Say Hello to My Little Friend: the Wonders of the AlphaSmart 3000

There isn’t any special equipment required to be a writer. There’s no super secret pencil and paper combination that makes the best stories, no ultra exclusive word processor of the gods that you must use in order to craft a gripping tale.

But let’s be real here, you’re not going to be chiseling your work into stone tablets anytime soon, and neither am I. Few of us write our stories with pen and paper anymore, and the image of the writer hunched over his typewriter, keys clacking is largely an anachronism. We use computers for the most part, because they’re both versatile and powerful.

I’ve been writing on my laptop from the very beginning, mostly because it was portable and it served my needs well enough. But over the last couple of months I’ve had my eye on something a little different.

See, I like to take my laptop to work with me, so that I can write on my lunch breaks, but it can be a pain to lug it in from my car and then back out again when I’m done always slightly terrified that someone might crowbar open my trunk and steal it. I swear to you, every time I get home and open the trunk (that’s a boot for those of you who don’t live in Awesomeville aka America) there’s a tiny moment of terror when I’m sure it will have been stolen. Also, the battery life on that thing sucks. I get MAYBE half an hour out of it before it beeps at me once and promptly shuts off without giving me so much as the chance to save my work.

So yeah. Not the most ideal piece of equipment in the world. Well today I’m here to announce that my troubles are over, and to introduce you to my little friend:

Okay, okay, stop laughing. Yes, I know it’s like a ten-year-old piece of technology. My wife  told me she used to use one when she was in grade-school.

But you know what? This baby is AWESOME. Shall we go down the list?

How about a 72 hour battery life? Check.

Ultimate portability? Yeppers.

And the best part? The twenty-five dollar price tag.

I’m telling you guys, this is my new writing machine right here. I’ve been wanting one of these babies for years. Ever since I saw an article in Popular Science about how they were being used in the jungles of Africa by scientists who were away from civilization and without power for long periods of time.

But the best part about the AlphaSmart 3000 is this: it has no wordcount feature.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. “Albert, wordcount is essential. Wordcount is god. How will we ever be able to chart our progress without the manifold blessings of wordcount?”

Well believe me when I say that at first I saw it as a drawback too. And then I started writing on the thing.

And I’m here to tell you that knowing exactly how many words you have written isn’t nearly as important as you think it is. Because once you know, then you start to set goals, and once you start to set goals, you start to feel obligated to complete those goals, and once that happens there’s a hint of drudgery starts to sneak into your writing. Or at least that’s how it was for me.

But with the AlphaSmart 3000 I don’t have to worry about all that stuff. All I have to focus on is telling the story, and so far my daily wordcount hasn’t suffered at all. If anything it’s actually gone up a little.

Bottom line, if you write on the go, I’d highly recommend this little machine to you. If you do your shopping you can find a decent price for one on ebay, and it offers a convenient and distraction free writing experience.

Overall a super piece of equipment.

16 responses to “Say Hello to My Little Friend: the Wonders of the AlphaSmart 3000

  1. I was ridiculously excited to see this post; I love my AlphaSmart! (I have a Dana rather than a 3,000, myself, but nonetheless.)

    You really can’t ask for a better writing tool than something that’s easily portable and distraction-free, and I’ve never found anything that does it better than the AlphaSmarts. Every writer ought to have one, if you ask me.

  2. I used to have a 3000. I think I remember it having word count. I have a Neo now — much better keyboard and larger display. The Alphasmarts are great little gadgets, but I found that I just can’t deal with only being able to see a few lines at a time. I hardly ever use it any more, but when my computer died in the middle of NaNo last year, it saved my life.

    • There were some “applets” available that added some wordcount funtionality, but good luck finding them now.
      As to the small screen, I find that it actually helps me. Looking at huge areas of white space on a new page can be quite daunting. Only having four lines visible makes it much easier to face the spectre of the blank page.

  3. My writing professor at school had one of these. I have to say, it looks pretty awesome, especially as it lacks all of the distractions that computers have. BUT, can you transfer writing from this to a computer?

  4. Albert, I guess I’m just lucky in not having the white page phobia.

    Slightlyignorant, you use a USB cable to download from the Alphasmart to an empty text file on your computer. Actually, it doesn’t have to be empty. You can download anywhere you put the cursor.

  5. I have an old AlphaSmart and I love it.

    True story. I have never taken my “Alphie” anywhere without having someone, sometimes more than one someone, stop me and ask me what on earth that was.

    And the best thing about it? You can see only a few lines at a time. When I can see only a few lines at a I time, I don’t get all obsessed about what I’m writing. When I’m writing in Word on my laptop, obsession is a constant foe.

    Love my “Alphie.” Enjoy yours!

  6. When you first tweeted about this thing, I had to Google it because it sounded like a Speak-and-Say. But between what I found and this post, I totally want one. It sounds like a fantastic tool for writing (mostly) distraction-free.

  7. Sounds interesting. Do you then connect it to your computer to transfer your writing for that day?

  8. Got my answer…should have read the other comments first! 🙂

  9. I love taking my notebook to the coffee shop and writing first drafts longhand. Oh, I have a good computer at home, and at the end of the day I enter what I’ve written and tweak it as I go, but there’s nothing like the visceral connection of hand to pen to paper. IMHO, of course.

    • I know several other writers that prefer the feeling of pen on paper, but to me it’s just a cramp in my hand and the nuisance of having to copy the whole thing over to my computer anyway. Chalk it up to me being a child of the internet.

  10. Pingback: Thursday’s Top Ten | Marcia Richards….Savvy Ink-Slinger

  11. Good idea! Less distraction = more writing. 🙂

  12. Looking Towards Home

    Ahhhh….. another AlphaSmart convert! 🙂

    I have the Dana and yes the battery length is *only* 25 hours of continuous use or about 2 weeks left alone, but the connectivity and storage is better (methinks). It comes with slots for 1Gb SD cards, can wireless print if you have an infrared thingy on your printer and synchronises documents with your PC.

    I’ve used it to draft several science articles and reviews adn also for capturing those fleeting thoughts.

    It’s nice to see someone else fall in love with this retro-tech, but WHEN will the company who makes them start marketing them for writers??

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