We take it for granted these days that pretty much anything with an “on” switch can get online. But that obviously wasn’t always the case. Until the mid-’90s, most computers didn’t even come with a built-in modem. To get online, you’d have to purchase a separate dial-up modem and connect it to your computer. In the days before the internet, network connections in general weren’t a high priority for most people. That’s what makes James Fossey’s 1987 Psion Organiser II special, because it can now tweet!
The Psion Organiser II wasn’t exactly a “real” computer. Instead, it was marketed as a sort of proto-PDA with applications for a calendar, keeping notes, an alarm clock, and other basic tasks. It had no modem or any other kind of network connectivity, but it could be connected to external devices via Comms Link serial RS232 serial cable. With that cable, users could connect to a computer and use the Psion Organiser II as a terminal. For this project, Fossey took a similar approach as I did with my own TI Silent 700 terminal to get online using a Raspberry Pi.
The setup works by utilizing the Raspberry Pi as an intermediary between the Psion Organiser II and the internet. The Raspberry Pi is, of course, capable of connecting to the internet with ease, and the Psion Organiser II can act as a terminal for the Raspberry Pi. The trick is just to get the two talking to each other. To do that, Fossey modified a Comms Link cable to work with an RS232-to-TTL converter. That lets the Psion Organiser II connect to the Raspberry Pi and type commands into the terminal. All Fossey has to do is use a Twitter client for the Raspberry Pi terminal to send out tweets. As with my Silent 700, there are some quirks introduced by the unusual keyboard characters, but Fossey was able to find workarounds to make it work properly.