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A productivity tool company has solved writing by . . . reinventing the typewriter.

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January 15, 2021, 12:33pm

If you have ever wanted to own a typewriter that looks like a computer and has no paper and costs five hundred dollars, you’re in luck: the productivity tool company Astrohaus has created the Freewrite, a “distraction-free writing instrument.”

According to Astrohaus’s website, the Freewrite’s goal is to “marry old and new, simple and complex, to provide a dedicated writing environment free from distractions but also complete with all the benefits of digital documents.” This is a great and intuitive idea—it’s all too easy to get distracted when typing on a portal to infinite knowledge, and the adverse health effects of staring at a blue-lit screen for hours every day are well-documented.

But I see a few issues. The e-ink display is very small. It’s incredibly cute, but looks more like an old video game console than a work device. (The strange look is intentional; the Freewrite is described on the website as a “statement piece,” and “writers in [the] Freewrite Family who’ve taken their writing companion out to write have gotten questions from passerby fascinated by the device.” That sounds . . . distracting, but okay.)

More alarmingly, the Freewrite has no arrow keys, so you can’t edit your writing on it. (On the FAQ page, the question “Where are the arrow keys?” is met with “Great observation!”) This is purportedly due to the Freewrite philosophy that writing and editing should be separate tasks—fair enough. But unfortunately, in order to edit what you’ve written on the Freewrite, you have to sign onto the cloud and edit on a computer. Yes, the device that the Freewrite was invented to allow you to avoid. See the problem?

To be fair, I have never personally used the Freewrite, which has very good reviews. And, Astrohaus seems to have decided that arrow keys are a “benefit of digital documents” and added them to its Freewrite Traveler, a portable, more laptop-looking version of the Freewrite. Perhaps I’m just averse to change; if I were put in a room with a Freewrite and forced to use it, I’d probably grow to like it. And if an infinite number of me were put in a room with infinite Freewrites, at some point I’d write something of quality. That is, if I don’t edit myself too hard. Thank goodness I don’t have those arrow keys.

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