Psion MC 400 Communications

I’m still enjoying playing with my Psion MC 400.  I wanted to find a reliable way of getting data into and out of the machine.  I believe there was a portable FDD available which I would absolutely love to get hold of but I think the chances of finding one of those are very slim.  As far as I’m aware there is no way of reading and writing to the SSDs in anything other than a Psion unit.

Psion Series 3/3A Serial Cable

My attention therefore turned to the RS232 interface.  I was somewhat concerned when I first noticed that the Psion employed a 9 Pin mini DIN connection for the Rs232 port, this connector in the same configuration is found on the Epson PX16 and I’ve never managed to build a working cable for it.

However I discovered on this site that the serial cable that Psion sold for the Series 3/3A is compatible.  The cable comes in two parts, a pod with hardwired cable with a special connector for the Series 3 and a second cable with a DB9 serial connector at one end and the required mini DIN at the other end which plugs into the pod.  This second part of the cable is exactly what you need for serial transfers to and from the MC 400.

9 Pin Mini DIN

Psion link software is built into the MC 400 but I needed to download PsiWin for the PC end.  I found various versions here and downloaded both version 1.1 and 2.3.3.  I installed the former on my Windows 98 Wyse terminal and the latter on Windows XP running under Parallels on my Mac Pro.

After ensuring the Com port settings on the Win 98 box were correct and connecting up the cable I launched the Link application on the Psion and then PsiWin on the PC.  The link was immediately established and I was soon able to drag and drop files between the machines.  I was very impressed with the PsiWin software.

MC 400 RS 232 Port

Then using a USB to Serial converter cable I hooked the Psion up to my Mac Pro and launched PsiWin 2.3.3 under XP.  Much to my surprise this also worked well.  The only issue I have is that the PsiWin software is designed to convert the Psion format files to Windows friendly ones during the transfer process, however neither version of PsiWin seems to understand the files produced by the MC 400 and conversion therefore fails.

PsiWin 2.3.3

One other thing I wanted to try was to connect to my BBS using the built in Terminal application.  Using a null modem adapter I was able to connect the Psion serial cable to my US Robotics modem.  Modem options including Baud rate, frequency, pulse/tone dialling etc can be set within the terminal application.  After a few aborted attempts I found the correct settings and successfully connected to my BBS.  I made a short video of the process and another quick video of general MC 400 operations:-

5 thoughts on “Psion MC 400 Communications

  1. As far as I remember the only FDD released by Psion was for the MC 600 (DOS version) although one was promised for the MC 400/200. An SSD drive was available for the PC and had to be installed in a drive bay, It only worked with one version of DOS (3.2 I think) and could only be ordered directly from Psion.

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  2. Ok thanks Rob, looks like it’s RS232 all the way then. Have you got or ever seen one of the SSD PC drives? I’d love to get my hand on one of those, if for no other reason than its obvious rarity.

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    1. Only ever saw a picture of one in, I think, Psion News which used to be sent free by Psion to customers who requested it back then. I also remember reading a review of it in one of the popular PC magazines of the day. I wish now I had kept all those old Psion News issues. It would be fun to scan and publish all those pictures and articles now.

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  3. They’d certainly be an interesting read. I’m sure we’ve all thrown away things in the past that we now wish we hadn’t, I know I have, but you can only keep so much stuff.

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