Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Sunday, March 13, 2011

El Capitan's New Toy

One More Gadget To Gather Dust...

I'm typing this post on a new writing gizmo.

After seeing a post extolling their virtues over at the Munchkin Wrangler's blog, I poked around on eBay and found a secondhand AlphaSmart Dana for a song.

AlphaSmart makes a variety of pseudo-laptops; the Neo, the Dana, and a couple of older models. The Dana I've got runs on a version of the Palm OS.

They're kind of like a Speak & Spell on steroids, and I hope this one will aid me in my usually futile quest to get words into print.

Both the Dana and the Neo let you sit at a laptop-sized keyboard and tap away until your fingers bleed, and the output can be stored on SD cards, beamed wirelessly or via USB cable to a PC or printer, or just stored in the unit's onboard memory.

It's got 8 function keys that can access 8 separate manuscripts, so you can switch from your Space Opera opus to your steamy Regency bodice-ripper with the push of a button. (My bodice-rippers usually have zombies doing the ripping, btw...)

I think the Dana I'm typing this on has a whopping 16 MB of internal memory, and I stuffed a 2GB SD card in one of the two card slots.

The Neo & Dana were designed with schoolkids in mind, and it appears to be pretty indestructible. The unit is made from ABS plastic, and the only part you can really lose is the little touchscreen stylus that fits in a slot on the right side.

The touchscreen needs a stylus (or a convenient ballpoint pen cap). My big fingers aren't the best at picking out the tiny onscreen apps.

The best part is, there's no web access on the Dana, and I haven't added any games to it. Nothing to distract you from getting words out of your skull and into the memory banks. That, and the fact that it cost me a grand total of $27 (including shipping) from eBay. I'll probably spring for a new rechargeable battery and a wall charger. Currently I've got 3 AA batteries powering the Dana, and they're supposed to be good for 30 hours.

It's not as convenient as a computer, at least until I figure out how all the bells & whistles work and download some Palm apps. Supposedly you can check email on this thing via 802.11b WiFi, but I imagine that I'll avoid even that temptation.

There are some side benefits, though. I'm currently sitting out in the backyard typing this, drinking iced tea, smoking a huge cigar and watching Carlos the Unreliable dig out a drainage trench beside the garage. Nothing is more relaxing than a nice smoke and seeing someone else perform serious manual labor!

So, if you're looking for an inexpensive way to boost your writing output and avoid the Internet (AKA the Black Hole of Productivity), do a search on eBay for a used AlphaSmart Neo or Dana and join the club! I might even send you a cigar!