The Yayagram is a do-it-yourself project that turns sending and receiving voice and text messages over Telegram into a physical process akin to using an old-fashioned phone switchboard.
Not to make broad generalizations, but most elderly grandparents aren’t the best at staying up to date on the latest in cutting-edge communications.
Smartphones are commonplace, but not everyone is comfortable with them. Younger users and tech-savvy individuals may find it easier to adapt to the complexities of iPhones and Androids, while older generations may find it more difficult.
The elderly have been one of the groups most affected by social isolation since the Covid-19 pandemic started. Although young people can resolve isolation through social media and video calls, it is more difficult for them due to technological difficulties.
In this period of global lockout, it’s more important than ever to ensure that elders can communicate with their children and grandchildren. That’s why Manuel Lucio Dallo, a Twitter user known as @mrcatacroquer, created the Yayagram — a do-it-yourself project that turns sending and receiving voice and text messages over Telegram into a physical experience similar to using an old-fashioned phone switchboard.
Manuel Lucio, a Spanish computer engineer, posted the ‘Yayagram’ on his Twitter account on April 18 and it quickly went viral.
Yayagram aims to make it easier for the Spanish software designer’s grandmother (“Yaya” is essentially “granny” in Castilian) to communicate with her family by converting the audio messaging app Telegram into a more physical experience modeled after old phone operator switchboards.
Dallo states that his grandmother, who is 96 years old, lives with his parents in Burgos, Spain, where he also lives. The pandemic lockdowns, he claims, inspired him to create the unit. “The majority of the grandchildren live outside of Burgos and are unable to visit us and her due to covid movement restrictions,” Dallo said.
Phone/video calls are difficult for Dallo’s grandmother due to her hard of hearing and arthritis, and clicking on keyboards is almost impossible for her. With that in mind, the Yayagram’s only physical features are a jack cable akin to an old-fashioned switchboard for connecting to a pre-set contact list and a single button for recording audio to Telegram. Yaya’s family can respond by texting back, which is then printed out using the device’s built-in thermal printer.
Dallo, a senior engineer at software company Plastic SCM, built the project around a Raspberry Pi 4 running Python. In the images he shared on Twitter, the box includes a printer similar to those found in cashier tills, as well as a microphone. Telegram was chosen over WhatsApp by the engineer because it is more open, and he dislikes Facebook.
Dallo posted a lengthy Twitter thread on the entire Yayagram project, including a range of very interesting behind-the-scenes looks at how the invention came together.
However, there are no instructions for making your own Yayagram just yet, though Dallo promises to upload an Instructables build project as well as GitHub source code in the near future.