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P > PSION > MC 200 / 400 / 600   

MC 200 / 400 / 600

In 1989 Psion expanded their range, previously based around variants of an 8-bit handheld computer called the Organiser, into full size laptops. The Organiser had proven to be very versatile within business, becoming the standard tool of British Telecom, Marks & Spencer and many other businesses, with barcode readers, interfaces for printers and measurement devices, and robust construction with solid-state storage.

This reliance, and expertise, with solid-state storage led Psion to develop a 16-bit laptop range with no 'soft' storage options. The 80C86 based devices introduced EPOC - still in development as an embedded OS and used in PDAs and computers like the Nokia 9210, Series 5 and Series 7 - though now handled by Symbian.

Initially consisting of 3 similar systems, the MC range started with the MC200 - a 256K system with a 640 x 200 screen taking up half the space in the clamshell style top half. Unlike Psion's later PDAs, the MC had very conservative styling with the exception of the large touch-pad below the screen, and relied on good quality, especially for the keyboard and screen. The MC400 expanded the screen to 640 x 400, offering a good size display compared to contemporary machines - many of which were pure DOS and didn't offer the GUI of the MC200 and 400.

The final version used the 3.84MHz 80C86 for the OS more commonly associated with it - DOS 3.x. Psion's MC600, despite this apparently retrograde step, was seen as the flagship offering 640K RAM and additional keys in place of the touchpad on the EPOC based systems. The relatively high price of the system ensured it had little success in the fast moving PC compatible 'portable' market - however, the benefits Psion's past products offered still applied, and British Gas were amongst the companies adopting the MC600 for on-site work.

What did the MC range offer that marked them out from the existing laptops on the market? Original plans were ambitious - Psion's other research included compressed audio, and a planed CODEC (COder/DECorder) combined with an existing audio in/out bus was intended to offer dictaphone like capabilities. Interchangeable modules, mounted in the rear of the machine, would offer different interfaces (including the CODEC), and the successful (for Psion) SSD - Solid State Disk - was catered for with 4 drives. The drives are compatible with the Series 3, though little software exists for the MC. The lack of a backlight combined with Psion's experience with portable electronics resulted in a remarkable battery life - around 70 hours on AA cells, and 20 with the rechargeable battery pack. The keyboard was excellent, high quality and full-sized, and the built-in software included a basic Text editor, OPL programming language, and terminal emulation. They were capable of basic multi-tasking, too. Interestingly, Psion's MC-link package was one of the most remarkable methods of connecting to your PC or Macintosh - you had access to the host machine's Filesystem on the MC, in fact it was easier to control transfers from the MC than the host!

What they didn't offer was any sense of security. Within 2 years, Psion were direct selling them with a new Word Processor, branded as the MC-Word. The MC200 was long gone, and the MC600 remained for corporate sales only. Windows-based laptops contributed to the failure of the MC range, though none offered the immediacy and battery life, or light weight. A year later Psion would almost deny that the machines had existed, the Series 3 leaving it's mark on the consumer market and proving Psion's competence beyond any doubt...

The MC's architecture did survive, in the form of the professional HC - Handheld Computer. This also spawned a ruggedised Series-3-alike, the Workabout, which also saw the introduction of backlights on the Series 3 (the 3a) and future Psions. However, Psion didn't return to the 'notebook' market with any vigour; the Series 7/netBook being a sadly limited product that, whilst remarkably competent and efficient, lost the lead to Microsoft's Windows CE platform, especially with CE Pro machines like the Hewlett-Packard 820. It's another sad loss, as Psion move out of hardware production and another British company threatens to fade from view - Psion Teklogix will continue to market products for 'commercial' use, but the Psion brand will disappear from consumer items in a year.


Text & info from Richard Kilpatrick

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MC 400 screenshots are now here

Sunday 11th December 2016

I have an almost mint Psion MC600 for sale. There are two battery packs, but one is cracked. I do not have the charger.

Wednesday 14th September 2016
theyellowtortoise (United States)
Psion MC200/400/600

One for sell on ebay here:

Sunday 25th January 2015


NAME  MC 200 / 400 / 600
TYPE  Home Computer
ORIGIN  United Kingdom
YEAR  September 1989
KEYBOARD  Full-stroke 63 key + touch pad - MC-600: 10 function keys
CPU  80c86
SPEED  7.68 MHz
RAM  MC-200: 128 up to 256 KB
MC-400: 640 KB up to 1 MB
MC-600 768 KB up to 1 MB
ROM  256 KB. Hold management software - MC-600 MS-DOS 3.2
GRAPHIC MODES  640 x 400
COLORS  monochrome LC-200 Blue/White, LC-400/600 Black/White
SOUND  Internal speaker and microphone
SIZE / WEIGHT  31.4 (W) x 27.7 (D) x 4.9 (H) cm / 2.2 kg
I/O PORTS  Serial connector
POWER SUPPLY  8 Double AA Bateries or 12V external power supply unit - 30 to 75 hours autonomy
PERIPHERALS  MC-600: external disk drive unit
PRICE  MC-200: £595 - MC-400: £695

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