The Freewrite, a beautiful, rugged machine for writing -- and nothing else


#1

[Read the post]


#2

BBS doesn’t have a headline for this.

Edited to fix.


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#3

@singletona082, @mcsnee, don’t you have one of these?


#4

So it’s an updated version of the Tandy 100? I’ve still got one of those someplace, haven’t used it in years.


#5

This machine reminds me of the TRS-80 Model 100.

When I was a kid in the early 1980s I would go visit my dad at the newspaper where he was an editor. The AP reporters would come in to borrow a desk to write and then plug the Model 100 into a phone line to transmit their stories.

It was beautiful at the time. But I have a hard time picturing a market for this new machine.

I think a better option would be a single-application Linux distro that boots into a word processor. It could easily run on any laptop sold in the past 10 years.


#6

Not to be a buzz kill but FocusWriter is an awesome writing tool. It’s under the GPL too.

http://gottcode.org/focuswriter/



#7

I use WriteMonkey myself. They help, but they certainly don’t address the problem in that they can easily be alt-tabbed in response to a message ding or into thinking “I’ll just play a quick song” or “I wonder what the score is”. It’s a distraction inhibitor, but a dedicated machine is a distraction preventer.

The Freewrite still seems like a pretty dumb way to do that, but it has the convenience of also being portable, rugged, and having a long batter life.

The Freewrite is basically the machine I’d want to bring along when I head up to my cabin for a month in the summer.


#8

That wouldn’t be nearly as reliable with it’s likely dependence on being plugged in. Old laptops don’t tend to have good battery life. To be honest the month-long battery life on the Freewrite is the single most appealing (to me) thing about it.


#9

Why not a writing app for the keyboard Kindle? Oh yeah, I forgot - Amazon isn’t producing them any more, having given in the to the fallacy that all of us just want to poke at things with our fingers.


#10

So it’s a hipster Alphasmart? Why not just buy one of those for $80 (or $40 used) instead?


#11

No, it’s more of a hipster Alphasmart at 20 times the price.

Alphasmart has a loyal fan club, and here’s why:


#12

Are you @shaddack’s twin?

You know what I do on my kindle? I read books. You know what I don’t need when I read books? A chiclet (shitty) keyboard. They were a waste of space that something like1% of the users ever needed on a regular basis.


#13

Ironically, I’ve been (slowly) working on a project to mill out a keyboard case and mount a cherry switch mechanical keyboard (using a PCB and switches) inside of it, a Pi Zero, and a small TFT screen to do this very sort of thing.


#14

Not yet. They’ve just started shipping. Mine will be arriving, I’m assured, sometime in the next month.


#15

That is a big plus. I miss having a black & white LCD phone that needed recharging every week or two. And I bought the cheapest Nook for exactly that reason.


#16

Thanks for that, ordered! (For $30 off ebay).


#17

I’ve got several Alphasmart Neos, and I like them a lot. But they have some limitations. The screen is not set at a very user-friendly angle, and when I use it to type, the bezel tends to obscure the bottom line. (I’ve created a custom font that helps with the problem, but still.) There’s no built-in screen light, and the case is curved in a way that makes attaching a separate light problematic. I don’t love the limited file size, either–having to switch back and forth between different files is kind of a pain, and for me the size limit is always lurking there like a psychological block. (Or maybe I’m just making excuses.) Getting files off the machine is fiddly and requires a USB-A to USB-B cable, which means I don’t do it as often as I should. And I’ve read just enough stories about people losing all their work when the Neo goes to data heaven that I’m a little trepidatious about my failure to offload files regularly.

I also backed the Freewrite Kickstarter, and it solves some of those problems while introducing others. Biggest problem (and I expect a dealbreaker for most, at least until somebody implements vim) is the lack of cursor navigation keys. It remains to be seen whether I can realistically write on a device that only lets you make changes at the end of a file. The weight is a second downside–the Alphasmart weighs next to nothing. The one-month battery life is very good, but nothing will ever touch the Alphasmart’s hundreds of hours on three AA batteries.

It seems like there would be a market for something more like an updated Neo–bigger file storage, a slightly redesigned screen, wifi file transfer, and a case that either provides a built-in light or allows an external light to be more easily attached. I’m not sure how much of that could be achieved without making a huge dent in the battery life. The Dana, again, solves some but not all of these problems, and it really cuts down on the battery life.


#18

FocusWriter have the very big problem of not being able to change the font size.

It’s too damn small and I don’t want to be all the time squinting at the monitor. It hurts.


#19

I can see that being a feature. There are apps that behave similarly so that you just write without dickering with what you’ve written.


#20

They’re certainly selling it as a feature, and I can understand why it would be one. I’m just not sure it’ll work for me.