Friday, October 4, 2013

Alpha Omega?

While littering up the Nano 2013 site with my usual Rhino-based nonsense, I came across something in the AlphaSmart subforum that gave me pause. I checked it out, and the rumors are true:

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.

Neo Rhino


Ted said...

"Socient"? :D

Yep, I have a couple of Danas that might come out in November. Gonna try to keep it ink on paper as much as I can though. Sad to see 'em go.

Elizabeth H. said...

Aw man...I'm torn between accepting the inevitable and just lifting a glass for the glory of the Alphasmart that was, or going on an eBay binge lest they all disappear. I admit, I don't use mine as much as I once did (mostly because of my fondness for scraping pencil things on paper these days), but they really are grand writing tools. It's liable to be a lot of years before there's anything that can keep up with them on battery life, for one, and I don't think most portable keyboards are nearly as nice to type on.

notagain said...

I've only ever seen the 3000, of which about a dozen have passed through Goodwills around here.
Is there a model that lets you send the text into the alpha so you can pick up where you left off rather than append elsewhere?

Elizabeth H. said...

I can't recall if the 3000s are the same way, but you can definitely port text to the Neo using Neo Manager.

Ted said...

It's quite easy to get text back and forth on the Dana as well. Either via USB or the SD cards.