Hemingwrite: You do one thing on this computer, and that's write

It might seem like crowdfunding a portable word processor is very 1980s, but there's never been a better time for one. Plus, this "distraction-free digital typewriter" has a very modern twist.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
3 min read

A computer that does only one thing? How very modern. Hemingwrite

As a writer, I can't remember the last time I sat down at my computer, opened a fresh new document and worked on it until I was done. I typically have an idea for a story, sit down and... check my email or Facebook page. About 30 minutes later, I start my story. While writing it, I get constant notifications about incoming emails, Facebook messages and tweets. So, a story that should have taken me an hour to write takes about two and my focus while working on the piece winds up getting split into dozens of tracks through the prism of high-tech interruptions (note to my editors: you didn't read that.)

That's why I was so intrigued when I came across Hemingwrite. While it might look like one of those clunky old-fashioned portable word processors, the idea behind it is very 21st century -- it's tech that lets you write without interruptions from all your other tech.

There are software programs out there that block out distractions to make it easier to write, but first you have to have the discipline to use them -- and the temptation to cheat and just peek in on what's going online is always strong.

With Hemingwrite, you can't really do much else other than write. It has a simple display that shows your words and one of those really satisfying old-school keyboards that were always so fun to type on (till Apple flattened everything down). A switch on one side moves between folders and a switch on the other side -- and here's the 21st-century part of the equation -- turns the Wi-Fi on and off so your words can be backed up to the cloud as you write. If you don't have a connection, the machine saves your writing until you can connect.

Plus, according to the makers (one of whom is an MIT grad), the Hemingwrite's battery can last over four weeks on a single charge and the device can remember over a million pages of text.

With its long battery life, carry handle and quick power-up, the aluminum-chasis Hemingwrite is ready to go when you are. Hemingwrite

Nor is the machine beneficial only for writers. As the product video says, anyone who wants to journal or get thoughts down before the distractions from their other devices start pouring in can simply pop out of bed, sit down with the instant-on Hemingwrite and bang away. A smaller display below the main readout can be cycled to show data like your word count or time spent typing, to help with daily writing goals.

It certainly seems like the device is resonating with lots of people out there. There are still 43 days left in the campaign and Hemingwrite is already over halfway past meeting its target of $250,000. The "crazy early" pledges are gone, but you can still get a normal early-bird Hemingwrite for $369 (about £234, AU$444). When those run out, the price goes up to $399 (about £254, AU$480) which, the makers say, is still "a deep discount to the retail price." Hemingwrites are expected to ship out to supporters in September 2015.