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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.

Peter's picture

I recently picked up an...

I recently picked up an Alphasmart 3000 on eBay, and I am enamored with the device. The clinchers for me are the full-sized keyboard (whatever Palm marketing says, their keyboards are NOT full-sized), the super-long battery life, and the complete lack of distracting features.

When I sit down to write with it, I have to write, because there's nothing else the device can do. Yes, I can turn off all the bells and whistles on my Powerbook, but I always find an excuse to turn them back on. This usually coincides with me hitting a tough part in my writing.

The only turn-off for me is the price. The devices seem overly expensive for what they are. As I said, I was able to pick up an AS3K on eBay, but I'm not sure I would pay full price for it.

I think Alphasmart is getting away from their core competance with the Dana. The Dana seems to be riddled with distractions, and because of all the new features, the battery life is only 25 hours. To drop from 700 to 25 hours is unacceptable.

The Neo seems like the sweet spot to me. Larger screen, better writing app, more memory, while retaining the super-long battery life. When I replace my AS3K, it will be with a Neo.




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