I was lamenting lately that in 2005, dominant laptop manufacturers made laptops with replaceable hard drives, memory, and batteries, but today, most are sealed and can't be upgraded. This design limits their usable life in a sort of "weakest link" sense: the component with the shortest life determines the life of the device. This bothers me not only because of the cost and waste, but also because if you turn around to buy a replacement, the manufacturer will probably try to sell an "improved" version, even in cases where no improvements were needed.

So when I saw DevTerm, I was intrigued. It's true that it isn't a real laptop replacement, but in the category of "portable utility computer", it comes really close. The batteries are standard 18650 cells, and all storage is replaceable. As far as I can tell, it doesn't even have the option to plug it into the wall: the batteries are charged by removing them and using an external charger. This has the nice side-effect that one could carry a couple of extra sets of batteries to extend its usable time.

I was somewhat saddened that the discussion on HN dominated by complaints about ergonomics. I feel these concerns are mitigated somewhat by the nature of the device: it's not likely that someone will use this the same way one would a laptop (many hours a day, every day). There was no discussion of the design in terms of longevity: open source design with replaceable components.

stjo wrote:

As many have noticed, it is quite expensive and unergonomic. Their selling point is entertainment, nostalgia and cyberpunk feel, not really a useful tool.

I think I disagree, but I'm not really sure, since I'm a sucker for computing nostalgia and cyberpunk aesthetics. I see the flat design as a unique feature that doesn't put a screen between me and whatever is in front of me. I love the idea of a tablet computer, but as an Emacs user, the lack of a keyboard is an ongoing source of frustration. This device remedies that, so I view DevTerm a bit like the tablet computer I always wanted: leave it running Emacs all the time, and use it to code, take notes, ssh into my other machines, all less intrusively than a laptop would be.

The device isn't available yet (the site says 2021), so much of this is my speculation, but I'm intrigued nevertheless.

DevTerm - ClockworkPi