Home Money The Daylight tablet returns computing to its hippie ideals

The Daylight tablet returns computing to its hippie ideals

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The Daylight tablet returns computing to its hippie ideals

“Do you mind if I hug you?” asks Anjan Katta. This isn’t the usual way to conclude a product demo, but given the product and its creator, I wasn’t too surprised. Katta, a bearded, shaggy-haired guy, had shown up at WIRED’s San Francisco office dressed as if he were embarking on a summer mountaintop hike. He immediately began talking enthusiastically about the idealistic early days of personal computers and the amazing figures who produced that magic, knowledge he acquired in part through my writings. And he seemed like the hugging type.

The device Katta pulls out of his backpack: an e-ink tablet called Light DC1 is largely a reflection of its creator, a spiritual object driven more by ideals than commerce. “It’s almost an attempt to bring the hippie back into personal computing,” he says, lamenting the loss of that spirit. “He has been replaced by shareholders. What happened to that bicycle-for-the-mind idealism?” Katta’s device wants to put us back in that chair, pulling us out of the mire of empty and unsatisfying interactions with our phones and junk apps. All it has to conquer is Apple, Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft, TikTok and an audience that probably won’t try a monochrome device that costs more than $700. No wonder it needs a hug.

Alan Kay, the visionary who envisioned the way we would use portable digital devices, once said that Apple’s Macintosh was the first computer worthy of criticism. I think Katta wants to create the first computer worth meditating with. She hopes to join the ranks of early tech heroes by stipulating what Daylight doesn’t do: multitasking, mind-numbing visual appeal, or floods of distracting notifications.

Courtesy of Daylight Computer Co.

Instead, the crisp “Live Paper” screen updates silently, page by page. (The Katta team developed their own PDF rendering scheme.) The accompanying Wacom pen allows users to scribble comments and doodles on its surface as easily as they do in their latest field notes notebook. Monochrome web browsing may lack pizzazz, but it appears to lower blood pressure. Daylight strives to be the Criterion collection of computer hardware, making everything else look The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

To fully understand the Daylight device, check out Katta’s origin story. He describes himself as “a very ADHD person who has been a dilettante his whole life.” He was born in Ireland, where his parents had emigrated from India, and then the family moved to a small mining town in Canada. Katta didn’t speak English well, so he learned about the world from the books his father read to him. Even after the family moved to Vancouver and Katta became more socially adept and discovered an entrepreneurial streak, he retained that awesomeness. He loved science, games, and books about the early history of computing. The only university he applied to was Stanford, because for him it symbolized the creativity of Silicon Valley people like Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell. “It was the place where naughty people did interesting things,” he says. “Stanford was the place where I was finally accepted.”

But during the years Katta attended Stanford (2012 to 2016), he became disillusioned. “I expected irreverence and innovation, but it seemed like the McKinsey-Goldman Sachs banking energy, because that way you could get rich,” she says. While his colleagues interned at Google and Facebook, Katta spent summers climbing Kilimanjaro and hiking to Everest Base Camp. He loved hanging out at the Computer History Museum in nearby Mountain View, soaking up the stories of the early PC pioneers and being dismayed by how the technology narrative had gone from lovable geeks to rapacious bros. .

“What happened to everything I read in those books?” he says. “After graduating I thought: fuck this and I went backpacking for two years.” He ended up back in his parents’ basement in Vancouver, greatly depressed. Katta ruminated for months, reading about science and obsessing about how our devices had become what he considered engines of misery. “They are dopamine slot machines and they turn us into the worst versions of ourselves,” he says.

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