Project update 1 of 8
Dear friends and MNT supporters,
We are thrilled to finally announce the launch of our campaign on Crowd Supply and to show you what we’ve been working on for the past two years: the MNT Pocket Reform!
The MNT Pocket Reform is the small sibling of the MNT Reform open hardware laptop, engineered in 2019/2020 by MNT’s founder Lukas F. Hartmann. Inspired by beloved computers from the past, Reform was given its signature sturdy look by industrial designer Ana Dantas.
Soon after the MNT Reform launched, Lukas had the idea to develop an open source hardware mini laptop. Around the same time, Ana Dantas co-founded an innovative, sustainability-focussed design agency called ThinkOutLoud. It was only natural that MNT and ThinkOutLoud would team up and bring Open Source Hardware and Circular Economy thinking together.
The goal was the creation of a modular mini computer that is accessible, repairable–and open. Moreover, it had to be sustainable, long-lasting and completely controlled by the user. By documenting every aspect of the device, we wanted to enable the user to modify, upgrade and use it in a responsible, autonomous way. We envisioned a different, independent mode of consumption and production, and wanted to contribute to this idea by delivering a personal computer that meets our aforementioned standards.
The design process took quite some time and led to many iterations. The laptop transitioned from a naturalistic wooden computer to one made from aluminum and other materials as it evolved.
Wood is a highly sustainable, recyclable material, but during the development process it was apparent that it wouldn’t be ideal, as it isn’t robust enough and needs adhesive. Ana came up with the idea of switching to an aluminum frame, as aluminum is an extremely recyclable, sturdy and long-lasting material—perfect for a mobile computer. Ana teamed up with Greta Melnik, who is responsible for quality engineering and assembly at MNT. Greta has assembled around 500 Reform laptops (and counting) and contributed her insights to refine Pocket Reform’s final industrial design.
After designing proof-of-concept prototypes and user testing different screen sizes, we realized that the display needed to be in harmony with the keyboard. To have a good typing experience, we discovered that one needs at least 12 columns of keys and a key spacing of 15.5 mm. So, our first prototype which had a 5” display was too small and we came to the conclusion that a 7” display is the most suitable for a mini laptop.
User testing also indicated that the input methods were of the utmost importance. That’s why we put extra effort into developing a mechanical keyboard that ensures an awesome typing experience despite using smaller keys and tighter spacing than a typical keyboard.
For the keycaps, we first experimented with PLA, a biodegradable, recyclable plastic, 3D-printing the caps. However, we weren’t satisfied with the quality of the printed keycaps and looked for other production methods. Since we had worked with the team at FKcaps on the original Reform, we partnered with them again to create custom injection-molded parts for Pocket Reform. It was clear immediately that these pleasant-feeling keycaps were a perfect addition to Pocket Reform. To make them even more long-lasting, we engraved their legends with a laser cutter.
The ortholinear layout and renowned Kailh Choc mechanical switches complete the final design of the MNT Pocket Reform. To make it look even more stylish (and provide some light at night), the keyboard has a vivid RGB backlight and features a micro-optical trackball for precise pointing.
With MNT Pocket Reform, we not only wanted to create a small laptop that can be used in many ways to create, get some work done or chill out, but also to develop a device that is versatile and has mobile connectivity, so it can be used wherever you are as a smartphone alternative. Its design runs counter to today’s closed systems, and a customizable product on every level, be it hardware, firmware, or software.
We are extremely excited to share Pocket Reform with you, and we can’t wait to see how you use it, and, most importantly, how you make it your own.
Thank you so much for the support you have shown us over the years, and we hope you’re as thrilled about our new device as we are!