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SE:RC exists to ask and answer questions about "how to use or preserve computing equipment that is no longer manufactured or supported by the manufacturer" [see help].

I am interesting in finding ways to use a 1990s PDA, the Psion Series 5, in 2022. Though it is possible to exchange data using Compact Flash card, I would prefer to use the built in RS232 serial connection. Ideally, I would like an easy way to keep data on the device in sync with an online drive, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, so that it could then be stored and accessed (or converted) externally.

Though the question seems incontrovertibly on-topic, it occurs to me that all the possible answers will involve some modern technology at the other end of the RS232 connection, whether that be an Arduino, Bluetooth, Wifi, Raspberry Pi, or some form of emulated period PC environment, in order to convince the Psion that it is connected to a network or PC that it recognises.

Should the need to use modern hardware and / or software in order to make a retro device useful today place the question out of scope for the site?

2 Answers 2

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We already have , and only one question tagged with it has been closed as off-topic (unfairly, I think; it’s been reopened since).

Given that, I don’t see how such circumstances should be disqualifying.

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    Thanks, and questions like retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/5609/… show what I wanted to do. May 7, 2022 at 9:03
  • I think the retro- hardware being part of whatever hook-up should make them well in scope… I guess it might not be unreasonable to set some sort of limits but I'm certainly not suggesting that. By the way, that linked Question seems to have been closed specifically because someone thought it lacked vital details, not for connecting to a modern system being off topic. May 12, 2022 at 19:05
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Should the need to use modern hardware and / or software in order to make a retro device useful today place the question out of scope for the site?

Yes ...

Modern hard- and software is clearly out of scope on RC.SE and should never be included.

... But

Except the information searched/included is specific about the/an old system, no matter if hard- or software. Basically everything that originates within the classic domain.

For example when its about a custom/manufacturer specific serial interface, everything abut electric specification or data formats is clearly on topic. On the other hand, how to program decoding of a 9 bit data format in Python would be fully off-topic.

Or going with your example of backing up a Psion on Dropbox

On-Topic:

  • Interface connector layout
  • Electrical parameters of the interface
  • Data formats
    • used by on board (standard) applications doing backup,
    • their structure and meaning
    • how fields/elements meaning correlate to today's understanding of data
  • Operation of on board applications including
    • (prefered/suggested) setup parameters
    • use of embedded languages
  • Programming on the Psion side for data transfer
  • Questions about possible APIs to use on the Psion
    • to access data and interfaces or
    • how to integrate with existing applications.
  • Questions about best fitting data formats/structures when writing your own transfer application

Off-Topic:

  • How to connect a serial port on PC/Arduino/RPi or whatever is used
  • How to access that port
  • How to convert the data structures using language X, Y or Z
  • How to connect to Dropbox from these languages
  • How to structure received data for storage

Of course this list can not be exhaustive, but I might give a general picture.

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