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A man of the cloth and the steel he wields

Joining the Alphasmarty ranks?

Confession time: I’ve lusted after an Alphasmart Dana pretty much since they came out, but could never really justify dropping a couple hundred bucks on one, and the last time I checked the ‘Bay for them, even the used ones ran about $150 (about a year or so ago). So imagine my surprise and delight when I casually checked Ebay prices yesterday (oh yeah, I’m a hypocrite – I just posted about how good I was at not buying typewriters on Ebay anymore, but an Alphasmart isn’t exactly a typewriter, is it?) and found quite a few auctions for school-surplus Alphasmart Danas for as low as $34 with SHIPPING INCLUDED!

So yeah, I ordered one of the 16mb WiFi Danas yesterday from a company here in Phoenix, so supposedly it should be at my doorstep tomorrow. For that price you just get the base unit that’s been tested to power on – no power adapter, stylus or software CD/documentation, but I managed to find the software and documentation download page (well-hidden on the RenLearn site – there’s no links to the Dana page on the main site even though it’s still there, and they apparently still sell them) and my handy Rat Shack multi-power adapter should work for the Dana, and a stylus is a stylus is a stylus, so any $2 plastic palm stylus ought to work, so I’m thinkin’ I’ll be fine. I even found a page describing a hack to replace the aging rechargable battery with standard AA low-discharge NiCads, assuming I don’t just use AA alkalines.

For $35, I can justify finally trying out the Alphasmart. Fuller review this weekend if the dang thing shows up Friday. (:

Updated: July 29, 2015 — 4:24 pm

6 Comments

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  1. Run, don’t walk, to the flickr Alphasmart group, which is full of activity and expertise. And yes, I’ve heard ditching the rechargeables is a good idea. I have an AlphaSmart Pro c.1987 that I’ve used for transcribing my typed drafts. A great little machine.

  2. Mike speaks the truth. The flickr group has all the information (posted or people replying) you’ll ever need.

    I’ve had an AlphaSmart 3000 for over a year (which consequently, still is running on the same regular AAs and I think is rated at over 700 hours). I got my own Dana a few months back (only $22 with shipping). It wasn’t the wifi version, which I was fine with, but when I opened it up, it actually was the wifi version (bonus! although having played around with it, wifi on these really sucks, both from a usability perspective and a battery perspective).

    I have done the battery hack (10-15 min following those directions, although I completely removed all solders and added new wire) and it works great. I highly recommend it, just make sure you get those newer rechargeables that don’t lose their charge as quickly. I couldn’t find the Sony ones that were mentioned, but Target has some Targus brand that have the same specs and worked fine for me. The key is to get the highest mA as you can find.

  3. I carry my Dana in a day-pack almost everywhere. Mine is not the wifi version, and I can do some serious reading (ebooks on the SD card) and some serious laying down of ideas and notes without the distractions of the Great Web. I have some motor control issues with my hands, and much prefer keyboard to my attempts at penmanship, and I have been using the Palm OS on my PDAs since the Pilot days, so it is all good. i think you will enjoy it.

  4. Ooh, there’s a Target nearby. I should visit it next week. I’ve gone through the flikr group back about a year so far, and learned a bit. Already downloaded some software I think I’ll want to try, but I don’t think I’ll be messing much with trying to make it do wifi email and web browsing… yet. That would necessitate me setting up a relatively insecure wireless node on my network, which I could do temporarily for the chuckles of getting it to work, I guess, but not anything that would be actually *useful*.

  5. Yeah, I spent way more time screwing around with the wifi (when I first got it) then actually, well, writing on it (which is why I got it). Granted, I’m a troubleshooter, so I enjoy solving problems and getting things to work that probably shouldn’t:)

    Yeah, any rechargeable that has some packaging saying that its pre-charged will be a good candidate for the hack. Like I mentioned, find the highest mA you can get, as I read someplace that is akin to storage capacity (the more power it can store, the longer the battery can go between charges).

    When I got my Dana, I actually deleted a bunch of stuff off so I only really had the base utilities and AlphaWord. I seriously don’t write on it as much as I’d like, mainly due to places I would write are mostly the places I’m going to bring my Lettera 32 to.

  6. Well, the Alphasmart Dana has arrived, and contrary to the Ebay ad, it did have a stylus installed already. And wow, this thing is as clean as a whistle aside from a small school item id# written discreetly on the side with a silver sharpie. C17 is this unit’s designation from its previous owner, and the previous owner seems to have taken very nice care of you, friend.
    I’ve hooked up the Dana to my computer’s powered hub via USB, and it seems to be charging, but the internal Nicad was as dead as a doornail when it arrived. I think I’ll just swap it out for some alkalines for right now, until I get some low-drain rechargables and do that hack thing. (gotta find which box I packed my soldering iron in…)
    {sent from Dana first via “send” and now in USB Keyboard mode.)

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