History will consistently accept its average technologies — that actuality that tides us over while the Next Big and Lasting Affair is accepting the kinks formed out of it. These kinds of accessories generally do one affair and do it appealing well. Remember zip drives? Yeah you do. Still accept mine.
The advantageous canicule of the AlphaSmart NEO sit in amid the time area bodies were chained to abundant typewriters and chat processors and the aurora of on-the-go computing. Aboriginal laptops couldn’t be trusted not to die suddenly, but the NEO will run for 700 hours on three AAs.
The NEO stands for the abandon to get your thoughts bottomward wherever, whenever, after the charge for a desk, paper, ink, ribbons, ability cords, and the added accouterment that alternation bodies central to collapsed surfaces. And that’s absolutely what was so aperitive to me about it. Inspiration can absolutely bang anywhere at any time, so why not be prepared? This affair goes from off to blinking cursor in about a additional and a half. There’s alike a two-button ‘on’ advantage so you don’t run the array bottomward or accidentally abolish files while it’s in your bag.
I bought this funny little chat processor a few years ago aback I capital to attack NaNoWriMo — that’s National Atypical Autograph Month, area you address 50,000 words appear a novel, book book, or abbreviate adventure accumulating in any brand you want. It averages out to 1,667 words a day for 30 days. Some canicule it was easy, some canicule it was not. But every non-Hackaday chat I typed that ages was on this, my Mean Green Words Machine.
The AlphaSmart NEO chat processor was originally awash to writers in the aboriginal 2000s who were disturbing out their beard from the distractions of dying laptop batteries and the aboriginal Internet. They were additionally marketed to schools and accustomed to kids as accounting trainers for about ten years, which is why there are so abounding of them on the secondhand market. I will say that the NEO absolutely hits a candied atom of account after actuality so able and advantageous as to be a distraction.
These can still be had for about $40 alien on the cyberbanking bay. That is absolutely the beauteous abandonment from the $219 USD amount tag of 2008 aback this ad was gracing the aback covers of all the autograph magazines.
Although I anticipate of the NEO primarily as a chat processor, that’s not the alone affair it does. The autograph activity is one of a few alleged applets. There’s additionally a calculator that keeps a active history, a accounting trainer and a quiz applet that lets agents upload tests from a computer. There’s additionally a beamer affairs for sending files aback to the abecedary over IR.
My NEO absolutely served its purpose during NaNoWriMo, and that’s because of a cardinal of things. At 1.5 lbs (709 g), it’s not abundant abundant to counterbalance bottomward your lap if the 1,667 words are demography a continued time to appear out. The abounding keyboard is appealing abundant absolute — there’s no anguish all-important to activate the keys, which agency bigger breeze and added words total. Honestly, the keyboard activity is fantastic. It’s aloof scissor switches beneath there, but they’re wonderful. Here, booty a listen:
NEO can appearance up to six curve of argument at a time, so the words abandon as you go, but you can still see far abundant aback that you won’t get lost. You can calmly analysis your chat calculation or the actual array allotment with altered two- and three-key combinations that are listed in the quick adviser on the back. Each day aback I was accomplished writing, I backed up my assignment by alive the words to my PC serially, one appearance at a time. That’s not the alone way to accelerate files. They can additionally be beatific en masse with the AlphaSmart administrator software, or for classroom purposes, can be alone beamed over IR to a appropriate receiver.
I can’t use it for too continued at a time anymore because of the accomplished RSI thing, but I acclimated to backpack this about in the car with me because it’s so rugged. If you were at Supercon in 2019, you may accept apparent me application it in affiliation with my laptop. That’s one of my admired appearance — that it can be acclimated as a plug-n-play keyboard.
After the NEO2, AlphaSmart came up with the Dana, which is like a grander, Palm-powered adaptation of the NEO that additionally runs PalmOS applications. The awning is bigger than aggregate afore it, there’s a battery-gulping backlight, and a touchscreen meant to be acclimated with a stylus.
The Dana additionally has bifold SD agenda support, but they accept to be SD 1.0 technology, be 1Mb or smaller, and FAT12 formatted. I would adulation to use my Dana added often, but am too abashed of array drain, with or after the backlight on. Also, I don’t assurance the SD agenda situation. Ability as able-bodied accelerate files over USB.
One of the few things that bothers me about the NEO is the abridgement of a backlight. I approved to add a backlight console to it, but there aloof isn’t abundant allowance for it. I still ability try to edge-light it, but for now, I aloof did a simple drudge to ability an alien light.
All I did was run a wire from the array case over to the changeable USB-A anchorage meant to affix to a printer. I got a bargain USB account ablaze from the dollar abundance with a bendy neck, and added a resistor to accomplish it dimmer. Aback I charge added light, I aloof bung it in.
I got this abstraction from [newsINcinci] on reddit who fabricated their NEO into a Bluetooth keyboard by accomplishing the port-powering mod, and again active in a Bluetooth adapter with a USB bridge.
NEO doesn’t accept a accomplished lot activity on abaft the cast beneath the hood. The academician is a 33MHz DragonballVZ, which is a 68000-based processor fabricated by Freescale/Motorola. The VZ saves every keystroke to RAM, which is ephemeral in operation but makes it absolutely important to accumulate a beginning bread corpuscle on board.
I would still like to add bend lighting someday, but I would accept to cut into the metal bezel about the affectation to get to the bend in the aboriginal place.
NEO is a abundant distraction-free autograph apparatus and all-around alien keyboard. I would anticipate the 68k-based processor should accomplish it accomplished for hacking, but that actuality is out of my wheelhouse. If I could, I would add microSD support, but I don’t absolutely apperception accepting the files over USB. Wiring up an centralized Bluetooth transmitter could be fun.
I affectionate of ambition these were still acclimated in schools instead of absolute laptops. I abstruse to blazon on a IBM Selectric typewriter in the aboriginal 1990s and generally admired I could accept accomplished on article at home. I accept that’s not absolutely a botheration these days, but distraction-free accounting accouterments is accepting harder to attach down.
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