Recently, a client of mine proudly showed off a new device she had purchased that is helping her with her writing tasks. It's called the AlphaSmart Neo keyboard. It's basically a portable digital typewriter. When you are ready to download your text into a word processing program, you just plug it into your computer where you can do your formal editing and formatting. Or you can print directly from the Neo to your printer.
Apparently it is quite popular in the schools for teaching kids keyboarding and writing, and has a "cult" following among journalists and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novelists. (The AlphaSmart makers have donated loaner Neos to NaNoWriMo organization.)
At first thought, one would think, "Well, why not just buy a laptop?"
Well, on second thought, there a number of reasons why this little device is so much better than a laptop...
1. It's a whole lot cheaper than a laptop. Around or under $200. Way less on e-bay. Drop it and break it and you are not out next month's rent or mortgage payment. (And many users remark at how durable it is.)
2. It's distraction-free. I think this is one of its biggest plusses. No internet connection. No other programs. No checking e-mail. No games. If you have writing to do, that's all you can do. Many of my clients have ADHD and anything can distract them from a task at hand. If you've taken your little AlphaSmart Neo onto the back deck to get the next chapter of your book written, chances are good you'll do that. (Unless there happen to be a lot of pretty butterflies flitting around!)
3. It will last for 700 hours on 3 AA batteries! Whoo-doggies that's exciting to me! I'm lucky to get 4 hours on my brand-new rechargeable laptop battery before having to plug in again. I can't go cross-country on one charge. But with a little Neo in your bag, no excuses for not writing the whole way OVER to the other coast AND back! (Even if you're on a car-trip!)
4. Gets your thoughts down easily and quickly without having to retype in your handwritten notes. Plug in, hit a key and your text is in the mothership.
5. It's quite light at just two pounds. Even a Macbook Air is three pounds. So think two cans of beans. Or peas. Or pineapple slices--whatever your favorite canned food is!
One word of warning, though. AlphaSmart also sells the "Dana" model which has Palm OS app capability and internet. As one blog commenter said "any on-ramp to the web is a gateway to sloth."