A ragtag neighborhood that updates this aughts Wikipedia gadget

In 2009, the world met the WikiReader, a single-purpose gadget that holds all 6.5 million articles on English Wikipedia, from the depopulation of cockroaches in post-Soviet states to the record of lists of lists.

Maybe you’re stranded on essentially the most distant inhabited archipelago on the earth with out web and also you wish to learn in regards to the 18th-century lady who satisfied medical doctors she had given delivery to rabbits. Or perhaps the record of U.S. state dinosaurs. All you’d want are two AAA batteries and your trusty WikiReader.

The aesthetically unremarkable aughts gizmo measures 4 inches by 4 inches, with a decision of 240 by 208 pixels. It has an e-ink show with a quite janky touchscreen that’s higher match for a stylus than a finger, and its outer physique has solely the WikiReader emblem and three buttons for search, historical past, and random. It’s easy. Some may even say it’s excellent. And it’s been off the market since 2014, when mother or father firm OpenMoko pulled the plug on WikiReader operations.

However the system didn’t actually die, because of a highly-private and tremendously devoted determine referred to as Jack, who retains the utility of the decade-old system alive. Jack sells SD playing cards with up to date content material for $34, or $29 for a digital obtain (with out the brand new SD card, your WikiReader’s contents are completely outdated.) Jack initially developed a brand new SD card for 2015 content material, and it took greater than a yr to get the Ubuntu surroundings arrange and repair the Wikipedia obtain so it could course of for the WikiReader. “It was taking 5-6 days to course of the Wikipedia obtain right into a WikiReader database. So every check cycle was every week,” Jack instructed Enter in an electronic mail. “It was all very time-consuming.”

He retains doing annual updates regardless that he sells “just some a month.” The 2022 replace has been obtainable since July.

“Many patrons are aged individuals or 50-somethings shopping for it for his or her 80-something fathers,” he stated, including that many avid WikiReader followers “don’t use a pc or the web (suppose 90-year-olds).” He continues, “You would not suppose there’s a marketplace for this, however there’s a small one. I’ve offered to the Philippines, U.Ok., and Australia.” He says a few of his different patrons who need offline Wikipedia entry for journeys or airplanes. Different prospects have been inmates who reside in amenities that enable small digital units.

There’s a 189-person-strong WikiReader subreddit, and Jack believes he’s the one individual on the earth who “makes the replace and makes one which works and has all of the articles (at the least the articles that may be considered on the WikiReader).” His SD playing cards are offered on eBay, Amazon, and jacksuniversal.com, which is plastered with the becoming tagline: “We focus on every thing WikiReader!”

To WikiReader proprietor Ryan Michael Moberly, fixed Wikipedia entry is essential: “The grid is down, huge rolling blackouts, tornadoes, however I need to know in regards to the historical past of the horseshoe sandwich!” he jokes.

Although the WikiReader was not created by Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Basis — the nonprofit that maintains Wikipedia — put out a press release condoning the system upon its launch in 2009. “Wikipedia content material is freely licensed, permitting anybody to repeat, modify, and re-use it for any goal, together with industrial makes use of,” wrote a Wikimedia Basis consultant in a public publish. The official WikiReader net web page states that “Socrates contemplated extra vital issues than bandwidth. So do you.”

gone however not forgotten

WikiReader is like so lots of these late-aughts web devices — relegated to dusty cabinets or basement storage bins. Take, as an example, the Kin, a social networking system which Microsoft spent a billion {dollars} growing only for it to be taken off the market after two months as a consequence of poor gross sales. There was additionally the legendary Twitter Peek, a cyan-blue handheld system made for Twitter alone — which sounds extra like a torture system. For a month-to-month payment of $8, you may get web entry… however only for Twitter.

The Twitter Peek was met with broad criticism (it’s on a slew of “worst product” lists). Not lengthy after its failure to launch, Twitter Peek terminated service in January 2012, abandoning the customers who paid $299 for “lifelong service.” Yikes. Today, the Twitter Peek graces the cabinets of collectors — and the Museum of Failure. Maybe one of many causes that the Twitter Peek did not pique curiosity is its horrifying consumer expertise, the place it’s important to click on on a tweet to learn greater than the primary few phrases, defeating the aim of a web site stuffed with bite-sized posts.

However the remarkably still-present WikiReader stays related. I purchased one on eBay just a few months in the past and I’ve been pulling it out on the subway once I begin questioning one thing and have to scratch the itch. Sadly, I’m hooked. I’m a misplaced trigger. This system has immediately develop into indispensable to me. I’m spending much less time scrolling Instagram and extra time scrolling by means of the Wikipedia article on mondegreens. The net encyclopedia is nice, however the offline encyclopedia is even higher generally.

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