The ZeroWriter is a portable, distraction-free writing device that combines a compact keyboard with an even smaller E Ink display.

It’s also an open-source, DIY gadget that you can build yourself using parts that cost about $200 or less, although you will need access to a 3D printer (or 3D printing shop) to build the chassis.

In posts on reddit and HackADay, the developer explains that the goal was to make an affordable alternative to E Ink typewriters from companies like Freewrite (which charges $499 for its cheapest model with an E Ink display) or the Pomera DM30 (which earned a niche following a few years ago, but has since been discontinued).

The ZeroWriter hardware includes:

  • Waveshare 4.2 inch E Ink display
  • Vortex Core 40% keyboard
  • Raspberry PI Zero 2 W
  • microSD card
  • 3D printed case
  • Screws, hinges, ports
  • External battery pack

The most expensive component is the keyboard, which sells for $89, while the display costs around $25 to $35 for a 400 x 300 pixel ePaper screen, and the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is nominally priced at $15, but might end up costing more depending on where and when you find a store with any in stock.

You could also save money by opting for a different keyboard and skimping on case design, but then you wouldn’t get a computer that’s almost small enough to be pocket-sized (the Vortex Core keyboard measures 250 x 75 x 30mm, or 9.8″ x 3″ x 1.2″, which should make touch-typing comfortable, but which will probably make any writing device with this keyboard a little too long to fit in your pants pocket).

ZeroWriter build guide
byu/tincangames inzerowriter

You can find detailed instructions, 3D design files, and work-in-progress software at the ZeroWriter HackADay and GitHub project pages. One thing to keep in mind is that while the build process is described as beginner-friendly, there is some soldering required, so you’ll need the appropriate equipment (and at least some basic skill with a soldering iron).

It’s also worth pointing out that the chassis design is a modified version of the open source Penkesu Computer that we wrote about last year. That little device is also powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W and also features a compact, mechanical keyboard. But the original design uses a larger LCD display and an ortholinear keyboard, which won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

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  1. What in the good graces is the purpose of this stupid device? Do you all not know of the existence of typewriters?
    You can find them all over for literally next to nothing and they print permanently on sheets of paper!!!
    Why would you want something that only prints to a screen???

  2. Isn’t this a tiny bit like recommending an artist to go back to canvas and easel for “distraction-free” work instead of using a tablet? To me this seems like just one more unnecessary gadget to have/lug around, and we really have enough of those already.

    Any phone/tablet can be setup so that you basically have a blank space with nothing on it except the app you’re going to use. If in that scenario your first urge would be to install Candy Crush, I’m not sure how much this gizmo would actually help you. Cause your phone is still in reach, you know. Work on getting a professional mindset, then you won’t need useless crutches like this.

    1. I’d love it if it had an actual keyboard with arrow keys. The concept of a distraction-free writing device that I can use outside in a park? Pretty darn cool. I’d love one. The execution so far? Absolute trash in my opinion.

      Why is it that the only writers who design these things are the ones who write pure stream-of-consciousness. There are more writing styles than that. This is incredibly limiting for someone like me who actually edits as I work and skips around from paragraph to paragraph and even from section to section.

      The only way I’ve been able to achieve what I want so far is by connecting a keyboard to my Onyx Poke. And that setup is nowhere near as sturdy or convenient as I’d like.

      1. You can use any keyboard you want — it’s just a standard usb connector. 🙂

        And it’s open source in python, so the code could be modified to do whatever you want. I built the thing that works for me, you can make the thing that works for you!

  3. it is a good start maybe it will go somewhere.. more info would be useful