They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

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Bring Geekdom To Non-Geeks For Christmas!

A Common Generational Problem

Okay, how many of you who might be reading this blog have relatives who refuse to get e-mail, refuse to have anything to do with computers? I won't go and call them fogeys if you won't. (Grin) And while there is nothing wrong with phone calls and sending snail mail letters, a lot of daily communication is done via e-mail these days, and would it be nice to send pictures and funny bits and travel itineraries, etc., by e-mail to these relatives, too?

Interesting Art Project

Back in July I discovered the 22POP, an Olivetti electric typewriter rigged up with a modem and a controller board so that it could send/print out e-mail. Something a daughter designed to give to her mother who hates computers.

22 Pop (‘22’ because of the Olivetti typewriter classic, Lettera 22 it is modeled on; ‘pop’ as a reference to the email protocol used) is simply a portable typewriter that sends and receives email. An ordinary Lettera 22 is embedded with electronics, which enables any letter that is typed, to be sent as an email. Through the use of various sensors concealed in the body, a small chip interprets all the mechanical operations of letter writing. When the letter is completed and the paper pulled out of the typewriter’s carriage, the email is sent to its addressee via a telephone cable that fits into the back of the machine.


Alas, although it actually worked and was rather attractive, it was an art project. Handled text only. A one-off. I had been so excited when I first saw the reference. (grin)



Prest-o, Change-o -- You Have Mail!

On Sunday, 18 November 2007, the PARADE magazine in the Sunday newspaper contained an ad and a shout-out in a gift suggestion for the Presto and HP A10 Printing Mailbox.



Now wait a second. Unlike some of the other home e-mail only products, this doesn't involve an unreadable LCD display or an odd keyboard. This is a Read Only E-mail product, using a name brand Hewlett-Packard printing unit. And HP and Presto.com have really come up with something that is designed for ease of use, ease of setup, and administration from afar by helpful/caring children.

Here's a review with comments from USA Today

And here's a complete description of what comes in the box and how to set it up.

SOLD!

Phone calls back and forth to The Sister Unit, who was going to be in Greensboro NC for Thanksgiving and we decided the 'rents "needed this" for an early Christmas present. Searching the web showed that the product has been out for about a year. And that Amazon.com was selling it for $139.99, and with 2-Day Shipping, it would arrive on Thanksgiving Eve. Giftwrapped, too. (grin)

Installation was delayed a couple of days because the perfect location for the unit was by an old phone jack -- the big old round 4-prong jobs from the 1970s -- and a trip to Radio Shack for an adapter was needed. Also a ream of paper (though the unit comes with something like 20 sheets of paper for setup).

But the 'rents got the concept very quickly, and even before it was hooked up they were both quite excited about it.

Twice A Day

I've got the HP Printing Mailbox set up to call the mothership twice a day, at 6 AM/PM. It calls a local Greensboro NC phone number -- all the handshaking was done on the first connection, because I already setup the account ($99/year), selecting that the first time it connected would not be at my address/phone number. (You have the option of configuring it and testing it at home and then dropping it off at the intended user's place, which didn't work for our needs.)

Best Features

No Spam -- I could give you my mother's e-mail address, but you couldn't send her anything unless I log onto the service and give your e-mail address as an authorized sender. And when I log into the service, it tells me whether the printer had paper and what the HP 95 ink cartridge's status was at the time of the last connection (you can order ink from Presto.com with a click and they'll send it direct to the user), and when the next connection was scheduled.

The default fonts are Medium, Larger and Largest (12, 14 and 16-point). It handles a variety of photo formats (BMP, JPG, GIF, etc.) and we've found out that right now it will handle PDF's up to 20 pages. So if you have something you want to send just as it is, with no borders or formatting changes, you can send PDF's and I think .DOC files.

You can even force the unit to phone the mothership at any time (Press and hold STOP, then press the UP arrow twice).

And it sounds like if you needed more than one of these, for multiple users, you can add onto your subscription as less than the full-price for the service.

Reality

Okay. It's not full duplex e-mail. (grin) But they figure any replies will come the old-fashioned way, by phone or mail or personal appearance. (double-grin)

Though not the fastest HP inkjet printing engine, there is one cover to lift to load paper and access the ink cartridge -- looks like they've made a simple press-to-lock and unlock cartridge holder, unlike some of the inkjets I've had over the years. Come to think about it, having a covered blank paper tray will minimize problems. And you're at the mercy of Presto.com -- the unit only has two phone jacks and a power plug -- it can't be used as an ordinary printer.

And it wastes paper. The beauty of real e-mail is read it, delete it or save it. Print only when necessary. But you know, it's not all THAT much paper in the great scheme of things. And it's for my parents! You know? And it's in a form they can read! Yay!

Bottom Line

This is a niche product which will appeal to some. As far as I'm concerned, it is beautifully implemented and the companies involved have a real understanding of both ends of the geek and non-geek customer relationship here. You can quibble about the pricing, but for my money they've got it done right. I'm hoping we get a couple of years of good service out of this.

Dr. Phil
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