Alpha Smart - Background

Background

The AlphaSmart is a keyboarding device that enables a person to work on the go, much like a laptop computer, but it is strictly for word processing, as it functions essentially like a simple digital typewriter. The Dana (a newer device made by AlphaSmart, Inc.) is an exception, as this device can also run Palm OS applications. Since the AlphaSmart, Dana, and NEO are specialized for limited purposes, they are generally much cheaper than a standard laptop computer. All of these devices are meant to be plugged into an ADB, PS/2, or USB port for transferring the written text into a computer's word processing document for further editing (such as indentation and font preference) or printing if so desired.

The AlphaSmart saves every keystroke directly to the machine's RAM, which is maintained by a battery backup even when powered down. AlphaSmarts can transfer data either by a special program that communicates with the AlphaSmart or by the simpler method of transmitting the keystrokes of the written text as if it were the computer's keyboard. When not transferring text, the Alphasmart can be used as a standard keyboard.

AlphaSmarts are very popular in schools for their affordability and durability. Elementary schools and high schools use them; they are particularly popular among special education departments for use by students with graphomotor challenges.

The machines have also developed a type of cult following among journalists and writers, who find them easy to carry and appreciate the full-size keyboard and long battery life.

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