Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Magic Touch

typecast 20120712

Safe travels, old friend. We typed many a word together!


A tip to any other AlphaSmart-hackers out there... Kryon plastic paint does all right, but it's still not optimal for this application. Very soon after this picture was taken, areas of paint started to rub off from the frequent contact with my hands. Either prime first and/or sand the plastic and/or use another product (like vinyl dye?) to personalize your Alphie. I'm leaving the new one alone.

AlphaSmart Pro, with poppies and camera strap

What brought this sudden turnabout on was the fact that I won* Camp Nano this summer, by pulling a Kobayashi Maru and declaring that "winning" meant "transcribing my already-written 2011 NaNoWriMo draft The Ballad of Congo Willy." I'd done some small-scale tests of the Dragon Dictate software before with some success, so it seemed reasonable for me to read the draft into the computer, tackling each day's worth of typing into a day's worth of speaking.

Sadly, me reading my novel aloud into perfectly-digitized prose was not in the cards for a number of reasons:
  1. It annoyed my wife for a month, since I was in front of the main computer all the time, which meant I was sitting in the kitchen, shushing people as they tried to go about the business of cooking, cleaning, or just walking through the house.
  2. The draft is very rough in spots, and I wasn't sure what to do about it. Revising as you talk isn't an option, honestly. I eventually gave up trying to fix as I talked, and just read everything.
  3. Horrible, horrible performance anxiety, if one can get such a thing sitting in one's own kitchen, reading a nasty draft into the computer. I, apparently, can.
Basically, I rushed through the reading so I could be done quickly, and so I could squeeze it in while I knew I'd be alone and not mortified that someone might overhear parts of the draft-in-process. That, coupled with my already shady diction, lead to winning sentences like this one appearing on screen:
For just a 2nd I caught a glimpse of someone else, dressed in gray, questionable or small tables traces of Honda wafted through the air.
What is this I don't even.

Worse yet, I realized that I want the main story to be written in present tense, not past tense. That means a stem-to-stern rewrite. And that means digging out the Pro... or choosing a replacement. And as much as I mockingly bad-mouth AlphaSmarts during NaNoWriMo, they have the same dead-simple operation and no-distraction philosophy as the typewriter. (And the 700 hour battery life kicks complete butt, too.)

Most importantly, Mrs. Clickthing approved of the trade-in deal (she who scored our trio of AlphaSmart Pros in the first place.) It's not Another Damn Typewriter coming into our house, after all, despite her enabling ways.

We'll see if the Neo 2 has the magic touch.


notagain said...

drool of consciousness? Hey this reminds me, I mentioned alphasmarts in my rewrite of "This Is How We Do It" found here

Mike Speegle said...

Been there. Been there all the way. Also had a hard time transcribing (out loud) a certain horror novel in the selfsame domicile in which my 5yo son dwells. Suffice it to say that a good many swears ended up dictate din euphemism mode, then find-and-replaced.

Ryan Adney said...

You speak of the perfect touch and that is something that haunts the recesses of my mind. This summer I was writing English curriculum with a cadre of English teachers. Sure, it was important work but we were stuck at computers for hours every day and I couldn't stand one more minute of that miserable rubber dome keyboard. The very next day I came to work with an IBM Model M keyboard under my arm. I plugged it in. My poor fingers were never so happy. Typewriters make you desirous of a good feeling computer keyboard.

mpclemens said...

@Speegle: I know of the parts you speak (I read ahead) and would most certainly shy away from reading that sort of thing aloud around Impressionable Ears.

@Ryan: You get it. I like the Pro, but the keyboard was surprisingly tough to use, even after getting my hands conditioned to using a manual typewriter. An AlphaSmart married to a clicky-spring style keyboard would be just about perfect, except the din would probably drive everyone away. (Not a bad thing, come to think of it.)

Elizabeth H. said...

I have mild Neo 2 envy. I don't think there's really much of a difference between the Neo 1 and the Neo 2 where standard consumers are concerned (as opposed to the educational market), but...the black. The black is teh awesome. Not that dark green isn't cool and all, but black is classic.

The Neo doesn't feel like a spring style keyboard by any means...but for what it's worth, I am faster on that keyboard than on any other. It flies.