Cool Running AlphaSmart


Well I’ve gone and drunk the Kool-Aid.

I’ve ordered an AlphaSmart Dana wireless. I can’t wait for it to get here. When it does, I’ll take a picture to show you.

I know I said the fact it only lasted 24+ hours on a charge vs the 120 hours of the Alphasmart 2000 or the 700 hours of the Neo bugged me. What turned the tide is that I learned that if the charge poops out I can load in three AA batteries and it’s up and running again. The Dana runs Palm OS 4.1.2, which is an operating system that I know. I’ve owned Palm PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) for almost a decade now. If Windows could be as stable an operating system as Palm OS, I’d be positively giddy.

With all the nifty stuff that these AlphaSmarts do so well, I don’t know why they aren’t more popular. These are darn sweet little machines. They are handy, incredibly light (two pounds), and—quite literally—cool; it doesn’t try to set your lap on fire like a laptop will.

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Alphasmart in the car

My friend Carl celebrated his 30th anniversary in ministry Sunday. Carl’s been at St. Luke’s Lutheran (ELCA) for about 15 years; he’s one of the most grounded and compassionate people I know. I met Carl, wife Triss, and daughter Holly when Carl answered the call for pastoring at Trinity Lutheran in Porterville, CA where I lived back in the 1980’s.

As Mary and I drove down to south Sacramento on Sunday we read aloud an excerpt of Lexi Revellian’s Trav Zander on the way. Trav Zander has one of the best opening lines I’ve read on YouWriteOn.com: “I wish to acquire a dragon.” Lexi admits that line wasn’t her first choice. Writers work alone, in a non-collaborative, non-committeefied way. Yet we get feedback and consider the worth of the advice. Alan (aka Plumboz) had recommended taking that line from further in the story and making it the starting point. I like it. Trav, the protagonist, is a doer of deeds and a seeker of fortune. He has a good heart, an honest streak, and no ability to price out jobs. Pretty much anything for a buck, an entrepreneur. Let’s face it, he’s a whore.

What do these two disparate themes (Carl’s fete and a YWO review) have in common? I drafted my review of Trav Zander on the way to Sacramento using the AlphaSmart. It’s an amazing little device. The LCD screen is plainly visible in bright sunlight; try using a laptop outdoors or in a car. And it doesn’t get hot even if it stays on for awhile. And it is lighter weight than a laptop. And it automatically saves everything I type. Shall I continue?

I like the longevity of the batteries. I’m already thinking of upgrading to an AlphaSmart 3000 or Neo. I looked at the AlphaSmart Dana which uses Palm OS 4.1 software but it has a rechargeable battery and it lasts ‘only’ 25. The Neo lasts 700 on three AA batteries. Neo only does the one thing—wordprocessing—but that’s 80% of what I’d use it for anyway.

After we attended Carl’s Lutheran service at St. Lukes’s, we had an outstanding lunch at BJ’s brewery in Elk Grove, and stopped by Carl’s house to say hello, then we hopped and stopped our way to the SF Bay Area to see Lee and show Mary’s Haluzak recumbent bike to a potential buyer. SOLD! We hope the new owner enjoys it even more than Mary did.

The visit with Lee was fun and included the bonus of meeting his new hamster.

And the reason for the upgrade from the AlphaSmart to a Neo or Dana? Only the one computer of the five that we own will accept the text that is written on the AlphaSmart 2000. It seems that the 2000 must be too old of technology for the newer PCs. Who knew?

Oh, the name of the antagonist in Trav Zander is also named Carl. I’m sure there’s no connection…

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AlphaSmartie Pants


I love gadgets. My latest bit of technology is a tad dated—a nifty AlphaSmart 2000. It weighs under three pounds, is pretty darn near indestructible, and goes 120-300 hours on three AA batteries.

I bought it used on eBay for around $40US.The power adapter is missing (I knew that when I bought it) but, like I said, it can go nearly forever on three (count ‘em 1, 2, 3) AA batteries.

I also purchased an AlphaSmart “USB to ADB cable” (CBL-UT20) to transfer stuff I’d typed from the 2000 to my Powerbook G4. When I plugged one to the other, my Apple G4 recognized an external keyboard had been connected but that’s as far as it went. I can’t get it to connect fully.

Our friend Alethea also bought an Alphasmart 2000 for her trip to Chile. She bought a totally different cable. Ancient. The fine folks who support the Dana and Neo (formerly called the 2000 the later the 3000) had never heard of the cable she had. But, wonder of wonders, it connects to a PC laptop. So I typed this note on the 2000, transferred it to the HP laptop, put the document on a flash drive memory stick, and moved that to my Powerbook G4 to upload to this here blog.

It may have been faster to simply type directly into the blog, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.

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