Sending Pics To Grandma, No Smartphone Needed

When it comes to keeping in touch with the grandparents, a lack of familiarity with modern technology can get in the way. [palmerabollo] wanted to share photos with his grandmother, but found that it was difficult as she didn’t have a smartphone or an Internet connection to receive photos. Thus, a custom build for grandma was in order! (translated)

To minimise maintenance requirements, the build relies on a thermal receipt printer. Each roll of thermal paper is good for printing off about 150 images before needing a change, so it’s a low-cost, fuss-free solution with no need for ink changeovers.

A Raspberry Pi Zero 2W runs the show, paired with a HAT that provides cellular internet connectivity. Photos are sent over Telegram with some custom Python code that [palmerabollo] put together. The system uses the Python “thermalprinter” library, with the Floyd-Steinberg dithering algorithm baked in allowing nice quality even on the simple thermal printer.

It’s a fun build, and lets [palmerabollo] send his grandmother fun photos and messages without requiring any effort on her part. It’s super cute to see the photos stuck up on the refrigerator, too.

There’s plenty of fun to be had with thermal printers, so don’t be afraid to get stuck in yourself! Video after the break.

[Thanks to palmacas for the tip!]

32 thoughts on “Sending Pics To Grandma, No Smartphone Needed

  1. Erm … it may be just me, but isn’t there a logic issue with this?

    Article reads:

    > she didn’t have a smartphone or an Internet connection to receive photos.

    and continues with

    > Photos are sent over Telegram with some custom Python code

    … which, to me, sounds as if in order to replace a smart phone and Telegram (the app on the phone, which requires internet), they use … a smart phone and Telegram (the app on the phone, which requires internet) and then PRINT OUT what they received using a smart phone and Telegram (the app on the phone …).

    Call me an idiot (you do anyway), but couldn’t at least the print-out be left out of the … cough … picture since there already IS a smart phone and Telegram (the app …)?

    1. They didn’t use a smartphone. I think you missed the sentence from just before: “A Raspberry Pi Zero 2W runs the show, paired with a HAT that provides cellular internet connectivity”.

      The problem is probably the old saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. I.e. making them understand how to use a smartphone would be too much of a hassle.

      1. I understood that sentence in a different way, but at the end of the day, there IS internet (over cellular), not “no internet” as the article claims – and you still need the Telegam-on-smartphone route even if on receiving side you basically overexplode complexity by adding a DIY freak-system into the mix.
        Apologies, but to me this sounds like making things 1000 times more difficult to use than necessary. A tablet with a single app on it that only shows the incoming telegram images, powered by the obviously present cellular internet would be just fine. WHY make things complicated if there is a SIMPLE solution?

        Or … send postcards?

        1. Because this is Hackaday, and solutions don’t have to be the most practical for all users to be a good hack. I totally get the appeal of this, and my ancestors even have internet. It’s self contained.

        2. I think you just give the whole thing already setup to grandma, she doesn’t need to worry about telegram or the internet cell connection, you already set that up for her because she’s your grandma and you love her

        3. My grandparents would have loved this. If they would have gotten an Android phone with only one app, it would have still been too hard to use. For us it is hard to understand but it is a fact. Even old Nokias were really hard for them.

          I think this projects is awesome and really needed!

  2. I did something similar several years ago for my technophobic dad. He refused to have anything to do with computers or cell phones. I connected a cell modem and the same thermal printer to an Arduino to print text messages for him. There were large Yes/Like and No/Dislike buttons to respond to the last text.

    When we set it up for him his comment was I planned to hate this but it is so simple I think even I can use it.

    My sister and I were able to text to him until he passed away. We just had to make sure all questions were in a yes/no format.

    My friend’s dad inherited it until he too passed away.

  3. Disproportionate amount of shade being thrown here. It’s like folks have never met someone who wanted instant communication with technology but was nervous about the technology. This is something you can send in a box, and provides instant one way photo delivery on a physical medium that is cheap enough to make it easy to use on a whim. I love the idea.

  4. I think this idea is very sweet, but I am puzzled by the use of the thermal printer. The Pi could print on an inkjet printer just as easily as a thermal printer, and the pictures grandma would receive would be easier to see as well as colourful.

    1. Granny may not be physically or temperamentally able to deal with an inkjet. Thermal printer is self contained except for paper. Put in a large roll and you may only need to replenish on a yearly basis…

  5. I hooked my digital camera to a pinhole camera, where I used a flatbed scanner to upload the image via bluetooth to a rPi where it sends it via fax over the phone line where the printout is converted by hand to jpeg format, copied to an SD card and tied to a homing pigeon who flies the card back to the digital camera for insertion by trebuchet.

  6. well, I’m a grandparent, I’ve been writing code since the early 70s, and talk to the grandkids via discord. You need a pretty old person nowadays not to be able to use a smartphone, and even then most of the people I know in their 90s can use one just fine..

    1. Thank you – I wanted to write something like this too. The original “digital natives” and “computer kids” of the 70ies/80ies are grand parents now ;-) Time flies, but many people forget to adapt their clichés to it.

      On the other hand, many young people’s IT skills these days mainly consist of posting selfies on Instagram ;-)

      1. Luckily this article isn’t about a cliche, it’s for an actual grandmother who is in some way unwilling or unable to use the tech.
        FWIW: there’s still a difference between being a grandparent and being the grandparent of someone old enough to be making something like this (I know kids could make this, but I suspect the Bell curve is centred on the 20s or 30s).

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