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  • thomasmmoran

Geegaw fail: the AlphaSmart 3000

Updated: May 2, 2023

I went overboard on the New Year's Resolutions this year. I actually made an itemized list of 4 of them, which in turn were sorted into subcategories for a total of 12. Of those, I haven't broken any and I've made real substantive progress toward 4 of them (lost almost 20 pounds since January 1!)

One of the resolutions (divided into four sub-resolutions) was about playwriting, and all four tend toward the same basic idea: take it more seriously this year. To that end, at New Year's I made three big purchases. First, I finally bought Final Draft. Second, I finally joined the Dramatists Guild. And third (and most interestingly), I bought an AlphaSmart 3000.

The AlphaSmart 3000, a green plastic word processor
The AlphaSmart 3000

For the uninitiated, the AlphaSmart is a word processor that came out maybe 20 years ago and was mostly used by schools. It has a little four-line screen and enough memory to save 10 documents of fairly short length (can't remember how long off the top of my head.) You can attach a cord and download all of the docs into a text file on a real bona fide 2022 computer.

The appeal of the AS to the creative writer should be obvious: You can't jump over to Facebook or ESPN or Wordle or whatevs. You can't even really edit. What you can do is write: simply, unobstructedly (if that's a word), compulsively. And then if you come up with anything good you can actually transfer it.

I bought the AM for $22 (incl. shipping!) and was pretty excited to get it. Unfortunately, I should have paid closer attention to some of the reviews: it turns out the keyboard is terrible. Yes, it actually functions as a keyboard, but you have to mash the keys so hard your fingers hurt after like 5 minutes. I thought maybe I got a dud, but upon further review this problem appears to be universal. Makes me wonder how the hell schoolkids were supposed to write on these.

So that turned out to be a waste of money. (I may just need to upgrade - there's apparently a version out there with a better keyboard, it's just more like $80.) Jury is still out on the Final Draft and the Dramatists Guild, tho. I should probably be writing something using the former instead of this blog entry, but all in due time. It's only February...

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