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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.

LeeH's picture

I've had a Neo for...

I've had a Neo for a about six months. My two kids have had Alphasmart 3000s for a couple of years -- for my 15 year old, it's the one piece of technology we never hold over his head as an incentive. He goes almost everywhere with it.

I got the Neo because I wasn't getting enough writing done. I needed distractions removed. In addition, I was sick of fiddling with my Palm keyboard. It's been a valuable addition to my writer's toolbox. It's much better for drafts, but using it for editing is only a pain, not impossible. The Beamer application (available separately) makes moving documents back and forth to a Palm via IR extremely easy. Between my Tungsten T5 with its WIFI card, the Neo, and a cell phone, I'm very well equipped for mobility with very little weight.

The Neo isn't perfect. It's word processor lacks overwrite capability, and the cursor is very hard to lose. The keyboard navigation commands are a bastard combination of Mac and PC, and the keyboard itself shows its Apple ancestry (there's nothing WRONG with that, but I wish they'd make up their minds whether they want a PC-centric keyboard or a Mac-centric keyboard).

$250 is a little steep, but I got mine with a tax refund. In the past I've used a Tandy M102, a Sinclair Z88, HP 100 and 200LX, and tried an eMate 300. The Neo is a winner for me.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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