Chet Chin’s Neo

September 25, 2007

In the past month or so, I had a chat with Chet about her Neo. Today, I’m glad to have Chet Chin wrote about her Alpha Smart Writers for us. Although we usually cover paper writing tools, I thought the Neo was to enticing to pass up. The advantage is the battery life and the universal common batteries. In a sense it’s like paper because there is less charging involved and there is less of the inter-net distractions. The Neo has 8 work-spaces, each of which can hold 25 pages of text, approximately 10,000 words. The Neo also prints directly from itself if set up properly.

Chet is also involved with the NaNo project. I’ve heard a little about it. I would like to find out more. reflections

Using the AlphaSmart for travel writing.


Sunday, 2007/09/09


I remember, when I traveled around the States in 1990, I carried a hardcover notebook and wrote my travel journal in it.


These days, when I travel, I no longer carry a paper journal for my travel musings. Take my recent trip to Wolong, China. My travel journal was my AlphaSmart Neo, a 2-lb battery operated word processor with a little screen, full-sized keyboard and memory to save what I’ve written in it for upload to a regular computer later on.



I’ve used AlphaSmart products since 1998, beginning with the 2000 model, followed by the 3000 model, then making a slight switch to the more full-featured Palm powered Dana, before returning to word processing simplicity in the Neo.


The AlphaSmart products were initially developed for the education market in the United States, targeted at schools with limited budget for computers and keyboards. Somewhere along the way, it was discovered by writers, both published and yet-to-be published. Some have written and published novels initially drafted on an AlphaSmart. The very simplicity of the product helps them concentrate on the writing. With a small screen, there is limited display which has helped to shut off the internal editor.

The AlphaSmart really unchains writers from the desktop, allowing them to write away from the desk, anytime anywhere inspiration strikes, and without having to worry about heat or weight or limited battery life. The instant power-on takes them right back to where they were before they switched off the machine the last time.


For me, when it comes to fiction writing, I’ve used the AlphaSmart Dana to complete three years of NaNoWriMo – that’s three novels of 50,000 words each. I’ve written my NaNovels in bed, in various cafes around the city and once, even in a Borders bookstore. Inspiration struck, I had the Dana with me so I found an empty seat, took out the Dana, switched it on, and started writing. While others around me were reading, I was writing.


For my recent trip to Wolong, China, I decided to bring along the Neo instead of the Dana. The Neo is rated to run for up to 700 hours on 3 AA batteries, whereas the Dana’s battery life is around 25 hours. With the Neo, I had one less charger to bring along; the Dana uses rechargeable, and although I could’ve popped in regular batteries, and thus still had one less charger to carry, I would have to charge them after every 20 hours or so.


There were some trade-offs with bringing the Neo instead of the Dana. The Neo only does word processing, whereas the Dana, as a Palm PDA (a very large Palm PDA!), has the usual built-in PIM functions (calendar, address book, etc.). But really, all I’ve used the Dana for was write my journal, so the other functions have been quite under-used. In any case, those functions were available in my Palm TX which I also brought along to the trip.


Speaking of battery life, I’d put in a fresh set of batteries in the Neo before the trip, and by the end of the trip, checked to find the battery status at 97%.


By the end of the trip, too, I also had a 17,899-word travel journal of my trip to Wolong, China. All thanks to the AlphaSmart Neo.

– Chet Chin


One Response to “Chet Chin’s Neo”

  1. Chet Says:

    NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is a writing challenge held in November each year. The challenge is to complete a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Here’s the website –

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