Yayagram makes it easy for grandparents to keep in touch

Maker Manu (@mrcatacroquer) is one inventive grandson, and he has warmed the cold hearts of Twitter with his Raspberry Pi-powered creation Yayagram. Manu’s mission was to help older family members keep in contact with their grandchildren.

yayagram hero image
Analogue design makes Yayagram simple to use

What does Yayagram mean?

It’s a portmanteau, a mashup between the words “Yaya” and “telegram.” Yaya means “Granny” in Castilian Spanish – it’s a warm and affectionate way to refer to your grandmother. And Manu’s project uses the Telegram messaging platform, so he added “gram” onto the end to make “Yayagram”.

What does it do?

Yayagram is no one-trick pony. It lets you communicate with your elders in two ways:

  • Send voice messages via Telegram by simply holding down a button
  • Receive replies printed onto thermal paper
yaya using yayagram
Manu’s Yaya getting to grips with her new chatting machine

Manu’s Yaya has trouble hearing, so phone calls don’t really go well. Technology-wise, many older people rely on others to set up video calls, whereas Yayagram allows them to be more independent and start conversations on their own, whenever they like.

How does it work?

A Raspberry Pi 4 powers the whole thing, running third-party Python libraries. Hardware-wise, it’s all jack connectors, LEDs, cables, a receipt printer, a mic, and buttons. Manu’s Twitter thread details all of this.

To send a new voice message, Manu’s Yaya chooses which grandchild she wants to contact and plugs in a jack connector next to their name. We love this retro element: this is the job that cable girls used to do at the big telephone exchanges.

yayagram wires
“How may I direct your call?”

Sending a voice message is a very simple, analogue experience. Press and hold the record button, talk into the microphone, then release the record button when you’re finished. Yayagram then automatically sends your voice message to your chosen recipient. Tech-savvy grandchildren get a receipt on their smart phone like in the image below, letting them know they have a Yayagram from their favourite grandparent.

yayagram text message
Always keep your receipts

Yayagram perfectly bridges the cross-generational technology divide by printing the text replies to voice messages on thermal paper. Grandparents can touch and read them, just like an old telegram.

yayagram telegram coming out
A printed version of a text reply

We hereby anoint Manu ‘Most Creative Grandson’. Give him a follow on Twitter by way of a prize.

18 comments

JOHN D WALKER avatar

One fantastic grandson. And the retro. Go Yaya

Alan avatar

Absolutely fantastic! I love that he’s offered both paper and voice and the switchboard operator style analogue cable selection is just genius!

Sean Taffert avatar

Brilliant!
Done up in a steampunk style (and nixie tubes) would be the icing on the cake. Cudos for great concept and implementation. Everyone with grandparent should have one of these around.

James avatar

Very creative but I think Manu has the time distortion issue many younger people have. Unless his grandmother is over 100 years old it’s likely she never touched an actual telegram.

Carlos Luna avatar

It depends on where you are from… here in South América some countries used telegrams until the late 70s and even during the early 80s some places still used them because long distance phone calls were expensive. So for us it’s very possible to have family members younger than 100 who actually used telegrams!

Mark Terry avatar

What a great invention!
Telegrams are still in use in the UK, albeit not as popular these days.

Mandy avatar

30 September 1982 was when BT discontinued the telegram service.

ameyring avatar

Western Union discontinued telegrams in the US in 2006. Yes, that late!

Curt avatar

Well, Western Union still had telegram service until late 2005/early 2006. I had money wired to me via Western Union Telegram service while I was in the Navy back in the early 1970s, it being the quickest way to get money transferred over large distances (before the advent of home computers and widespread business networking). I was in my early twenties at the time, born in 1952. That makes me 69 now. So though no youngster, a lot of boomers still remember using and receiving telegrams).

Jay Hammond avatar

I am aged 70. I touched a telegram in the UK. When? Last century, probably between 1960 & 1980. 70 is a feasible age for a granny. I’m not sure when the Spanish gave up telegrams, probably not till after the Franco Era. Your main point is correct, most grannys would feel the yayagram technology was earlier, not later than “their” technological era. Personally, I like steampunk, but I don’t think that in general, wrinklies or technophobes are reassured by it. Its anachronistic by design, so no-ones home style.

Bob Brown avatar

I’m 74 and I remember telegrams quite well. They were for deaths and congratulations for individuals. Businesses had already switched to Telex. Yes, the guy from Western Union knocked on your door and handed over a yellow envelope.

Derek avatar

This shows the opposite, because “Telegram” here refers to the messaging app used, and not the antique paper and wire communications!

E Sertorio avatar

Fantastic ideia ! Amazing !! Well done !!!

MD avatar

I need one were can i buy?

John Ellis avatar

Nice idea, but too much freedom in the UI. Grandma may try to connect Maria to Ana with, I suspect, little success. If you used a smaller jack on the grandchild end that would solve that problem.

JBeale avatar

If there is only one source channel (the local microphone) then there is no reason for the “yaya” end of the cable to be an actual connector. It should be fixed in place, and that prevents one possible mistake. The recipient selector could also be a rotary switch, which might (?) be easier to use, if the handle is large.

Michael avatar

I have been looking for communication products for less tech-savvy vulnerable older people for years with little success. Even from a business perspective, it’s amazing how this very huge market is not catered for possibly because it’s not sexy enough. One issue with this device is that older people lack the dexterity or good eyesight to operate the jacks. This may not be a problem with this yaya of course.

Mladen Bruck avatar

This is great!
I would only change this cable with (big) buttons with leds.
Is there a sensor for “paper out”, so RPI can send “maintenance” message?

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