The signings at Costco and Chapters went well, except there was a mixup at Chapters. Once that was straightened out, it was okay. The great thing about Costco was that I was signing my book at the opposite end of the aisle from where my books were. So some people walked by, then stopped and said “are you signing these books” and I would answer “yes” and they would reach into their carts and find my book, which they had already picked up, with no help or encouragement from me, and ask me to sign it. That was wonderful.
While at Chapters, Trudy stopped by to chat and we started talking about her laptop which I had first seen her use two or three years before when my friend and I sat at the table next to hers at Starbucks and I mouthed to my friend that it was Trudy Morgan-Cole sitting next to us. I had been intrigued by her little laptop and searched everywhere on the Internet trying to find a similar device. It would be a long time before I would find exactly what I wanted. It is not like Trudy’s laptop, it is even more wonderfully simple than that. It is an Alphasmart Neo.
I got my Neo on ebay where you can find one, or an earlier version of an Alphasmart keyboard. You can also buy them new from Alphasmart ( A Renaissance Learning™, Inc. Brand) or at least one store here locally that carries them. These devices are so great, there is a Flickr group of people who use it, mostly made up of writers, even though the Alphasmart was built for school kids. It is a keyboard with a small display. On my Alphasmart there is a spellchecker, a thesaurus and a word counter. Other than that, there is not much to an Alphasmart. There is no formatting–no bold or italics–you can put that in later when you upload it to your computer. It starts within a couple of seconds of pressing the on/off button (no boot up time here); never heats up on your lap; weighs about two pounds; keeps separate files for various work; the three AA batteries last about a year (or 700 hours, whichever comes first); it saves all files continuously so you will never lose data; and it never crashes. I read on a message board that someone said it does not crash because, well, have you ever seen a calculator crash? Nope. The Alphasmart keyboard is the calculator of wordprocessors. All this with a device that does not have Internet access.
With no emails to distract, no web pages to surf, no Snood game to tempt you with endless hours of time-wasting fun. Just work. Just get the clay on the table (or type up the clay you’ve scribbled in a notepad). I also write most of my blog posts on it, as I am writing this one. Then I simply plug my USB cable into it and the other end of the cable to the computer. From there, I can either use the Alphasmart Manager software to upload or download between the Neo and the computer or I can simply open any wordprocessing program or blog software or email software–anything you can type text into–and press the Send button, then watch as the Neo transfers my words onto the screen, letter by letter like some super-typer. I don’t use the Neo for editing because of the small screen but it is possible because it has the capacity to copy and paste text as well, I just don’t bother. I use it to get my words out and to type anywhere and everywhere, even on the floor while playing with my son without fear of hurting the machine (don’t forget, it was made for school kids). I love my little green machine and highly recommend it to you.
* Note, I corrected my post, as per the friendly people at Flickr, to say that the Neo uses three AA batteries, not two as I previously wrote.