Advice needed for complex project - "digital typewriter"

I was browsing kickstarter recently and I noticed a really cool new toy, called the hemingwrite. It's described as a "distraction free digital typewriter". Basically, it looks like a keyboard hooked up to an e-ink screen which lets you write without distractions.

Sounds pretty cool, yeah? But for $400? C'mon...

It got me thinking; surely you could build that for way less. So why not have a go?

It seems to me that it would require just a few simple components:

- USB keyboard
- E-ink screen (from an old kindle perhaps)
- A controller to run the software
- Some form of rechargable battery
- A printed case from shapeways
- Wifi not really needed, but I do have a spare laptop wireless card sitting around

I've built a kit keyboard myself before (Ergodox), but I don't have enough experience to do something like this. Basically what I'm looking for is someone - or preferably, multiple people! - who can help me to work out how to do the things I've never done before.

I need to know which board to use, how to hook it up to the screen and how can I design some software (or even better, find something pre-rolled) to act as a very basic text editor which could save the files to a USB drive / CF card.

How difficult would this be? Is it even possible? I'm really keen to find out if it is. Any advice appreciated! :)

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caitlinsdad3 years ago

The full cost of that hemingwrite is around $500, way more expensive than any basic tablet paired with a bluetooth keyboard. You might want to start out with a raspberry pi. It can attach to USB keyboards, drive multiline character displays, and save to SD card. It can be expanded with wireless/LAN connectivity too. It runs with a base Linux so there should be some prebuilt word processing programs out there to adapt. It is probably doable with an Arduino but it might be a little slow trying to juggle a novel or term paper sized thesis in its limited memory. Go for it!

you could start out here and look up their tutorial for driving the display. Good luck.

I guess there is a good reason why people choose Kickstarter for things like that.

One would be development costs, the other help sovling some hurdles.

What you are trying is basically copying the idea but at the same time asking other people to do the development for you - not in the spirit of Kickstarter ;)

So just as a hint for going cheap and simple:

Get an E-Ink device, hook a USB keyboard to it and use free software like Open Office on it - done ;)

SoaringMonkey (author)  Downunder35m3 years ago

I'm not asking for other people to do the development, I'm asking for advice on it. There's a bit more to it than just hooking up a keyboard to an e-ink device, which is why I'm asking for advice. I just want to see if there's a way I can build one of these for myself, so I can learn a bit more about making.

Hmm, you need a keyboard - check.

You need a screen - check.

You need some type of software for writing - check.

Except for the fancy plastic case I don't see the difference, sorry.

SoaringMonkey (author)  Downunder35m3 years ago

What are you trying to get at...? I don't understand your point. I saw something I thought was cool. I want to try and make one for myself. I need help.

What supposed "e-ink device" can you just magically hook a keyboard up to? It's a display, you need a board and software to interpret the input and then output something human readable to the display. I don't think you really know what you're talking about.

The Kindle E-ink reader is already well hacked for using normal Ebooks, using it a display for weather stations as well as running Linux on it.

It might take some looking on the internet to find the perfect E-Ink device for your needs but I would suggest "USB Keyboard and Reader" if I did not check upfront if it is possible.

You wanted low price, I offered a possible, sorry for not providing a complete shopping list for as I could not find the specs you need in your posting.

It is not magic, it is called modding these days ;)

SoaringMonkey (author)  Downunder35m3 years ago

Actually your answer made no sense, because all you did was identified two things which I already talked about in the question.

Despite that, you still can't hook a usb keyboard directly up to a device such as a kindle. Look at the link that the other contributor gave. It requires a board, such as a raspberry pi, as I spoke of earlier.

Are you just a really bad troll? I have no idea why you're so smug, you've completely missed the point.

I am not smug, I do a lot of modding myself and know with a bit hacking a Kindle or similar can be used quite easy as a typewriter.

There are similar solutions already done if you want to stick to a raspberry Pi.
Using an E-Ink reader to cater for a full Android system was also done already.
All I did was trying to offer a different and as you requested ceap alternative to making your own display driver and programming software for the purpose.

For me it is much simpler to re-use an existing device that can be modded for the purpose, seems we think in different ways....

Or maybe you did not spend enough time checking what is really possible with current E-Ink devices....

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