The allure of the AlphaSmart

RetroRio 2012

Many years ago, when I was in elementary school computers were still somewhat rare. There was the computer lab in the library with a large number or old of Apple IIe computers that only ever ran sticky bear teaches typing and then one classroom Macintosh computer. To help bridge the gap they had a portable cart of small battery operated keyboards called AlphaSmart keyboards. They had an apple keyboard port on them and when the time came to dump your paper that you were working on to the mac or to the printer you could hook them up to the mac and they would type your paper out to a file. They were durable, the batteries lasted for ever and they were the perfect thing to keep kids on track since all they could do was type and spell check.

Time passed and computers in the classroom became more and more common. Computer labs expanded beyond just the corner of the library, and the AlphaSmart faded into the past. They became a relic of a simpler more elegant time. Apparently the AlphaSmart company continued to innovate until a few years ago when they finally ended the reign of the dumb keyboards. I was looking for a simple word processor that would be able to write drafts without the distractions of more modern systems. Also I was looking for something with a battery life that could outlast Moses himself. I remembered back to my elementary school days and the AlphaSmart units. After some research and a Lifehacker article in preparation to NANO month, I found that there were AlphaSmart that had a usb port and could work with almost any modern computer hardware. A little searching on amazon and I was able to find a gently used Neo by AlphaSmart. Shipping was quite prompt and the unit was exactly as described. A relic of a simpler time when research was done by hand and all that was needed to write a school paper was the electronic update to a typewriter.

Brigade Poster

I plan to use the neo to type more articles for my blog as well as other correspondence and will let you know how it is working out for me in later posts.¬† Also, by the way, this post was written on my “new” neo AlphaSmart.

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