We have reached the end of our NEO 2 inventory, and we will no longer be producing any additional units—but this isn’t goodbye.
File this under "I knew this day would come and I'm surprised it took this long." Yes, Renaissance Learning née AlphaSmart has ended U.S. production of the Neo 2, which I suppose makes it the final model of the line. For all the mock-rivalry between the Typewriter Brigade and the AlphaSmart Nano groups, I am truly sad about this news. I'm a Neo owner myself, after all, having traded in my pimped-but-battered Pro model last summer. It's become central to our homeschooling with my middle child, and I'm actually concerned about taking it away for the month of November as I attempt a multi-device Nano.
The AlphaSmart was and is a wonderful piece of single-purpose technology: durable, inexpensive, highly portable, and doggedly compatible with thirty years' worth of computing devices through the alchemy of cables and adapters. Their market niche has been eroded, though, through the advent of netbooks and (now) full-featured tablets that can be had at the same price point. Add in a $30 Bluetooth keyboard and you have a passable substitute that's also 'Net connected. What could be finer?
Of course that's just audience-baiting on this blog. I don't believe for a moment that a keyboard-and-tablet solution is an acceptable replacement. AlphaSmarts have always been praised for their insanely long battery life and their utter simplicity and utility. It's the modern typists' portable typewriter, a Lettera for a new age, and now, like its inky mechanical predecessors, it's been obsoleted. At least it's in good company.