Writing The (Alpha)Smart Way!

AlphaSmart NEO vs. AlphaSmart Dana

What the heck are these anyway?

First and foremost, What are these? Basically, these are obsolete portable word processors (circa 2000-2006). They are all but forgotten today.

With the exception of a group of writers. It’s their interest in these devices that piqued my interest. I’d like to share with you a couple of these lesser known, yet widely misunderstood underdogs of the writing world.

This review is from a writer’s point of view.

The devices discussed here are old, and disregarded by most people.

The way I see it, if writers can still use fountain pens, parchment and ancient DOS based word processors (you know who I’m talking about!) for their writing rituals, why not obsolete technlogy from a company that no longer exists?

I’m a newcomer to discovering the (now defunct) AlphaSmart line of products for writing. I am proud to call myself an owner and user of two of these writing wonders!

These devices were initially marketed and geared toward schools. Teachers and students specifically. They are no longer produced, and considered obsolete by many, including myself. Technology has surpassed and need for such items and have been replaced by far better, and advanced, equipment.

Stating The Obvious

None of these products are intended to replace todays computers, tablets or laptops. To some writers (me), they are a diversion, a supplement if you will, to my writing wants.

I often read about people’s writing habits. I’m a writer, it’s what I do. Sometimes as I read, I discover habits and devices that I’d like to attempt or perhaps implement into my own writing routine.

On more than one occasion, and by more than one writer, I’ve read favorable references to writing devices such as NEO, Dana, 2000(2K), or 3000(3K) writing devices.

They claimed these devices offered:

“Distraction Free Writing!”

“Full Size Keyboard!”

“LCD Screen For Outdoor Writing!”

“Easy usage and painless transfer to computer!

There were other quotes, but I was sold at “Distraction Free Writing!”

They were all made by one company…


When I googled AlphaSmart I discovered that this company was no more. They were now owned by another company that didn’t carry hardware at all.

So I went back to my usual way of writing, not giving much thought to it. However, I kept going back, wanting to know more about these wonderful writing tools.

As it turns out, these devices can be purchased today from ebay or Amazon just to name a couple of places. Prices vary greatly depending on condition of the unit. (Remember, these haven’t been produced in a long time. They are sold used, refurbished and “as is”). Take a look at the respective site of your choice for ordering information.

There are some common elements regardless of which model you choose. It’s safe to say at this point that I’ll stay away from the 2K and 3K models. I read many reviews and most of them pointed out a very stiff and not too friendly keyboard. From this point forward, the comparisons I’ll be making are intended for the NEO and Dana models

Both the NEO and Dana use the same style rechargeable battery pack. My advice?

Stay away from the rechargeable battery packs.

From what I’ve read, these rechargeable battery packs are at least eight years old or older. They WILL fail. Period.

The NEO and Dana run perfectly well on three (not four like you’ll read in other reviews) AA batteries. Of course AA batteries are plentiful and easy to get. And they’ll be much better than any years old rechargeable battery unit ever will.

Proof Positive that three is the truth! (Don’t judge me on my choice of battery brand)

With That Being Said..

You’ll also see a description that a power supply is either included with it or not. The power supply is not a vital or even necessary part of the either of these devices, especially if you read the “three AA battery” part. The power supply is intended to charge the rechargeable battery pack that’s bound to let you down…see the connection?

OK, so now that’s out of the way. Invest in a pack of AA batteries just to be safe. But in all reality, you won’t need THAT many…especially if you choose the NEO.

Choose a NEO if:

You’d like a newer unit. The NEO was released after the Dana. It’s about 2 years newer. It’s a lot easier to use, true story.

You take an oath to send your writing progress to your computer at least 2-3 times a week. Take this oath for yourself, not for me or anyone else.

  • You can be satisfied in working with a very limited amount of font sizes. Although they range anywhere from one line on the screen to eleven, all it’s really doing is squeezing as much as possible onto the screen.

You’re not familiar or have no desire to learn an obsolete Palm OS system. If you can’t remember what a Palm Pilot or PDA is, or its place in the history lineage of electronic devices, choose NEO.

Choose Dana if:

  • You prefer an actual (although outdated) Operating System to manage your writing documents
  • You are familiar with Palm OS’s process for installation and managing software
  • You like the idea of being able to back up your writings on SD cards. I inserted a 1gb SD micro card I had and it was immediately recognized. >
  • It’s absolutely necessary for you to have a backlight on your device. (I will say the backlight on the Dana is NOT its strongest point)
  • You have great eyesight and can stand to look at small fonts for long periods of time. (says the guy wearing bifocals)

You don’t HAVE to learn Palm OS to enjoy the Dana, Alphaword works superbly. But to experience all it has to offer, it may worthwhile.

“You can’t wrong with either one if you plan to just type to your heart’s content and transfer to a computer later.”

Both devices connect via USB cable to either Mac or PC and transfer what you’ve written without any fancy software or other issues. Just be forewarned…the transfer is done letter by letter, line by line. Meaning you can watch what you’ve typed earlier being retyped into your favorite word processing program on your computer. I’ve tested it with MS Word, Pages, Storyist, Scrivener and had ZERO issues with any of them. The Dana transfers this information a lot faster than NEO.

I wouldn’t recommend editing on either the NEO or Dana. Although possible, either device proved to be much too tedious. Especially seeing as though you’ll be sending to a computer. There are far superior editing tools on your computer to waste time fiddling with editing on the Dana or NEO. Just let your creativity flow.

It’s not necessary with the NEO or Dana for it to have a rechargeable battery, power supply or CD back ups of software. In fact, staying away from all that makes for a better experience. The software for NEO/Dana is still available on the company’s website. (You’ll have to Google)

If you decide on the NEO, I’d strongly recommend you google and download management software called NEO manager, download management software for the NEO. In fact, if I can make a suggestion, I’d strongly recommend you download the NEO manager NOW so you don’t have to do it when your NEO arrives. Also, while you’re at it, google and download NEO fonts. This is a freeware package of fonts for use with the NEO. It’s really just different sizes of the pretty much the same font, but it works well.

By now you can tell I’m somewhat biased toward the NEO. And I admit, I am. The Dana is a superb device in its own right. I ordered a Dana eleven days after receiving my NEO.

My reaction to the NEO was “WOW! This is what I’ve been looking for!”

It’s attraction is its simplicity, not only in execution but design as well.

My reaction to the Dana was more disheartening than excitement. I think it’s because my initial purchase was NEO.

Dana has a MUCH steeper learning curve. (The whole Palm OS thing) However, once I overcame the OS nuisances (read: deleted the unneeded apps) I’m completely satisfied with both purchases!

Fortunately, I once owned a PDA about 10 years ago (Back in MY day). There is so much about the Palm interface I didn’t use then and certainly won’t use now. The Dana has two distinct advantages that makes it a keeper for me.

  1. HUGE advantage over saving documents. They use TWO (count ‘em) slots for storing documents. Saving progress on removable memory cards.
  2. Backlight display.
The backlight is on…and I’m being serious


Once I figured out how to turn on the backlight I wasn’t too thrilled. It was so darned…DIM.

To accomodate dimly lit or dark places with the NEO, I attached a reading light to my lap desk, not the NEO itself. This provided just the right amount of light not only on the display but on the keyboard too so I could see what I was doing. Not so with the Dana. The backlight barely provides enough illumination for the screen much less your keyboard. Doesn’t look like I’ll be retiring the reading light anytime soon.

And while we’re talking about screens…

See what I did there?

The NEOs screen is far better than Dana! While neither screen is an award winner, the better of the two is clearly (and I mean that literally) the NEO.

And finally:

If you’re looking for a writing tool that offers you a simple approach to releasing your next or first great novel look no further! You can’t make a wrong choice between NEO or Dana.

Random Ramblings and outtakes from this post

If you’re in need of a distraction free device that’s capable of handling your cherished tales or rants and complaints, The NEO is far less a hassle than the Dana, that’s for sure.Palm OS…Indeed!

Before I forget…

Be sure to look at some Youtube videos to see if Dana/NEO is what you’re looking for. A word of caution though; watching videos is what got me started!

My personal advice to those juggling Dana or NEO. Choose the NEO. Although the Dana has some additional features. These are features that you will never use or will cause distractions. And wasn’t the reason for looking into a distraction free device is so you can be…distraction free?

NEO/Dana are strictly creative tools. If you’ve ever had that bothersome itch deep within your soul. These tools will help release that which that is aching to get out of your system.

“I can’t recommend this product enough. It’s been my driving force since I purchased them” -Riterrick, shortly before starting this post


All About YOU!

1. Privately create an “About Me” profile for a fictional social media website.

2. Don't post or share your results.

3. Invite 5-10 of your closest friends from various social media websites to create an “About Me” profile on your behalf without sharing what you have written.

4. Have your friends message it to you when completed.

5. Compare what you wrote to what they wrote.

6. Be amazed.

Fix For iMessage Related Bug Coming In A Future Update, Should Help Platform Switchers


It’s about time! Thanks Techcrunch for the blog!

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Apple’s iMessage feature has long been a bit of a headache for people looking to switch away from iOS to some other mobile device platform; often, they’ll find that when they put their SIM in their new device, they won’t be able to receive messages properly – these are still making their way through Apple’s servers instead of being sent via the carrier’s, meaning they never end up on the recipient’s new Android, Windows Phone or whatever hardware.

The solution for this on the user end is to disable iMessage on any and all devices where they’d set it up to receive at their cell phone number, but that’s tricky and requires thinking ahead. They can also contact Apple to get it to remove their phone number from their iMessage database once they’ve switched over, but as Re/code reports, that process has been affected by a server-side issue. Re/code…

View original 118 more words

Cliches -Yes Or No?

Warning: This blog will discuss cliches. Reading further may flip your “offended ” switch on. Continue at your own risk! But enjoy either way!

As a writer, I'm going out on a limb here.

What were you expecting after reading that? Anything? Nothing?

This blog started with perhaps one of the most overused cliches in the history of overuseism…for your reaction.

Were you discouraged because “Oh no, here we go again with the cliches.” Or did you understand what I meant and knew a statement was to follow? Were you curious to read the statement?

Maintain that curiosity, I'm going somewhere with this.

Whether I'm reading about them, talking about them or sometimes even thinking about them, I get negative vibes. I decided it was necessary to bring cliches to the front and center of my blog.

First, here's the tried and true definition:

Cliche: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.


It went on to give a few examples of what a cliche is, but that's the basic definition.

Here's my definition of that dreaded word.

Cliche: A commonly used expression or opinion used to extend the user's reach and enhance the reader's involvement.

Second, here's my personal take on cliches…

I like them.

I especially like reading them. I enjoy seeing what writers and authors do with them. It gets me hooked from the start. My opinion on a certain writer or author is often developed on their handling of cliches.

Cliches breed familiarity between the author and the reader. Most writers, me not being an exception, want that connection with our audience. Like most people, I rely on cliches.

Let's do a little role playing. Say you and I happen to meet. We'll set the scene in a bookstore just because. We shake hands, exchange names and pleasantries, then what?

Here's a hint. When you're out in the social world, what's the first thing you seek in someone you just meet?

Common Ground

Odds are in your favor that the person you just met is looking for the same thing.

Cliches connect us socially. If something triggers familiarity it's already interesting by our social standards. Because we're in the know. We can create conversation.

Why do you think writer's groups even exist? It's so we can come together and discuss something that's of interest to anyone there. Musicians, Actors and others have their own groups for the same reason.

I'm not a dancer, I can't dance and I don't want to learn how to dance. So I avoid going to dances. What happens when I do go?

I sit around, watching other people dance, thinking beyond the dance. What will I do once I finally get out of here

Name one place you won't find any usage of cliches.

  • Home? To this day I still don't run with scissors or play ball in the house.
  • Work? Companies rely on and develop their agenda large in part because of cliches. They may call it a guidebook or a set of rules but we know better.
  • Clubs? Yeah right, there's a plethora of original pick up lines in clubs.
  • Stores? This includes any and all stores. Have you read or seen any advertising lately? It's almost always a play on words or a phrase out of context. Stores probably rank fourth behind movies, books and television in use of cliches.
  • Restaurants? See Stores. Change “rank fourth” to “rank fifth”.

If you come up with any places, please make me a smarter person!

Without naming names, think of the movies, book and television shows we wouldn't have without the cliche. Bet you can name a few of each right now.

Have I ever written anything without cliches? Maybe a couple things here and there. It's for that reason I embrace cliches with open arms.

Take this blog as an example. How many cliches have you noticed? How many did you expect? Did it affect your opinion of the blog? Maybe it affected how you think of me, the blogger?

Can you imagine a world without cliches? What world do you live in?

What's your take on cliches? Are they overused? If so, why?

You read my reasons behind cliches. I'm for them. I like them.

Here's my bottom line question:

Do you like cliches? If yes, why?

Do you dislike cliches? If yes, why?

I look forward to your comments! It might teach this old dog a new trick or two in the world of writing!

Freelance Fright -Part 3

In part three of Freelance Fright, we'll take a look at the dark side of writing. It's creepy, engaging and hopefully will get you over that hurdle when (not if) you encounter it.

Like most anything else that's dark, it's not so creepy after you know what's lurking in the darkness. Think about it like a closet. At first, you may not want to walk in, but once the light is on and you see what's in it, you know where to watch your step. The closet isn't so scary anymore is it?

There will be times when your writing won't go well. Everything you write will be horrible. What do you do when this happens?

Stop Writing.

Take a walk outside. Leave the tablet, laptop or notebook behind. You may have to go no further than your backyard to find solace. Usually when the words aren't flowing it's not because they aren't there. They're near or at the bottom of your priority list. There's always something more pressing you can be doing other than writing. (Ask anyone near and dear to you if you don't believe me.) These simple exercises will help you focus.

Change of surroundings will change your attitude.

I want to write 1000 words a day. Notice I didn't say “try”. I don't care if it's 1000 random words that don't belong together or never been together. For the record, this has seldom, if ever, happened. The words DO start forming.

Writing is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

Some people start with the border. The pieces are easy to spot because they all have at least one flat side. Complete the border, then find a pattern. You can find colors and hues that go well together and group them accordingly.

In writing, your idea is the border. Everything else fits within. How does color fit into writing? Some writers love using multi colored index cards. They divide characters, plots, subplots, scenes etc… into a common color formula. I've used this method, I didn't find it useful. But you may find it of value.

Some writers find it important to outline. They divide the story into groups. Write a brief summary of the story into each section and work from there. I've had moderate success with outlining.

My solution?


When you read, you're enjoying someone's finished product. You're looking at the result of someone's work. You can read articles in a magazine, online content on the internet. There's never a shortage. I do recommend you pick up and read a book.

There's so much you can learn from a good book. Or a bad book. This is a good time to read to forget about the genre. Horror, Fantasy, Drama, Comedy. It does not matter.

As you read, you're mind will overflow with ideas. Don't let these get away! Capture them using your favorite “trap”. My favorite method?

The Mind Map

I don't do well with lists. I can create and write lists. And yes, lists are great when you're showing someone how to do something. They have been and will continue to be an important part of my blog posts.

Lists DO work.

It's me that doesn't work well with them.

I don't know how or who started the mind map process, but to me, it's the most invaluable part of my writing. It's also the most fun!

In part four of Freelance Fright, I'm going to go into detail of mind mapping, how it works for me and what I use to map my mind!

Freelance Fright Part 2

My apologies for not following up sooner. My novel in progress took an unexpected turn and I had to be there to supervise! ;-)

In Freelance Fright Part 2, I wrote about attitude. The stance, the positioning, and preparing yourself to enter the chaotic world of Freelance Writing.

Part 2 is all judgmental. Some of it perceived, most of it experienced! I'm writing this series so you'll have a good idea whether or not you're ready to be a freelance writer.

In The Beginning:

You'll be intrigued by the idea of writing. You have the ability. Your mind is bursting at the seams with never ending onslaughts of thoughts and topics. You think of this as a piece of cake. A walk in the park. Something to do when you have nothing to do. A pastime. A hobby. You're overflowing with positive cliches. All is going well…


Frustration reveals itself. Your once full mind is now void of any cognitive thought. You leave it alone for the time being. Then you make THE huge mistake that all aspiring writers make.

You think its a great idea to read about other writers.

Certainly you'll read articles and hear about their victories, thereby feeding your inspirations and getting you back on track right?


There are a few, if not many, inspirational articles out there. However, there are just as many spirit breaking articles…and those are the ones that will stick with you in your search for certainty.

You'll wonder why you decided to write. Not because of your ability, talent or passion. But because of…


Some people will annoy you.

They'll ask questions. Lots of questions. Questions, that if answered, will lead to more questions. Which will lead to more answers. They won't understand anymore than they do now. Your answers will be challenged. They'll question your ambitions. Your reasoning for what you do. Why you do what you do. In short…EVERYTHIING. You'll be expected to bring them up to your level of passion in mere moments.

It won't happen.

People will get mad at you. You'll want to write when they want you to do other things. They'll be upset with you for this.

Some people will find you uninteresting. They'll like reading your finished work. They won't like when you're writing. They won't understand what takes you so long. They'll resent you because you couldn't enlighten them when they had questions.

People will find you boring. Boring because there is no interesting way for them to understand you're writing. You're working. These are the same people that love a finished house but find construction workers uninteresting. There is no way to convey to some people that writing is a private and solitary venture. (Unless it's a collaboration, which is another blog for another time.)

There are a few silver linings to this Writing cloud. There are many reasons you want to use your ability, talent and passion in your writing…


Some people will find you interesting. They will be in awe that they know someone who…writes. It's a big deal to them. They will hang on your every word and you will appear to be much smarter than you actually are to them. They can't wait to go to your website or hold that article in their hand.

Some people will find you exciting. They will be excited to know you write. They'll want to read what you've written. They'll go to a website or read an article you wrote. From this point, some will love your writing. They'll want more and wait with baited anticipation for your next blog or article.

So for now, this is…you:

You'll love what you do.

You'll hate what you do.

You'll be excited as that new idea comes forward.

You'll be disillusioned as that new idea wasn't so great.

and this is…them:

Some will love what you write.

Some will dislike what you write.

That's it, plain and simple.

Some days you'll love writing. You won't be able to write enough. Other days you'll wonder why you write at all. These emotions are in place now…long before you read stories of the failings of others.

These are all normal, legit and real feelings. Don't deny them and pretend they don't exist. Embrace them. Learn why they're there and how to deal with them.

Coming up in Freelance Fright Part 3: The “What To Do when…” and how to deal with them.


Freelance Fright ~ Part I

Before I get started, I'd like to answer an email received, the answer provided is a bit in depth, so bear with me as I take care of this:

Q:What do you do when you feel not so free when you're freelancing writing?

A: I read

Thank you for your patience…

I freelance write when I have time. It's not difficult and it brings in extra cash whenever I want. There's always an array of topics available online. Something is bound to capture your interest. I can understand your hesitation. I hope this blog reaches out and calms those fears of freelancing.

Freelance writing is a versatile and competitive field. There are many subjects and just as many so called experts on the subjects. I compare freelancing to an auction. You spend hours placing bids on various ads. From there it's the proverbial wait game. You click on your email every so often wondering why you haven't gotten any replies yet. This is where the comparison to an auction ends. As days go by, you continue to check your email. Still no reply…you begin to think…

Am I good enough?

(Yes, you are)

What if I never get hired?

(You will)

What will I do if I'm hired?

(What you applied you'd do)

What if I can't do it?

(What if you can?)

What have I gotten myself into?

(What you've been wanting for a long time)


As you can see, freelance writing for me is fun, challenging and interesting. I've had the nervousness, the tension and the indigestion when I first started. It will be frustrating the first few days as is anything you're doing for the first time. Here are a few points of advice:

  • Write.
  • Get used to being turned down. It's nothing personal. Don't make it personal.
  • Write.
  • Don't take it to heart.
  • Don't stop writing because you were turned down.
  • Write.
  • Relax. The nerves don't really start kicking until you get hired!

I like freelancing because it gives me the freedom to work when,where and how often I want. That's not to say it's for the lazy. On the contrary. I apply to many ads. It's a sinking feeling to be turned down. Even worse is being ignored. Even a “Thanks but no thanks” is better than nothing!

You have to keep applying, keep getting ignored.

Soon you WILL get a job! Remember those sinking, doubting vibes you had? They're a lot worse now aren't they? Don't be emotionally frightened away! It's perfectly natural and it will gradually disappear as you become more comfortable in what you're doing.

Provide good work to your client, they will give you more work. They'll pass your efforts on to others. You'll feel good about your efforts. Soon, you'll have a few clients!

You'll feel good about…you!

Believe me when I say the sinking, doubting vibes really are worse when you GET hired! These feelings will take over your talent if you let it. The simple solution?

Don't let it!

I have a few writing jobs that keep me interested in freelancing. I still apply, and I still get ignored. It doesn't bother me as much as it did in the beginning. Don't let freelancing interfere with your passion for writing.

I'd like to share the best advice given to me when I first had freelancing ambitions.

Keep Writing

Even when you get that job and completed the work, never quit writing!

Write another chapter of that elusive novel…What about those blogs you wanted to post?… The next big screenplay is inside you waiting to get out!… What are you waiting for? An invitation?


“I cordially invite you to utilize your writing ability and talents to take part in an original creation written, designed, edited, revised and published by you!”