Distractions! If you are a writer and do research, you can justify to yourself hours of sidetracking.
Sometimes you just want to sit down and type out your thoughts and not have the temptation of looking something up or formatting your text while writing. You can go on that whole fun adventure of distraction free apps for your computer OR you can just get this low-tech solution. The AlphaSmart is a line of very simple word processors that simply connect to your computer and retype everything as if it were a keyboard.
At first glance you’d think that this would be something you’d find in a grade school classroom and you’d be right! It looks like a toy or a learning device, but it feels like a ‘professional class’ piece of kit; It has some heft to it. The keyboard isn’t BAD, it’s just a simple high weight rubber dome of some sort that instills surprising typing confidence. To start writing on the Neo you just press the on/off button and it is immediately on and you can start typing. There are 8 save slots for your documents that you can switch between and copy paste between. The display has variable font sizes and allows 2 to 6 lines of text with the included fonts, but you can install others too. One big con is that the mono-crystal display is not backlit. There is software you can install on your computer to manage documents and applets and update the system itself. I had trouble running this on a modern Windows 10 machine but had no issue on my old Windows XP laptops. That snag doesn’t prevent you from using the best feature which is the SEND functionality. Connecting a USB printer style cable allows you to transfer your writings to your computer in a very novel way. You simply open any program with a text input and press the send button and the Neo types everything to the computer. It also acts as a USB keyboard input device while connected to your computer.
We’re hearing every day how being connected to everything all the time is ruining our attention spans and I’m a huge supporter of using dedicated devices for different functions. I’ll take any excuse to ignore my phone or my laptop if that means I can say that I was doing work instead. I’ve used the Neo for a bunch of articles already and it has won me over. I can be sitting watching YouTube or whatever and think to myself “UGH, I have an idea I wanna write about, but I’d have to minimize the window and open Word… Oh yeah I can just grab the Neo and use that instead.” I’ve done that on many occasions.
There is some interesting tech history behind AlphaSmart that I won’t get into because I’d just be stealing someone else’s fine writing. Instead you can read this article right here. http://hackeducation.com/2015/07/25/alphasmart