As a writer, I find the biggest problem with modern technology is all of the potential distractions. I love writing on my iPhone, iPad, or laptop, but it’s too easy to get distracted by email, IMs, Google searches, etc.
For example, I’ll need to check Wikipedia for information. I find it, but there are so many interesting links in the article, and 30 minutes later I’m down the rabbit hole with Alice only to discover when I surface that I’ve lost my original thought.
Enter the AlphaSmart Neo. Originally designed as a basic word processor for schools, it’s found a new following among writers. It originally cost $200 per unit, and it’s no longer being manufactured. But you can find them on eBay–which is where I bought mine (brand new) for $20.
So what’s the big deal? it’s really quite simple: it’s a word processor. It doesn’t connect to the Internet, so it affords me hours of distraction-free writing. Once I’m done, I can connect it via USB cable to my laptop, open a Word or Libre Writer or Scrivener document, and send the file over from my Neo.
It powers up almost instantaneously, relying as it does on 3 AA batteries which folks I’ve talked with say will give me about a year’s worth of power, or roughly 700 hours.
Mine arrived today, and so I’m still getting used to it. I’ll be giving a more thorough review in a week or so, after I’ve had the opportunity to put it through its paces.
Oh, yes: I wrote this article on my new toy! It’s more like writing on a typewriter than on a computer. And another thing: it only displays 4 lines at a time, so there’s no temptation to go back and edit as I write.
It has a spell-checker, with the option to add new words to the built-in dictionary, as well as a (very primitive) thesaurus.
When I turn it on, it returns to my last position in the last file I was working on, which is handy.
I also like being able to add to a file without caring about where it fits best: I just write without editing, and then edit the document once I’ve sent it to the laptop.
The display is bright enough to use the Neo out of doors–at least in the shade.
Indeed, as I’m writing this I’m sitting outside in an Adirondack chair, enjoying the fresh air.
I thought about buying a protective case for it, but I’m not about to shell out a hundred bucks for a case for a $20 item!
I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a new tech item since 1981, when I bought my first computer–a Kaypro CP/M computer.