One of the things I’ve been on the look-out for is a ruggedised, shock-proof, water-proof e-reader that you could load-up with all of the most useful texts and documents, and keep re-charged indefinitely with an integrated solar panel.
Well, meet Earl.
Earl is described by the developers as a backcountry survival tablet, and is absolutely stuffed with practical functionality. If civilisation ever were to collapse, you’re certainly going to want to have one of these in your pocket.
Earl can be loaded with your electronic library of crucial handbooks, guides and manuals for surviving and rebuilding (including The Knowledge, of course..!), and they will be clear and easy to read off the high-resolution e-ink screen, even outdoors in direct bright sunlight. The screen’s ‘lunar mode’ offers a softly glowing backlit display for visibility at night. A laminated solar panel on the back of the casing can recharge the high-capacity battery in five hours. And the whole rugged design is shock-proof, dust-proof and can be totally submerged in water. As a repository of useful knowledge, Earl is much more sophisticated and capable than the Wikireader that I featured here.
But Earl is also so much more than this, and represents something more like an all-in-one handheld survival device. Here are some of the best features:
- Earl contains a GPS receiver and orientation sensors, and so can give you a precise reading of your location anywhere in the world. Earl can be pre-loaded with different resolution topo base maps that will help you navigate to your remote bug-out location. (But as I explain in The Knowledge, GPS will become increasingly inaccurate over the months after the fall of civilisation, until it is all but useless)
- Earl has internal sensors that can display the current temperature, humidity and barometric pressure at a glance, and so is a handheld weather station for forecasting changing conditions even in the most remote locations.
- The built-in AM/FM/SW/LW radio tuner and 1-Watt waterproof speaker lets you listen in to broadcasts wherever you are, and even live pause or schedule recordings. Using SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding), Earl will also alert you to changing conditions in your area from NOAA weather channels.
- Earl also includes a two-way radio to keep you connected. The VHF and UHF transceiver operates like a Walkie-Talkie at ranges of up to 20 miles, and you can even send secure text or voice messages between devices.
- Earls’ e-ink screen will also work just like any other e-reader, and you can load up Earl with documents, manuals and books in .epub, .mobi, or .pdf formats. Earl is at its foundation an Android tablet, and so will work with thousands of Android apps already available. Software developers will also be able to create novel apps specially for Earl, making full use of its unique suite of sensors and functions.
Earl begun as a Kickstarter-style crowd-sourcing effort, but the fund-raising campaign has been so successful that it has far exceeded its funding targets and the product is well into the design and testing phase. There appear to have been some set-backs with the delivery of different components and their successful integration into a working product. But for an ambitious project combining so many different functions into a new product for the first time, this can perhaps be expected – the iPhone was created with a far bigger team behind it.
Earl is currently available on an early-bird offer from $249 (over $100 off the retail price). You can pre-order your own Earl survival tablet here.