would be able to buy the 9 pin plug
    > that fits on the end of the Psiwin body
    You can get it from
                    P.O.Box 3, Rayleigh, Essex SS6 8LR
    Telephone: 01702 554161
    order a Mini DIN Line Plg. 9W  Code JX 19                       - Juergen
    Non-psion adaptor for psion3a
    Argos Catalogue no. 982/1905 for 4.89 pounds

    Site last modified Tue Dec 27 09:27:43 GMT 2011