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Kendall Clark: AlphaSmart Neo's interesting for what it's _not_

On the Joys of Primitive Computing: The AlphaSmart Neo

I keep hearing rumblings about the AlphaSmart Neo, but haven’t put my hands to one yet. Anybody out there got one? Tried one? Seems a bit steep at $250, but I’d love to play with one (<accent belle=“southern”>Why, I declare: I do believe I’ve dropped my kerchief: AlphaSmart, would you be so kind…?</accent>).

Kendall Clark seems to think Neo’s part of a larger trend:

I am so over hardware, and I have been for more than a decade. I take pride in making my living from technology and doing so with very old, even decrepit hardware….

Oddly enough, the Neo is basically a computer for school children. It’s stunningly stupid and, well, primitive. I’m enjoying it so much, and being so productive with it, that it’s got me thinking about what I’ll call Primitive Computing and Power User Devolution.

The Neo is interesting not because of what it does or what features it has, but what it can’t do and the features it’s missing. It’s all about one thing and one thing only: writing. I’m most comfortable turning any task into a writing task (when all you have is a hammer…), which means I’m super comfortable with a primitive device that’s really only good for writing.

And no internet. Some days, I believe I’d find that pretty appealing.

Richard's picture

Interesting thread and comments. Like many...

Interesting thread and comments.

Like many in this thread I've used and/or owned pretty much every battery powered keyboard since the RS model 100 including many that never saw the light of commercial day. It's a category of writing tool that has always interested me, very much akin to tape or digital recorders.

I think many commenting here are being a bit unfair to AlphaSmart products (the Neo is the latest in a line of similar products).

All of the AlphaSmart keyboards were designed primarily to support writing in K-12 education. The fact that professional writers have adopted them is a great thing but that's not where AlphaSmart's design energy goes.

The fact that any model of AlphaSmart or Neo connects to a computer via a standard cable and does keyboard emulation to send into any writing environment, coupled with the fact that they have virtually no operating system to wade through I think make them a bit different and in many ways more interesing devices than competing products.

The Neo has a lot more memory than earlier models as well as a much nicer keypad. I think the Neo is a fantastic tool and I use mine in places I'd never take my PowerBook but where a voice recorder might be inappropriate.

Disclaimer: I've been an advisor to AlphaSmart since it was founded and know the founders well.

I simply like the way their products work and I know I can give one to my granddaughter without having to spend a lot of time teacher her what's what.

If the poster would like a Neo, get in touch.




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