An Expensive and Fragile
Laptop, or an Economical and Indestructible Smart Keyboard?
by Nick Anis
If you have taken an airplane flight
recently, or walked through a hotel lobby, or office building, you may have
noticed the growing ranks of laptop PC users.
I’ve used a laptop PC for several years.
One phenomenon laptop PC users have faced is about a $500 per year
drop in the value of a laptop. This
is particularly disturbing when one considers laptops typically cost $500 to
$1,000 more than their desktop equivalents.
There are finally a few $1,500 middle of the road models available,
but let’s face it, laptops are expensive and considerably more susceptible
to damage. They cost from
$1,500 to $5,000 and average $2,500; laptop cases get damaged, screens get
cracked or shattered, and so on. And
if your laptop goes flying off your lap or tray top and crashing onto the
floor because of turbulence, or clumsy passenger or flight crewmember
don’t expect any compensation, because for the most part, laptop users use
their machines at their own risk and carry on baggage is not insured for
loss or damage.
You can buy a ruggedized laptop PC
(they cost more but they are much more durable).
Or you can use a damage resistant carry case and watch over your
laptop carefully as you carry it around.
You can pony up for a unit with enough RAM, disk storage, computing
power, modem, a network card, and even an extra battery.
But all that stuff costs a fortune, and your machine will still be at
risk for damage or theft. And
ironically, even with two batteries most end up running out of power about
¾ of the way through a 5-hour plane flight.
So what to do?
Well if your focus is (or should be) word processing and note taking,
there’s a great alternative. The
AlphaSmart 3000, which sells for a paltry $200, lets you operate for over
500 hours on 3 just AA batteries. It’s
a simple, slim, and portable computer companion that lets you take notes
anywhere anytime holding up to 100 pages in 8 separate files. It has a 4-line LED display, spell checker, and almost no
learning curve. There are no
manuals to wade through, no conflict-ridden extensions and drivers to
install, no interface cards to install, etc.
You merely enter and edit your text, then send it to any computer (PC
or Mac) for formatting or directly to a printer.
The AlphaSmart can function as a stand-alone computing device for
note taking, editing, and word processing, and as a substitute keyboard for
The AlaphaSmart 3000 weighs a mere 1
¾ pounds, is virtually indestructible, and has an almost endless battery
life. Students can fit it in
their backpack, business people can put it in their bags or briefcases, and
it is far less likely to get damaged or stolen.
You can’t play solitaire with it, or
do spread sheeting, because it’s designed for note taking, editing, and
word processing. But that could
be a blessing. Using an
AlphaSmart 3000 writers can write, students can take note and do their
writing assignments rather than play games and waste time.
Also DVD movies on laptops (a slower 8 or 10 x DVD CDROM drive still
costs about $100 more than a high speed 52x CD ROM drive) are still rather
impractical because they consume a lot of battery power and frequently you
are out of juice and the machine shuts down before the move is finished.
A better alternative would be to get a personal DVD player,
$499-$1,299, and Boosteroo headphones, $29 (that raise the sound level so
you can hear in airplanes, trains, cars, etc.), and an Alpha Smart keyboard.
AlphaSmart has been around for quite a
while. These keyboards are very
popular at schools. AlphaSmart
has AlphaQuiz Smart Applets for automated quiz taking and grading.
The AlphaSmart 3000 is an affordable keyboarding and computing device
that allows every student in a class to write, edit, and review their own
compositions. Since 1993, over
600,000 AlphaSmart devices have been used by millions of students in 4,600
school districts across the United States and in over fifteen countries
worldwide. They are also used in many hospitals, colleges, universities and
The AlphaSmart doesn’t require a
computer and can be connected directly to a printer for obtaining a hard
copy, but also easily integrates with PC & Macintosh desktop machines.
There is also a USB and wireless with IrDa (Infra-red) interface available.
As a second computing device is
virtually an untapped market for the AlphaSmart.
For example, my sons can use AlphaSmarts to keyboard their work at
school, the library, home, etc. and then when one of our desktop computers
are available, they can plug in the AlphaSmart and easily transfer the text
into Microsoft Word or whatever word processor they might care to use,
format it, and print it out for class.
Authors, and journalists can use an
AlphaSmart for note taking and writing.
They can carry it with them in planes, trains, and automobiles, or in
their backpack as they trek through national parks and wilderness areas.
Rather than lug a 10 or 20 pounds of laptop and accessories they can
have a slim, compact, light, easy to use, and inexpensive tool for doing
their work anywhere anytime.
20400 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino, CA 95014
888-274-0680 or 408-252-9400, extension 118
# # #
Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel
and technology writer with over 24 books in print published by
McGraw-Hill, Random House, Bantam, Ziff-Davis, Tab, and others. Nick's
articles have appeared in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, West Coast
Media, The Family Publications Group, The Weekly News, and Travel-Watch.
His beats include food, travel, snow and waters sports, entertainment,
family recreation, consumer electronics, home improvement, and automotive.
He is responsible for the Restaurant Row Ethnic Dining Guide, co-published
by the Long Beach Press Telegram. Nick is an
accomplished downhill skier, PADI certified SCUBA diver, and when he's not
sitting on his butt goofing off, enjoys a variety of active recreation
including tennis, riding motorcycles, ATVs, wave runners, snow machines,
horses, skeet and trap shooting he's also taken a stab at riding camels,
donkeys, elephants, ostriches, lamas, dolphins, Reindeer, bulls,
mechanical bulls, and buffalo. Nick is a member (A
Secretary/Treasurer) of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers
Association (IFWTWA), a member of the North American Snow Sports
Journalist Association (NASJA), Computer Press Association, The Writer's
Guild, and listed in Books in Print, Media Map, and Press Access.
You can reach Nick at Editor@Travel-Watch.com.