Neo luv

- by Jennifer Stevenson

I don’t go brand-crazy very often.  I buy generic bacon one week and Oscar Meyer the next, and I couldn’t tell you what kind of ballpoint pen is in my purse right now.  But I’ve just got to burble about my new toy, my Alphasmart NEO. 

I’ve owned an original Alphasmart for maybe eight years.  It had three features I didn’t like, and the NEO, the latest upgrade, has solved two of them:  the four-line screen is now an eight-line screen, and the touch has been improved.  NEO has the smoothest, most delightful keyboard I’ve ever used.  I only wish it had all the function keys of a regulation PC keyboard; then I could plug it into my PC and chuck the keyboard it uses now.

But I can’t, because the NEO is strictly for text composition.

NEO holds 200 single-spaced pages across eight discrete files.  It runs for 700 hours on three AA batteries from the drug store.  (You can get a fancy rechargeable battery, but why bother?)  The On-off toggle key is also the Save key, and NEO turns itself off after a few minutes of inactivity, saving everything you’ve typed, of course.  It’s incredibly durable—I’ve dropped mine a number of times onto hard floors. 

You upload stored text from the NEO to your computer by USB cable, or, if you like fancy stuff, you can use the available infrared send-and-receive peripherals.  Doesn’t matter if you use PC, Mac, Linux, whatever.  Your computer thinks you’re typing really fast, because NEO only stores keystrokes.  You can also download text into your NEO, so I have my outline in one file, and pull stuff out of it to other files, one scene at a time, via familiar Copy and Paste keystrokes.  It can spellcheck, bold, underline, cut and paste, and a few other little applets that I don’t actually use.

It’s cheap, too.  I think my rig cost about $200, bells, whistles, and shipping included.

NEO has a big brother, the Dana, which can do email and surf the net and handle spreadsheets, oh my, but I think that defeats the whole purpose.  I need to get away from the internet, not have it follow me around.  But of course I don’t own a PDA or iPhone either.

This little baby allows me to do the coffeeshop thing when I must  must  MUST get away from my email and write.  I can take it on planes.  I can sit in the yard, in my lawn chair, in the sun, and work.  I can wake up at two a.m. and lie on my back in bed, with my NEO on my lap, and type in the dark.

The one beef I have with NEO is that the screen isn’t backlit.  This means that if I want to write in the dark, I have to shine a little book light on the screen now and then to make sure that my fumblefingers haven’t turned on the all-caps, or hit some other key that kluges my input.   I understand why the manufacturer decided not to backlight the screen.  Backlighting would suck battery power, big time.  However, I would settle for a little button you can push to make a temporary backlight, just to check on the screen. 

These guys know how to build a keyboard.  I haven’t used one I liked this much since the dawn of time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I used the NBI (Nothing But Initials), a dedicated word processor.  There was a fast keyboard for you.  I could do 140 words on the flat with the NBI.  They actually consulted professional keyboard monkeys when they designed the NBI, and then they tweaked the beta accordingly.  I think the Alphasmart people must have consulted ‘em on the NEO too.  It rocks.  Here’s a link to their site.

Jennifer Stevenson writes blue-collar romantic comedies and sexy paranormal romance.  Look for her stuff here.   Right now you can read Fools Paradise, one of her Backstage Boys stagehand romances, serialized for free, one chapter every Friday. 

Find Jennifer on Facebook.

9 comments

  1. I have a Dana that I got on eBay for about $90 bucks. It’s actually my fourth Alphasmart product, and I’ve had this one three years or so? Anyhow, my favorite part is being able to adjust the font size. My screen still only shows maybe 6 lines because I adjust it to 16 point. And I have no idea how to hook up the Dana for email or anything as I didn’t buy it for that reason so never looked into it! I have too many ‘net devices already. I use the calculator a lot, and the calendar to check deadlines, words per day, etc. I do most of my writing on it. I’m a total Alphasmart convert and have been since my first one in 2003!

  2. Oh, and the backlight? Not worth using so you’re not missing out on much!

  3. I still have my old Alfie. Someone said there was a place you can donate them, but I haven’t figured out where.

  4. I have an Alphasmart Neo, as well. I agree about the keyboard. Very smooth and quiet. I can type for a long time without fatigue. It’s great for the big wordsprints during Nano in November. With 8 lines I can see what I just wrote, but not enough to be distracted. I don’t edit on the Neo, as there just isn’t enough screen room to do it properly. But for first drafts, wow, it’s great!

  5. That’s exactly what I use it for. First drafts. And brainstorming. It’s perfect for that “don’t look down” draft, the one you bang out so you have SOMEthing on the page, however sucky, and then you can get on with the fun part, which is editing.

  6. What I love about the Neo is that you can use it outside, no problem, when light IS a problem for a laptop.

  7. that’s what I use it for–first drafting

  8. I need to get away from the internet, not have it follow me around. But of course I don’t own a PDA or iPhone either.
    This little baby allows me to do the coffeeshop thing when I must must MUST get away from my email and write. I can take it on planes. I can sit in the yard, in my lawn chair, in the sun, and work. I can wake up at two a.m. and lie on my back in bed, with my NEO on my lap, and type in the dark.

    Daniel North

  9. I have a Dana that I got on eBay for about $90 bucks. It’s actually my fourth Alphasmart product, and I’ve had this one three years or so? Anyhow, my favorite part is being able to adjust the font size. My screen still only shows maybe 6 lines because I adjust it to 16 point. And I have no idea how to hook up the Dana for email or anything as I didn’t buy it for that reason so never looked into it! I have too many ‘net devices already.

    Daniel