For those of you who would like to try out one of those Alphasmart thingies I’ve been praising to high heaven in the past, but aren’t willing or able to drop $150 on a new Neo, here’s an alternative:
This seller on eBay is blowing out used Alphasmart Danas from a school inventory. The Dana is the same form factor as the Neo, but a little more sophisticated, as it runs the Palm OS. It has the same functionality as the Neo, but a bigger screen with a backlight, SD card slots, and a touchscreen with a stylus. I ordered one of those a few days ago, and received it yesterday. It’s not just a plain Dana, but the wireless 16MB version with integrated 802.11b WiFi radio. You can’t surf the web with one very well, but you can check email or wirelessly back up your stuff. It arrived in very good shape, with just a few of the usual school-typical scuffs. The keyboard is virtually new.
The best part: this vendor is selling the wireless Danas for less than $20. Shipping is another $7 and change, so one of those units will run you $25 shipped. They come with rechargeable battery packs that are probably flat by now, and AC adapters are not included, but you can either get an adapter and a new battery pack from Alphasmart for a grand total of $25, or just use the Dana with three off-the-shelf AA batteries. They last for about 30 hours—not the 700 hours of the Neo, but you get a backlit screen and SD slots in exchange, and 30 hours still blows away any netbook or laptop.
Just like the Neo, the Dana is a lightweight, distraction-free writing machine, and $19 for a wireless Dana is a steal. Since I tested the waters already, I figured I should share the source, in case someone wants to give the whole Alphasmart concept a whirl on the cheap. Hurry scurry, though…the sale ends in another 22 hours.