Debate continues over what the very first PDA actually was, but there is a consensus that the Psion Organizer II (released in 1986) was the first to offer a level of intelligence to be more than a mere technical novelty. It could be argued that the Psion Organizer I was the first, in 1984, which of course it was, but the Organizer II introduced enough extra computing power to be classed as a proper PDA.
Let’s be clear, however, and understand that the Psion Organizers were only the first really usable mobile devices because of the time they were released. They were not suitable for the majority of people and they were tricky to use. The Psion 3, however, was a completely different matter and was extremely usable. It was released in 1991 and featured a bigger screen, a QWERTY keyboard and a design that was way ahead of its time. Many claim that the Apple Newton was the world’s first PDA, but the fact that it was released in 1993 and that the Psion 3 was a complete solution soon dispel that argument.
The Psion 3 was a device that included a calendar, calculator, contacts database, clock, world time zones, word processor, spreadsheet with charts and even its own programming language. This in a device that was released 21 years ago. 2 years later, the Psion 3a arrived with an improved screen (480 x 160 pixels), more memory, faster processor and an experience that greatly enhanced what the 3 could offer.
To this day, if you pick up a Psion 3a you could in theory use it for all of your personal information management and everything except wireless communication, via third party apps, will be covered. The calendar is still considered by many to be the best mobile calendar ever made and few operating systems since have managed to be so good at sharing information between core apps, preserving battery life and multi-tasking without blinking. 2 AA batteries could power it for a month and it just worked.
It was the first usable PDA, and sadly only a few more came after, but to this day it remains a legend in the world of mobile technology. A legend that still, remarkably, stands up today.