Despite what action movies tell us, the apocalypse is probably going to have less to do with zombies, and much more to do with climate disaster, water security, and infrastructure interruption. Although this is the day-to-day reality for many people on Earth—if you’re reading this, and have a $1000 cell phone in your hands, ask yourself: what would you without cell service, internet, and electricity for, say, 18 months? How would you contribute to your community? How could you grow food? How could you treat injuries? What if you went to art school for almost a decade, have bad eyesight, and have never actually been camping? In the event of an electromagnetic surge or solar flare; where almost all consumer electronics have been bricked, what do you do? Who are you then? I think about this a lot.
Then, in late 2019, I saw this post from Jay Doscher. Jay’s work on his Raspberry Pi Recovery Kit was truly inspiring, and put the idea in my head to modify his work to fit my needs/fears. Jay has very generously put his project into the public sphere under a Creative Commons license, seeking remixes and adaptations—please check out his work here, it’s amazing.
So, I took a month and built my own version. It’s constructed around a Raspberry Pi with an onboard 7-inch touch screen. It can be powered via external 5V USB, external solar power (from an 26800mAh solar charger), an onboard 12000mAh battery (which can be recharged by a 12v barrel jack input), and/or from just about any 5V-16V power source through a step down converter I built, which plugs into the front power USB connection. It has an onboard network switch and can function as a DHCP server, and has six exposed GPIO pins via a modified PS/2 connection. The casing is water resistant and the entire device is kept in a copper-lined and grounded box which acts as a faraday cage in the event of an electromagnetic event, preserving the hardware.
All bracketing was custom 3D printed and designed, though much of it was designed after Jay’s original work (obviously). I’m particular proud of some of the modifications I made to increase stability. I added an inline 3 amp fuse (which was made out of a windshield wiper fuse bracket, so it should be easy to scavenge replacements), an onboard capacitor to smooth things out (especially when switching between external and battery power), and a 3.3v onboard fan to keep everything as cool as possible.
Once booted, the Crash Recovery Device has the entirety of Wikipedia and Wikivoyage available offline as both a client-reader and a server (via the Kiwix project), detailed maps for just about everywhere in the world, and a library of PDF guides and instructions on every manner of survival and sustainability knowledge from medical care to beekeeping to orienteering to agriculture to water safety to animal husbandry to improvised shelter to nuclear decontamination procedures. The list goes on.
In the end, I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out. And, it’s a neat thing to have on hand should the need arise. You can see more about this project with the links below and be sure to check out Jay’s projects at back7.co.