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PenOut

For people who don't love technology…PenOut is the easiest way to stay in-touch

  • Members use a PenOut appliance and email address
  • Incoming email messages print out of the appliance, automatically
  • To reply, handwrite onto the printout and feed it into the slot

No buttons, No screens, and…No computer experience required!

For people who don't love technology...PenOut is the easiest way to enjoy email


Overview

For people who don't use computers, it can be difficult to stay in-touch with family and friends who rely on electronic communication. With PenOut, anyone can send and receive email as easily as reading and writing on paper. The simple appliance prints incoming messages onto paper and scans handwritten replies from paper. With no buttons, no screens, and no computer knowledge required, PenOut is the easiest way to stay in-touch. PenOut.com

Images of PenOut appliances

Images of PenOut appliances and messages


Benefits

For people who don't love technology...PenOut is the easiest way to enjoy email

Benefits flyer from PenOut.com (2013-12-18)


Story

PenOut began on a car ride from Christiansburg, Virginia to Allentown, Pennsylvania. We were planning to meet Nana & Pop-Pop for lunch (my wife's grandparents). From two hours away we used a cell phone to call their landline and let them know when we'd arrive. Nana answered the phone but had trouble understanding us. She's in her 80's and doesn't hear as well as she used to. After a good bit of confusion it seemed squared away. When we arrive they were surprised to see us, Nana thought we were coming tomorrow!

It wasn't a big problem, delicious egg salad was still had by all, but it highlighted an issue that lots of people run into - communications technologies are leaving too many people behind. Nana & Pop-Pop converse great in person but have trouble hearing what is said on the telephone. They like getting letters, but with email and text messages, not many people write letters anymore. Since they don't use a computer, they miss the Facebook posts, Tweets and quick messages that keep others in-touch with family and friends. Pop-Pop fought in WWII. He's been using mail since long before zip codes were invented. It's understandable if he doesn't want to learn about Tweets. There needs to be a simpler way to communicate that doesn't require computer skills.

We wanted an appliance, something simple like a toaster, that Nana & Pop-Pop could use to send and receive email or text messages. It couldn't feel like a computer – no buttons, no screens, no settings – and it couldn't depend on in-home Internet service, since people who don't use computers don't have Internet. We wanted to be able to send an email or text and have it automatically print out onto paper, so that getting email would be as easy and obvious as getting postal mail. For replies, there would be a slot, like in a postal mailbox, for dropping in a handwritten note and having it automatically converted and sent as an email. The goal was for Nana & Pop-Pop to be able to get letters from us, and for us to be able to get emails from them. When we got back to Virginia we started building what would become PenOut.

Today, the PenOut appliance and service are available to anyone. With PenOut, grandparents who have never used a computer/smart phone/ tablet can trade messages and keep in-touch with family and friends as easily as their iPhone-wielding grandchildren.

Images from design models of the PenOut appliance

Images from design models of the PenOut appliance


Patent Application

United States Patent Application 20140344371 - COMMUNICATIONS DEVICE, SYSTEM, AND METHOD FOR THOSE LACKING TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE

The present invention relates to a communications device, system, and method for sending and receiving electronic messages (such as emails, texts, etc.) without the sender of the message typing or directly interacting with (e.g., knowingly operating) a computer. The device comprises means for receiving an electronic message, means for converting said electronic message to a physical message, means for converting a physical message to an electronic message; and means for connecting to a network and transmitting and receiving said electronic messages to and from a remote computing device. The device sends and receives electronic messages to a contact of a user of the device through a remote message server connected to a network. The communications device, system, and method have a high level of usability for those lacking technical knowledge.

Patent Application 20140344371 COMMUNICATIONS DEVICE, SYSTEM, AND METHOD FOR THOSE LACKING TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE