My Beloved AlphaSmart

alphie.jpgI have a shiny, speedy laptop computer. I also have a desktop computer with lots of bells and whistles. And I have a phenomenal new 21 inch monitor that still knocks my socks off every time I walk in my office. But as I sit here in the Opium Den today, I’m typing on my ancient workhorse, my AlphaSmart. I’ve been here about an hour and so far three people have asked me what it is. In the many years I’ve owned this amazing little device, that’s the usual rate of inquries: nine people per hour stare, and three of them can’t stop themselves from asking “What is that thing??”
If you’re a long time reader of my blog, you’ve heard about my Alphie before (and have probably seen this picture of me typing on it at the Opium Den, since it’s the only one I have. And no, I’m not on AlphaSmart’s payroll, though maybe I should be).
If you’re one of those people who occasionally needs to type something while you’re away from home (and you don’t want to lug your computer around) you really need to consider an Alphie.  The AlphaSmart is an inexpensive (about $200) low-tech word processor. It operates forever on three AA batteries. In the 7+ years I’ve used my Alphie, I’ve needed to change the batteries exactly once. If the Alphie is accidentally left on, it turns itself off after a few minutes to conserve battery life). It measures about 12″ by 9″, with a nearly full-size keyboard. The screen is green with black type, and only four lines can be seen at one time. While it’s possible to edit on an Alphasmart, I find it a hassle and use it for my rough drafts.  You don’t lose your work on an Alphie, because you never need to click on “save.” Everything is automatically saved until you delete it.
There’s no Internet access (although they do make a wireless version called the Dana). This is not a computer. I love having no Internet access to tempt me away from my work (of course, writing this blog post is taking me away from my work, but only temporarily. Getting on the Internet can throw me off for the rest of the day). The AlphaSmart is rugged. It was originally created for elementary school kids and was designed to withstand being thrown around. I’ve ruined many a computer keyboard by spilling liquid on it, but even half a cup of Decaf Grande Skim Latte hasn’t ruined Alphie’s keyboard. It’s very lightweight–I can easily carry it in one arthritic hand. When I get home from a few hours of working on it, I hook it up to my computer via an infrared port and upload my work in a flash. 
Speaking of work, I’d better get back to it. The deadline for AFTER THE STORM is creeping closer by the minute. . .  


  1. Kathy Holmes on January 28, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    I really, really need this! I hate lugging a laptop out – mine is definitely too large – and it would be great to have a keyboard to take with me where I do NOT have internet and don’t have to worry about spilling coffee on it. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Diane Chamberlain on January 28, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Go for it, Kathy!

Leave a Comment