"Memory sizes greater than those permitted in any spefific correctional facilitywill be rejected at the facility property room."
It's equally bleak that our prisons mandate typewriter memory maximums, and that the company filling that need doesn't care enough about its market to give their advertising copy a basic proofread.
Whenever I see people get excited about doing something to help prisoners my heart breaks. The problem is not that we only have 7k to work with. The problem is that they are in prison. We should be directing our energies toward that problem, not this one.
Prison in America has taken over the social function of slavery. I wish there was some way to get people to care more about the issue but the Just World fallacy  is an indomitable foe.
At its roots, this is a social problem, not a technical one.
The only technical questions are what defines "memory" (flash vs SRAM?) and whether "memory size" refers to native capacity or compressed capacity. This is a legal problem, not a technical one. But it's probably one that can be solved with a sufficiently-sized ROM that does this stuff internally as a fixed function/trap. Think Mac Old World ROM.
Interesting legal question: if encoding scheme X doesn't code native language Y as well, in a world where people use digital typewriters, is that an equal-protection claim?
Furthermore, do prisoners not have unlimited rights to pen and paper? Is that not an equal-protection claim? Shouldn't they be allowed to possess multiple pads just like with paper? (not with a 5-4 Republican SCOTUS unfortunately)
Localization is not only important for the user base but also sets up the appropriate legal fights. Winnable ones, for this product.
Because in TYOOL 2017, paper = digital. Prisoners have a right to their private legal correspondence even in prison, and have for a long time. The fact that the typewriter is now digital is immaterial and denies prisoners their rights. Eventually we can provide mathematical assurance that the correspondence between prisoner and lawyer is private.
The struggle for developers is to make it sufficiently inert to the point that it is inarguable legally. We want to be able to claim this is a dumb plastic typewriter, but digital.
Its going to be arbitrary, but I understand prison rules often are.
I've been mentally designing this idea for literally a decade now, just about exactly. I actually think it can be made quite better than that, at a lower cost. And I think similar to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, public sales could fund philanthropy in a very critical and under-served area. Give it away free as much as possible, otherwise get it into commissaries as cheaply as possible (and lock them down with sales agreements to prevent them from overpricing).
I was really into classic computers as a kid, and one that always fascinated me was the TRS-80 Model 100. It's your basic dumb Z80 computer: it has a 8x40 character display, a keyboard, and... that's it. What made it distinctive is the >20-hour battery life on 4xAA batteries, which is just absurd and still has yet to be matched today. It's minimal and good at what it does - edit text. It edits text. For a really long time, on easy-to-replace batteries.
Well, surely we can do better today? I want the minimum possible programming terminal that's productive, that you can squeeze the maximum amount of battery life from. Yes, from AAs if necessary.
My ideal implementation would be AVR8, AVR32 if necessary. Not only are they dirt cheap but we can clock them down to zilch with PicoPower, to get that battery life. PicoPower is 0.2 mA per MHz at 1.8V, and the <1 uA sleep is literally less than batteries will self-discharge in the box. It runs some thin native-C implementation of a text-editing terminal, and a Wifi connection is used to flush a minimal data stream back to a local server. When you do things like compile or run, or debug, that runs on the host, but you have a thin terminal that continues pulling almost nothing.
Even OLED power draw is nontrivial and it's hard to get OLEDs that are both inexpensive and large enough to be a viable display, so here's the next clever bit. E-ink display. You only use power when you're redrawing it, and you can probably redraw it leisurely at your own pace with a slow MCU. In theory you can reduce refresh speeds even further by only redrawing a section - the downside is you leave a "flipped line" outside the region. Which just looks like notebook lines anyway.
Throw on a good 40% keyboard kit (is there anything that can be bolted down to another board? honest question) and you now have something that's basically a wireless VT100 but can do all your shit, as long as you are comfortable working in a text mode with a limited refresh. This is a workable protocol model - it's already been done! Hell, we have more power than VT100 right in the terminal.
To make it even cheaper you could pick some super common laptop model and use that keyboard socket for your motherboard. Let's say, the old Thinkpad T420 keyboard, which is already knocked off in China like crazy and is good enough to keep alive. Just plug their parts into the board. How much do they cost in quantity 100k? Probably nothing.
I've run this concept past HN a few times before as a programmer terminal and usually gotten a positive response for their own usage (would be good for a dumb serial terminal too) but this could be a philanthropic usage good enough to drive the concept.
The prisoner typewriter is the exact same thing, minus the wifi chip (USB dump only), plus a warden's interface web program to oversee text, plus a clear plastic shell. So just a dumb TRS-80 Model 100 again. And the battery life is an incredible advantage when you have no regular access to a USB port to charge, and you're getting raked over the coals by the commissary. How about 10 hours on a pair of AA batteries, with a reserve AA for SRAM retention, and perhaps a coin battery epoxied on-board as a last resort? I think that should be doable.
I'm actually serious about this, anybody else down? Prisoner's lives are shit, but at least we could keep them from being raked over the coals for literal typewriter supplies in TYOOL 2017.
The big problem would be dealing with the established player in the field who would undoubtedly come down like a ton of bricks. Good luck getting approved in the commissary when you are fighting a state-by-state battle with legislatures against these guys.
Released in 1988 it was a portable typewriter, powered by batteries.
The FreeWrite seems conceptually close but misses the mark on a lot of implementation points. Running a Raspberry Pi or whatever is totally unnecessary. So is the realtime Dropbox syncback. Battery life is sacred, bitch.
It's also $500 for a Raspberry Pi in a plastic shell. I want to do an actual Raspberry Pi-style project that can be bought for something perceived as an actual value option in its situation.
Let's engineer a product for this, actually for this, not just "RPi but with XYZ".
But, you could take this further and just use some solar cells.
Nobody cares about making the prisoners' lives better - the ones that matter are felons who can't vote anyways.
Your value proposition is that you make the prisoners' lives better - how do you demonstrate value to the stakeholders?
More bluntly put, what's the value add to an elected official or a prison warden? I suppose if you did a study in prisons showing that your new device reduced violence and disturbances over the old typewriters, you might have a case.
Otherwise, you cannot convince the people who matter. This is not a tech problem, it's an institutional problem.
maybe not jump to putting the warden in the loop. maybe use cf instead?
maybe separable keyboard? a low cost e-book reader is probably pretty useful as well]
Reality is that right now wardens can peek on pretty much what they want. It's paper. Who gets to decide what prisoner letters get opened? The warden.
Stuff that is technically protected correspondence gets opened? Sucks to be you. If it's not a sealed room alone with your lawyer... it counts. Is SCOTUS gonna come down on the guards/warden/etc? Hell no. Lol if you think you can even convict a specific random cop who does a thing. Inmates have basically no legal protection or rights.
In a 5-4 ruling, it's a "bona fide mistake".
Fight that fight later. Because eventually we can actually mathematically guarantee, with encryption, that nobody but the lawyer can actually read that.
And this thread seems to be all about optimizing one of the strange ideas instead of protesting about it.
Of course other countries have strange ideas too, but the US does seem to be the current world leader.