After too much posts about cutting edge technologies (the Ubuntu Touch), there is a post about something more familiar. One of my favourite devices it the Psion MC600 laptop. It’s a 80086-based laptop computer from 1989. It’s not exactly fast (but it’s not that bad for a 8 MHz!) but it’s battery life is excellent – 40-60 hours of continuous usage and few months in suspend. And it is relatively light and compact, it’s not much worse than today’s mid-range notebooks.
The problem is that there is no floppy drive (and no USB, of course). There was an external floppy device but it was very rare. I even have one but it is incomplete (no cable, no power source) and I don’t know if if works (it was sold as non-functional). The Psion-designed SSD disks are compatible only with Psion devices and today the SSD drive for PC is as common as the unicorn.
Fortunately, there are some more common interfaces: a parallel one and the serial one. It was a non-standard connector (it’s not Apple-compatible serial connector) but the Psion Series 3 cable has the same. So one can easily get a required cable.
I need to connect it to my SGI O2. It has a PC-style serial port. In order to make things work I have to find a null-modem cable and to connect it to the Psion cable with an adapter. Then things started to work.
The next part is software. There used to be scams that MC600 has integrated laplink software. There is no such thing on my Psion. Thus I decided to use the Kermit. Why? Because it’s a well-known and universal communication software that work on near any computer. So I was able to get MS-Kermit for the MC600 and the C-Kermit for the SGI. And they are compatible, of course.
The O2 has two serial ports. Being an actual computer, and not a PC-style emulation of computer, it has a serial console on the first port. So it is possible to connect the MC600 here a use it as a serial terminal. The commands to set the Kermit up looks like this:
# serial console setup:
SET MODEM TYPE NONE
SET LINE 1
SET SPEED 9600
SET FLOW-CONTROL RTS/CTS
Then it is possible to log in into the IRIX and start to work. The MS-Kermit supports Tectronics graphical terminal emulation so it is even possible to use the Gnuplot and see the graphical plots on the screen!
For a file transfer it is easier to use a normally-configured serial port (which is the second one on the SGI). The setup of the kermit will be slightly different:
set modem type none
set line 1
set speed 9600
set file type binary
set parity space
You of course have to have a similar setup on the SGI’s side (the main difference is th set line /dev/ttyF2 instead of the set line 1). If your are curious about the low speed that I use (9600 baud) it’s because it is the highest speed that both device accept. I experienced errors on higher speeds.
After this your are able to use send and receive commands to transfer files.
As you probably know it is not necessary to type all the command on every start of the Kermit. You can put them to a file (say to a o2.tak) and load them with take o2.tak inside the Kermit.