Writing with a typical word processor comes with a stiff price. A power hungry desktop or battery eating laptop turns a power cord into a leash. We wait for the beast to boot and when it’s finally ready for us, we’re confronted with menus, the Internet, and other distractions that have nothing to do with writing.
When I sit down with my AlphaSmart NEO I press the on key and I’m up and running, the cursor exactly where I left off last time within 2 seconds. How about power? Did I charge NEO? Don’t have a charger because NEO runs on three AA alkaline batteries. I’ve had my NEO for 3.5 years and I’m only on my fourth (fresh set of batteries). Hard to believe but this puppy runs free without a leash and will run for 700 hours on a single set of batteries. Honest. It seems incredible but it’s true. You have no idea how liberating this is. I put a new set in last week and my batteries still show 100%.
Writing is a solitary contemplative state, at least it wants to be. The typical computer connected to the Internet, boasting the latest copy of Word is more like a crowded bazaar, vendors of all descriptions shouting for our attention, crowds of people shoving this way and that knocking our elbow sending our virtual pens skittering across the page.
I’m writing this post on my NEO using the built in AlphaWord word processor. The only sounds are the radio playing soft classical music in the background and the soft click of the keyboard. Check my e-mail? Can’t because I’m not connected to the Internet and NEO doesn’t do e-mail. Play a game or check my financial records? Nope. NEO is only good for writing. Hey this is 2009 what gives here?
NEO has a small screen that will only display text. It comes with 512K built in memory. Whoa, that can’t be right. Only 1/2 Megabyte? What can you do with a paltry 1/2 megabyte? How about store 200 pages of text for starters?
I thought the small screen would limit me. It doesn’t. I like the five line display but I could choose 6 lines or 4 lines. When I’m writing a draft, I don’t need a full screen editor. I’ll take care of that later when I transfer my files to my desktop.
Meanwhile, if I’m stuck for a word, I press Ctrl + T and my thesaurus pops up. Press the dedicated spell check key to check my spelling. Ctrl + W tells me how many characters, words, paragraphs and pages are in my file.
I can switch instantly among eight different files and add more files any time I like. AlphaWord has the usual compliment of cut, copy, paste, clipboard and cursor movement. I don’t do much editing on NEO. I’d rather write first.
When I’m ready to transfer my file, I pull up my desktop editor, connect NEO via USB cable and press the send key. If I could type this fast…
Oh. I almost forgot. NEO remembers each keystroke so you never save files. NEO remembers for you. How easy can it be?
There is so much to like about NEO, but wouldn’t matter if NEO’s keyboard wasn’t one of the best keyboards I’ve ever used. I like it better than any of the desktop keyboards I’ve had over the years. Did I mention thin and lightweight?
NEO doesn’t do a lot of things. By today’s standards it’s retro and downright primitive. All you can do with NEO is write. That’s why I love it.