I just got this in the mail and I thought some might be interested.
Note the 700-hour battery life on 3 AA batteries. It’s great if you’re going to be on the road far from power sources for weeks at a time. It’s also more rugged and less tempting to thieves than a laptop. And starting up takes just a couple of seconds.
Ha! 2010? I’m on my first set of batteries for the AlphaSmart Neo I bought in 2008! Initially, I used to carry spares with me in case I needed to change them while out and about with the AlphaSmart. Now I’ve almost forgotten that it runs on batteries at all. Its frugal power consumption is something of a miracle.
Actually, I suppose I ought to open the battery compartment and just check that the batteries haven’t leaked. Do they still leak these days? I remember as a child that battery-powered toys would eventually seize up with rust-coloured crustiness from leaked battery contents, but it’s not something I’ve seen recently.
Just out of interest does anyone actually use it for serious writing? I could see it would be the perfect writing tool in terms of avoiding laptop-induced distractions.
Curiously, here in the UK, it seems to be exclusively marketed as a classroom device for kids with special educational needs, rather than a general writing tool, which seems to be missing a trick. Not to say it isn’t useful in that setting but I would have thought it had wider appeal.
I use it for writing when I’m not at home. With me, it started as a note-taking device for use at sporadic university tutorials (arthritic fingers made writing for long periods uncomfortable at the time). Then I started using it as my writing computer if ever I write outside the house (if I’m away, or simply out and about). I admit that this isn’t particularly often, but I have found the AlphaSmart invaluable when I do use it. It has a very comfortable keyboard (and accommodates my Dvorak setting). The AlphaSmart certainly should have wider appeal than the current UK marketing focus, which does the product an injustice.
My sense is that the company is foremost passionate about making good tools for the education of kids, and that writers looking for rough-and-tough cheap alternatives to expensive, fragile and complicated laptop computers is a bit of a cult following. They do mention here and there that it is “good for writers”, but when you buy the thing, you’ll find the installation disk is mostly full of tools for working with hundreds of these devices in a classroom and so on. Even on the NEO itself, you’ll probably find most of the applications on it aren’t useful to you, and some of the features in the word processor superfluous, like the quiz overlay feature (although I did experiment with using it as reference text, it’s too clumsy to get the secondary read-only text file on and off the device). I once asked them if there was any reason for a writer to upgrade to the Neo 2, and they just flat out told me no, that all of the improvements were in the classroom networking capabilities and such. I’m sure they don’t complain that writers happen to love their product, though.