Laptop computers have largely replaced word processors for most folks who want to do some writing/typing on the go. But laptops are also fabulous procrastination machines: games, websites, and cat videos await every time you sit down to write.

So it’s not surprising that companies like Astrohaus have managed to convince some folks to spend hundreds of dollars on distraction-free writing machines like the Freewrite and the upcoming Traveler.

Then again, you could just build your own. It’s a great way to procrastinate when you should be writing.

Software engineer NinjaTrappeur decided to walk the unbeaten path and build a word processor for scratch.

It’s powered by a Raspberry Pi computer and uses an E Ink screen for the display. There’s also a mechanical keyboard and a battery that provides about 16 hours of run time on a charge.

The whole thing is held together by a custom-built wooden case.

While the project was partially inspired by the Freewrite, one goal was to produce a version running only free software. The use of a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B makes this easy, since there’s a strong developer community around the single-board computer. NinjaTrappeur was able to use the Raspbian operating system for the digital typewriter.

The DIY E Ink typewriter is still a work in progress: it’s fully functional, but the screen refresh rate is on the low side and the battery life could be longer. So before producing more units and putting them up for sale, NinjaTrappeur is hoping to explore options to address those issues, possibly by using a different single-board computer.

via Hacker News

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7 replies on “Ultimate Writer is a DIY E Ink typewriter (with a custom wood case)”

  1. Such devices are so compelling and yet self-defeating.
    There is a lot of elegance in designs and the prospect of making existing Good Display screens to run at passable refresh rates (hmm, what about setting a lot of 2.13″ ones in a matrix fashion?) is so interesting.
    Building one is even better than fantasizing about one and fantasizing about one is much better than using it.

    “Oh, how will I write when I’ll get (or build) it!”
    No, most likely you won’t.
    Sure, there is a non-trivial number of people who can and will productively use a specialized word processor and my proverbial hat is off to them.
    Most probably, however, you will stare at the blank screen and then reach for the smartphone.

    The problem is twofold.

    First, the text is written to be used in a modern environment. Markup, formatting, connectivity, all that adds a surprising amount of bloat. Just typing out .txt files is unlikely to allow you to spill your creative juices onto an unsuspecting audience. Even in the old days you had to send your typed out manuscript to the publisher (connectivity!).
    An old 486 Compaq laptop may even be better for detachment and writing both. And a plain old paper notebook and a pen will allow you to write and add free-form illustrations, diagrams, and block schemes.

    Second, the problem with distractions is rooted in you and there is no easy one-size-fits-all solution.
    There’s something inside of you that doesn’t allow you to concentrate on the joys and pains and prolapses of writing. Boredom? Anxiety? Fear of missing out? Social life more important than egotistical indulgement in your own fantasies and laying them bare on the screen?
    Who knows? Maybe even you don’t know. I guarantee I don’t know as you’re unique. And, of course, the device does not know.

    It’s cool. E-ink with all its limitations forces a designer to conceive a user flow centered on non-interactive (by modern standard) text and still images and it’s much more enticing than it would’ve been if e-ink clocked 30Hz with ease.
    It’s just it’s unlikely to perform its stated purpose. But it may compel you to imagine something, so it’s a very good thing in my book.

  2. Looks like they made a custom 60% mechanical keyboard in there. Love it!

    I’ve been wanting to make something similar, I want to make a clamshell laptop with a small layout mechanical keyboard inside. I have it designed in CAD. Im looking at some prototyping options.

    I want to use a 9.7″ iPad screen. Also I can make it much thinner. I have an early supply of the new Cherry Cherry MX low profile switches.

    1. And I wanna see video of the final product, maybe you can get Brad to write an article about your invention.

      1. I have some of the PCBs designed (keyboard, lithium battery charger board, and a USB daughterboard). The only thing I need to invest more time into is researching display protocols. Documentation on MIPI DSI is slim, so im a little unsure of how to implement it.

        1. I have been working on a similar project. Drop me an email, I would love to exchange details.
          In short, I have just spec’d out mostly simple components (Olimex board). I have put a bunch of time into the simplicity and modularity of pieces, so the design can be reconfigured to a headless desktop, or imac like display.

  3. This is cool, but I’d want to ditch the battery completely, redesign the case to put the keyboard lower, and use a larger e-ink screen.

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