The Daylight Computer

It may just be the marketing, but the newly announced DC-1 tablet from Daylight seems poised to scratch an itch of our times. As summarized by Om Malik:

What the company has created is a beautiful tablet — about the size of a normal iPad Air. It is just a “little less than white,” white, with a gorgeous screen. It is very simple, elegant, and lovely. It has an e-ink like screen, and the matte monochrome paper-like display is optimized for reading, writing, and note-taking. It refreshes at 60 frames per second, a pretty big deal for these kind of displays.

I love at least the idea of this.

Complaining about modern technology, addictive software, and the ills of social media can be is tiresome. But it’s also a real, difficult-to-mitigate problem. So I hope this forthcoming thing works as advertised and becomes a commercial success.

And I would love to see this company, on the heels of that success, expand their offerings to additional form factors (the phone being the obvious next choice) or prove the market enough to inspire more mature companies to enter whatever the term for these “deliberate computing” or “modernized retro” or “neo-vintage” or “tech nostalgist” concepts should be.

Nothing currently available has really done the trick. Even the cheapest FreeWrite devices are comically expensive as an isolated electronic typewriter with extremely small displays, and devices like the reMarkable also have a (purposefully) narrow, limiting use case.

The closest thing would be the tablets by Boox, which have good and pretty fast e-ink screens but don’t quite achieve the advertised frame rate here (which if true would be fast enough to function like a regular monitor), feel just a tad underpowered, and don’t have the fun (if potentially gimmicky?) Amber backlight. I actually have a Boox Palma, which is an awesome little phone-sized version of what the DC-1 should bascially turn out to be minus the stylus support, and it’s overall fantastic. It’s a convenient form factor for reading, runs customized Android so Kindle, Libby, and many other apps all work perfectly, and can do the internet and anything else a phone or tablet can do (minus the phone itself). The screen really is pretty fast (you can technically watch a video in grayscale, though not particularly well), and the backlight temperature can be tuned to a slightly warm color for dark environments. Still, it’s just the slightest bit slow such that no one could mistake it for a truly normal computer with a magic screen.

While Boox has made some solid devices, if the DC-1 can run its customized Android system as well and quickly as in the demos, it might function as the productivity and consumption machine for writing, reading, and potentially drawing that the iPad and other tablets have largely failed to achieve due to either not being able to do enough or simultaneously way too much. Maybe this finds the sweet spot.

As a parent with pre-phone-age children, I would love to see more entries in the not-quite-so-smart phone pantheon. There are things I love about modern phones that make using a purposely old-school device too limiting: maps, streaming music, audiobooks, e-books, email (sigh), and yes, sometimes the Internet. Also a top-notch camera (must. take. photos. of. kids). A future world where there are good phones with paper-like aesthetics combined with a curated but powerful productivity and consumption suite of apps would be great.

Here’s a mini-documentary that describes how the new “LivePaper” display works compared with regular e-ink:

Sometimes it’s the right features–not more features–that make a new product worth it.

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