It’s been nearly 20 years since I last used a pager, but there are still times that I miss its simplicity. Hardware hacker and medical doctor Philippe Cadic wants to bring them back, albeit with some more modern functionality.

Dr. Cadic is the driving force behind SnapOnAir, a project aimed at building open source, open hardware, peer-to-peer communication devices that operate on LoRa frequencies. His latest creation is the dual-screen pager you see above: the SnapOnAir DUO.

The DUO features a 1.3″ IPS display that handles the bulk of the visuals. Below it sits a .9″ OLED touchscreen that provides diagnostic readouts and provides an on-screen keyboard. The DUO also features four directional buttons for scrolling through screens and it all connects to an inexpensive TTGO ESP32 dev board.

Like Dr. Cadic’s other SnapOnAir devices, the DUO is built for mesh communications and utilizes a LoRa modem. In testing, Semtech’s LoRa technology can transmit messages over distances of up to one kilometer. It all happens without pinging a cell tower or hopping on a Wi-Fi network.

It’s just what the doctor ordered for a gadget that’s aimed at groups that need to stay in touch at all times — even when infrastructure fails or doesn’t exist. SnapOnAir communicators would be a good fit for first responders in disaster sites or doctors and nurses working in developing areas.

Since he started tinkering two years ago, Dr. Cadic has designed 5 different SnapOnAir communicators. He sees creations as offering people a truly free way to communicate.

His inspiration comes from bulletin board systems and FidoNet, which, apparently, he was using around the same time that Brad and I discovered the Cleveland Free-Net.

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6 replies on “SnapOnAir DUO is a fresh take on two-way pagers”

  1. I like the concept of decentralized, internet-free digital communication, but the hard part of any attempts at making it happen is getting people to use it.
    With that goal in mind, I think the best approach is to use devices people already have, not make everyone run out and get more stuff. Cell phones are physically able to form mesh nets that require no internet to work, as are wireless routers, both of which are extremely common devices. The problem is, they don’t come with the software needed to do so (and I’m pretty sure the manufacturers are essentially forbidden from shipping them with it), and installing it is usually difficult, if not outright impossible.

    1. Liability: If I join a mesh network and someone transmits forbidden files (copyrighted Disney, to avoid really moral diatribes), am I on the hook? That’s not a simple “no,” and may be an extremely expensive “yes.” If I create software for sharing files, same question.

      Liability: If I create a communication service and data is not transmitted as expected or stolen, then am I on the hook? If my mesh device is pwned and starts siphoning data to Russia to look for credit card numbers, have I contributed to extortion?

      Technical: Whose battery life goes to pay for the transfers? What would the performance be expected to be – Who will develop apps without a real answer about (say) ping times? How does the mesh interact with “the real” network for long-distance queries? Who is paying for that on-ramp?

  2. I think that was intended to read “it all that happens without PINGING a cell tower”?

    1. He just meant that it won’t leave you yearning for a cell tower.

      Also, you made a typo as well in your correction.

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