Hemingwrite: A Modernly Retro Writing Machine

hemmingwrite image

A dedicated typing machine for distraction-free writing. Bring on the muse.

Is the Hemingwrite destined to become the next big thing in distraction-free writing?

Currently still in development, the Hemingwrite looks very much like a typewriter, and any writer with half a eye on the retro movement will know those ancient machines are gathering something of a cult following. For one thing, they let us shut off the internet’s siren song and actually get some work done.

Some of us have also rediscovered the joys of Alphasmart. They’re no longer in production but there’s a thriving secondhand market. Looking at one, most people would shake their heads and wonder what use they are when they don’t actually DO anything.


All you can do with them is type? Yes. Isn’t it wonderful!

There are some cool tools around for writers these days, from tablets and editing apps that let you write directly on the screen and mark up PDF versions of a manuscript, to incredible writing software programmes like Scrivener (full disclosure – that’s my affiliate link) and Ulysses. Scrivener is available for Mac and Windows, Ulysses III app is just for Mac at the moment.

I love technology, but sometimes it really gets in my way. Too many email pings, social media notifications, and way too many hyperlink rabbit holes to fall down.

Tools like the Alphasmart don’t connect to the internet and certainly don’t interface with Twitter, Facebook or email. Just switch it on and type. That’s it. There’s nothing else to do.


Alphasmart Downsides

There aren’t many, but what few exist are biggies to me. First, the 2000 and 3000 models have tiny screens that users tell me aren’t great for outdoor working. The tiny screen isn’t such a bad thing because not being able to edit on the fly, constantly rereading what you’ve just written is a good thing. Anything that forces you to just get on with telling the story is wonderful.

The Neo models have bigger screens and users report liking the keyboard more, as well as being able to see more lines of the work in progress.

The Dana, which is the model I own, also has a bigger screen but works on the Palm OS, so it has a few other apps built in alongside the word processor. The thing I hate about the Dana is the short battery life. It’s not short like a laptop is short – the Dana will run for around a month on three AAs. But it’s short enough that if you leave it for a while, it’ll die and eat your work.

One way round that is to save to SD card, which the Dana can do. But you have to remember to do that, it’s not automatic. And I don’t remember.

All the Alphasmarts connect to a computer to transfer what’s typed into them. The process is relatively slow (but not annoyingly so with the Dana), but it’s one more step you have to go through for final editing, processing, or just to get at your work from any other device.


Enter the Hemingwrite

Like a 21st century Alphasmart, it won’t do anything but let you type. But, and here’s the magic bit, it’s wifi and bluetooth enabled to save to the cloud. Genius. No more lost work, and everything should (theoretically) be ready to access from elsewhere immediately. For now, it seems Evernote or Google Docs are the only cloud storage planned, but that may change as they go to production.

And anyway it just looks cute, don’t you think?


Hemmingwrite in red

The Hemingwrite in red.


  1. I love my alphasmart Dana, but I’m saving up for one of these in anticipation. I am a big believer in the adage that good writing requires focus, and the number of distractions has increased exponetionally in recent years. I actually get people to set the passwords on my phone and ipad now so that I can’t indulge the need to mentally drift though web link after weblink on a whim.
    The keyboard looks fantastic, there really is no better way to type than on mechanical keys with buckling springs, most touch typists swear by them. The instant on-instant off, like the Alphasmart is perfect, like using paper.
    Seriously excited and ZOMG the one in red is just beautiful.

  2. Sounds like we’re two of a kind, Peggy, when it comes to distractions :) From what I can gather the Hemingwrite is edging into production. Happy days!

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