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I want a typewriter

Funny, how you get interested in something and suddenly it pops up all over the place. Usually, I would chalk it up to selective perception, but in this case I guess it really happened and it's just coincidence. Or maybe serendipity? Well, whatever... I guess it all started when I played with that iPhone over a weekend. Being able to sit on my bed, watch TV fullscreen and to still write something was kinda nice, and got me thinking that it'd really be nice to have a small "typing device".

Two days ago on my usual morning walk to work, I threw about some designs in my head, and whaddaya know, today there's an article on small form factor computers at XYZ Computing (found via OSNews).

Anyway, the idea here is that a computer is a big machine, while I'd be able to have something small to carry around in my bag. The iPhone isn't bad, but for a lot of writing I'd prefer a physical keyboard. So, my thoughts went in the direction of a mix between a USB stick, digital paper and an Atari ST, done with today's (or maybe tomorrow's) technology.

Imagine a small keyboard, kind of laptop-size. Arrow keys, everything needed for text. No need for FKeys or a numeric keypad. Like an Atari, it would have the CPU built in. A simple one. Like a USB stick, it would contain flash memory. 64MB is more than enough when you're dealing with UTF8-text, and not much of it would be taken by a minimal OS (some floppy-disk Linux would probably work just fine here). It'd also need some sort of USB connectivity, however it would only need to be able to be used as a USB stick by another device.

All of that is current tech, no problem. Add a small battery, auto-login and a script that launches Pico at startup, and it'd do all I need. Well, except for the screen, of course. Current tech would be to have a tiny display, kind of like those electronic IBM typewriters used to have, three or four lines. Future tech would be something like a plastic foil OLED display or whatever, something that's big enough to view a page or so, but flexible enough to roll it up or wrap it around the keyboard when it's not used.

Except for that E-Paper flexible display, something like this could probably be built from stock parts. A Motorola 68000 CPU would probably be overkill for a device like that. Ticker-style and generally small displays are used a lot in the case-modding community. A small keyboard is easy to get, and a 1GB USB stick can be bought for low-two-digit amounts of money. It wouldn't need a hard disk, and the graphics controller wouldn't be very demanding either. Isn't there anything like that out there? Maybe some thumb-size computer I could just hook up to a USB keyboard and small screen?

I found a few iMac and Atari-ST-like things, like these keyboard and screen-integrated PCs, but I really don't need a hard disk or a CD drive for this.

Hello, Lazyweb? ;-)

Reader Comments: (RSS Feed)
Amorya writes:
So you want one of these: http://www.alphasmart.com/products/neo_In.html
Uli Kusterer replies:
@ Amorya: Oooo... shiny! Yep, that "Neo" looks pretty good... up to six lines means one can probably view one paragraph at least, that sounds like a good start. QWERTY will be a bit tough (tried that at work because some colleagues told me it was easier for programming, but didn't really feel more efficient that way), and 512k is cutting it awfully close if I want to carry along reference material as well, and 910 grams is a bit heavy, but still, this is very tempting. Though their "Dana" also looks pretty neat, although that's again more of a computer. Then again the price difference isn't that big, and weight and dimensions seem to be about the same, but it seems to have a bigger display... Darn, I can feel I'm being upsold again :-) Thanks for pointing me at these, those look good.
John Labovitz writes:
I've been talking to a friend about tiny typewriters, too. Years ago I had one of these, and it was just about perfect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HP_200lx Although you can still find them on eBay, the machines unfortunately have no concept of USB, so don't satisfy that requirement. They do run on AA batteries (forever!) which is especially good for traveling. A more modern option would be the Nokia N800. This is basically a mini-tablet. I think you can connect an external USB or Bluetooth keyboard. They have proprietary batteries, though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_N800 Finally, some folks have hacked OS X onto some of the tiny Sony Vaio UX micro-PCs, which would be nice. I'm sure the battery life is very poor, though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Vaio_UX_Micro_PC
n[ate]vw writes:
I'm guessing the <a href="http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/messagepad/stats/emate_300.html">Newton eMate</a> would be a bit on the bulky side for you? The other issue is that I found mine easier to sync with Windows than OS X...
frozendevil writes:
n[ate]vw beat me to the punch. Other than antiquated sync methods, an eMate would be perfect for this. And it has a nice keyboard, to boot.
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Created: 2007-07-28 @795 Last change: 2014-12-20 @224 | Home | Admin | Edit
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