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Author Topic: AlphaSmart, electronic typewriters, and distraction-free writing  (Read 859 times)
jadefyre
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« on: September 23, 2023 @1.37 »

After humming and hawing for months, I finally bought an AlphaSmart Neo2 to assist with distraction-free writing!

It arrived today, and I love it already. Its screen is the old-school kind where you need light to see it, as it doesn't emit any light itself. It can hold up to 8 files of pure text, which can then be transferred to a computer via USB. I can't wait to take it to a coffee shop or something and get some writing done on a device that won't tempt me with messages, games, and all the other stuff one might find on a phone or tablet.

I've also seen some pretty cool DIY Raspberry Pi 'portable word processor' builds out there.

With the 'spiritual successor' of the AlphaSmart being the way-too-expensive FreeWrite, I was really glad to come across a much more affordable Neo2 on Ebay.

Are there any other electronic typewriter/portable word processor enthusiasts here? What setup do you have (or want to have)?
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« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2023 @9.92 »

Looks like a pretty good device! I can't tell if its big or small, but it looks like a pretty good digital typewriter. I've seen many mechanical typewriters at my thrift stores, but i prefer typing on computers or just writing because I dont wanna take up more of my room space with vintage technology >.<"
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jadefyre
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« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2023 @18.07 »

Looks like a pretty good device! I can't tell if its big or small, but it looks like a pretty good digital typewriter. I've seen many mechanical typewriters at my thrift stores, but i prefer typing on computers or just writing because I dont wanna take up more of my room space with vintage technology >.<"

The keyboard is basically about the size of a laptop keyboard, and the device itself is thinner than I expected and pretty light-weight for a device that came out in 2007 :grin: I feel like this wouldn't take up too much space for you; might be a nice mid-way point between a computer and a mechanical typewriter.
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RodFireProductions
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« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2023 @16.74 »

I actually bought myself one of these a few months ago and was honestly disappointed by the lack of people talking about them. It's an old tech that I only see writers talk about.

I wrote a blog post after I got it and also archived all the files that were on it from the previous owner (very clearly a school). I've been using my AlphaSmart for all my written works now. It helps my easily directed brain be less distracted. I ended up buying stickers specifically for decorating it since having my belongs look pretty is good for my morale. Plus it's some stimulation.

Photo of my decorated AlphaSmart

Ignore the poor quality please :ohdear:
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It can hold up to 8 files of pure text

It can hold more than 8 files. You can save, open/close, and delete files. It's just that you can only have 8 open at a time. It should say on the back the keyboard shortcuts to do so.

If you haven't already, you should look into finding a download of Neo Manager. It makes transferring bigger files quicker, plus you can transfer text onto your AlphaSmart (which is really useful). You can also find different fonts to transfer to it. If there's any extra programs installed on it you don't want (like vocabulary, calculator, etc.), you can remove them.

The keyboard is basically about the size of a laptop keyboard

The keyboard is close to the exact size of my 14" laptop keyboard. It's made adjusting to typing on it instant for me.

I very much am in love with my AlphaSmart
  :transport:
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jadefyre
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« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2023 @41.63 »

It can hold more than 8 files. You can save, open/close, and delete files. It's just that you can only have 8 open at a time. It should say on the back the keyboard shortcuts to do so.

Ooh that's so handy! Yeah, I checked out the keyboard stuff on the back but I unfortunately was in the middle of something else/had to get ready for something, so I didn't have the chance to really go through everything when I first wrote the post. But that's great news :D Especially because I have a lot of 'procrastination projects' (other WIPs) to work on when I'm mulling over whatever my main project is at the time.

If you haven't already, you should look into finding a download of Neo Manager. It makes transferring bigger files quicker, plus you can transfer text onto your AlphaSmart (which is really useful). You can also find different fonts to transfer to it. If there's any extra programs installed on it you don't want (like vocabulary, calculator, etc.), you can remove them.

I do indeed have Neo Manager! I stumbled across a post on Reddit when researching its compatibility with my computer that said I should get that, so I pre-emptively did so before the Neo2 arrived in the mail. I've used the "send" button on the Neo2 itself and can see why making that process faster would be helpful :') I'm looking forward to poking around with it more.

Now my only problem is getting over this mild creative block I'm experiencing re: writing (I know the hyperfixation train will come back 'round, as it always does) so I can use it for its intended puprose  :grin:

I like your stickers, also! Once I've "settled in" with mine, I'll probably decorate it too. I like to keep my 'new' electronics somewhat pristine for a week or two for no particular reason other than it gives me time to get the vibe right for how to decorate. :3
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« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2024 @247.55 »

I wish resources for dysgraphia such as this were more widespread and not cast aside as soon as chromebooks became widespread--at least in US public school.
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2024 @94.66 »

This is super cool! I know my aunt, who's something of an author herself, owns one of these. My mother bought me an original iMac last summer or so as a gift from a local auction for a pretty good price, and I had originally intended to keep it off-line in my room for distraction-free writing. However, the hard drive turned out to be dead and I never got around to replacing it, so that didn't end up happening. If I ever get back into writing (which I want to do, but don't have the time for) I'll definitely look into these!
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2024 @957.38 »

After humming and hawing for months, I finally bought an AlphaSmart Neo2 to assist with distraction-free writing!

I haven't seen or used one of these since 9th grade! My school had them for students to use for class, and I used them a lot in middle school to write stories.

I don't think I would ever get one, but I'm glad they're still around and that people use them.
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bliss
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« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2024 @558.91 »

I'm looking at the Freewrite & I'm kind of horrified they found a way to make a monthly subscription option, and concerned about the online features (is there any guarantee it won't become an expensive paperweight in future?)

I really love the idea of these though. I've been looking at hacking projects where people have made single-use machines with e-ink screens, it's very tempting.

What's the experience of looking at the screen like with the Neo? I think I would want a bit more availability to review and edit previous thoughts (though maybe less screen size than a laptop). A detatchable screen might be my ideal - so I can write without it intruding on my visual field, and yet also have a fuller view when I need it.
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starbreaker
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« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2024 @831.97 »

If you dig far enough you'll find that Freewrite claims that you can plug your device into a computer running Windows or macOS and it'll show up as a "USB Mass Storage" device, as if it were a flash drive. That means you can manually move documents on and off the device. Hopefully they're using plain text with markdown formatting, HTML, or RTF internally -- and not some godawful proprietary format.
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kzuich
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« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2024 @873.37 »

I was gonna make a topic about these! I got a NEO (1st gen) in October and have used it all the time since then! I still haven't had to swap out the AAs! xD I love mine so much that I think I'm going to get a backup one in case mine dies. :P

I'm looking at the Freewrite & I'm kind of horrified they found a way to make a monthly subscription option, and concerned about the online features (is there any guarantee it won't become an expensive paperweight in future?)

I really love the idea of these though. I've been looking at hacking projects where people have made single-use machines with e-ink screens, it's very tempting.

What's the experience of looking at the screen like with the Neo? I think I would want a bit more availability to review and edit previous thoughts (though maybe less screen size than a laptop). A detatchable screen might be my ideal - so I can write without it intruding on my visual field, and yet also have a fuller view when I need it.

Yeah the lack of being chained down to a proprietary online ecosystem (plus the insane battery life) is why I wound up with an Alphasmart. The screen is a typical LCD screen, no backlight, and you can change the font size to find what's most comfortable for you (there are also custom fonts as well), or change the contrast on the screen. Of course, not being a backlit screen means you either need to use it in a well-lit room, or mount a reading light on top of it, old-school style. :P

There's a good chance you'll need a USB adapter because it takes a USB B connection (printer cable). The one I had came with an A->B cable, so I had to get a C->A Adapter so it works with my laptop. :P There's supposed to be an IR wireless send function, but I have never used it because I don't have an adapter, so I can't vouch for how well that works. ^^;

Overall, though, they're still quite a bit cheaper than a Freewrite, and you can actually edit what you're working on, too, so even though they're climbing in price, IMO they're still worth it if you can find a good deal on one.

Incidentally, for anyone curious about a new device that can do a lot of what the AlphaSmarts do (but don't want the Freewrite and its subscription service), I found this- It's called the BYOK. It hasn't released yet, but it looks extremely promising. It's backlit, will support USB C, and wired or wireless keyboards.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2024 @886.59 by kzuich » Logged
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