AlphaSmart 3000: The Alpha, the Omega, my writing buddy on the road
There’s something that could’ve happened yesterday, but it didn’t, and I am very glad that it did not.
As you might know, we’ve been trying to sort out what sort of gadgets I’ll be taking with me on the road, especially for writing.
A few weeks ago Sean found a product called the Alpha Smart 3000, and we’ve been checking it out, kicking the tires and all that. One of the many nice things about AlphaSmarts is that you can order them for a free 2-week evaluation. We signed up, and I’ve been taking the AS3K* with me just about everywhere. (* AS3K not to be confused with MST3K, or Mystery Science Theater 3000. Luckily the AS3K does not spout sarcastic remarks at me as I type, or else I’d never do any blogging and would be caught in a slagging match until its batteries ran out.)
As with any piece of technology, there were ups and downs. Mostly ups: virtually no weight, no bulk, no booting time, massive amounts of memory, durability (AS3K are designed for schoolchildren, you see, not exactly gentle users). Trying to transfer text from the AS3K to an internet-connected computer though, via the supplied USB cable? Down. Big down. It required drivers, and a Windows 98 disk. No big deal in and of itself — but that can make for hassle on the road.
The folks at AlphaSmart lived up to the second half of their name though. You can also order a cable called the PC Y (for PCs; there’s also a Mac version). It works via the keyboard ports and cables on a computer — no drivers required. Once we had that, I could upload text from the AS3K onto any computer I used — at home, at the office, at a friend’s house, whatever.
Yesterday was the deadline for us to either return the AS3K, or buy it. We decided to keep the Alpha. I’ll be using it to post to this site, take notes, you name it. If you’re in Europe and see a short guy tapping on what looks like a glorified Speak n’ Spell, it’s probably me.
The AS3K is a great yet simple, easy-to-use piece of technology. From its low price (starting at $200), battery life (700 hours on 3 AAs), low weight (2 lbs), and durability (if it’ll survive schoolkids, it’ll survive Asia), I think it’s perfect for travelers. Want to look into one for your own travels and travel writing? Here ya go:
More on the AlphaSmart: