An updated daily front page of The New York Times as artwork on your wall
As a news junkie, tech journalist and founder of an online news platform called Blendle, I love a good old front page of a newspaper. When I saw this post about a Google engineer who built an e-ink device that displays the current front page of The New York Times on his wall, I immediately wanted one.
Although Max Braun kindly explains how he built his display, buying an e-ink screen from Asia, using BMP files and pouring concrete for the frame was a bit much for me, so I found an easier (albeit pricier) solution. He writes:
As more and more connected devices arrive in our homes, it’s a good time to remember the principles of Calm Technology, first formulated at Xerox PARC in 1995. They talk about how technology should respect our attention and remain in the background most of the time, how relevant information should be presented calmly and make use of the periphery.
For this reason, e-ink screens have always fascinated me.
Most screens create the opposite of calm, but e-ink screens, having no backlight and a slow refresh rate, induce a sense of calm. And, because of their limited power usage, the battery on e-ink screens can easily last an entire year.
This is why e-ink screens are uniquely suited for displaying wall art. Unlike paper, the screen allows for the display of dynamic content (making it possible to display the ever-changing front page of The Times), while the absence of a backlight makes it less distracting than an LCD screen.
In my search for sellers of e-ink devices, I discovered a company from Slovenia called Visionect that sells e-ink screens for corporate use. Known in some circles for their Joan office screens that show whether a meeting room is available or not, they also sell larger screens for use in, for example, airports (to show flight times) and hotels (to provide conference room overviews).
It turns out, the screen they sell for corporate use is a perfect match to the proportions of an unfolded New York Times. The Place & Play 32 inch is a pricey (2300 euros) but very beautiful piece of hardware. It’s made of stainless steel with sharp edges and a glass panel on top. The USB connectors are nicely hidden and the device feels sturdy.
Here’s how I converted my new screen into a piece of journalism artwork.
The New York Times publishes a PDF version of their front page daily. A friend of mine wrote a basic script that converts the PDF into a JPG and copies it to a self-hosted HTML page, which I’ve shared below. The only change required is to the variable “$outputfile”.
The device comes with Wi-Fi and with a cloud-based content management system (CMS) that allows you to load a webpage, making it easy to load the page on the screen. The CMS allows you to set how often the screen refreshes (in my case, once daily was sufficient).
The screen has a convenient VESA mount on the back, making it super easy to hang on the wall using a standard TV mount and allowing it to blend in seamlessly with existing décor. Because of the low refresh rate, the battery in the device will last for about a year on one charge, eliminating the need for an outlet and messy cables.
Remember, the device has no buttons and is not a touch screen; it only shows the front page of the paper. But that’s enough to get the gist of what’s going on in the world, and if I want to continue reading an article that caught my attention, I use the Times app (most of the time it’s somewhere near the top of the app as well).
Every morning, I wake up to a fresh edition of the Times on my wall. I find it wonderful to hover for a bit with a cup of coffee, scanning the headlines or reading an article. Mission accomplished and I am one satisfied news junkie.