Weapon of Choice: 2003 Alphasmart Dana Wireless (ha!)
There’s a calculus you get to know when you own an Alphasmart Dana and you want to write on it, but you have so many other wonderfully tactile writing machines that you really don’t get to pull out the Dana often enough to justify keeping a set of AA batteries in it to feed the thing’s appetite for using power to keep its memory alive, even when it’s off. Then you get around to wanting to type on it again a week or two later, and you hit the power button to find the batteries are stone dead and (infrequently) the files saved to internal memory wiped. This is the common experience of Dana owners, and the potential loss of files is best solved by saving only to an SD card that you will always keep in the main SD card slot. Battery deadness doesn’t affect files saved to an SD card, so get in that habit, if you aren’t.
The dead battery thing, though, is a problem with the Alphasmart Dana, a problem largely solved with the introduction of the Alphasmart Neo. Those things have been known to run for a solid year on a set of 3 AA’s, and if you don’t have one, you should. They’re much more practical a writing tablet than the Dana, or IMHO, any other writing tablet you can get. But back to the Dana – you’re reading this because you have one or want to get one, and you want to know about this battery issue.
So yeah, if you’re a Dana user (and there are many good reasons to have one of these too), You’re gonna get used to the idea of anytime you want to write with this thing, it’s going to realistically cost you a set of AA batteries. That’s a bit of a turn-off to those of us who are thrifty-minded and used to typewriters which cost nothing to operate. What to do?
So the other night it occurred to me that while you can power the Alphasmart Dana with the USB cable plugged into a computer, doing so automatically kicks in the Dana’s “Keyboard Slave” mode – but what if I tried to power it over USB with a power brick? Would the lack of a data connection mean that the slave mode wouldn’t activate and I could use the Dana in its normal mode, except powered by the USB brick rather than the AA batteries? Only way to find out is to try.
And yes, it works. It’ll run for hours with the backlight on, depending on the mAh rating of your rechargable power brick. The need to carry a USB-A cable and a power brick is slightly inconvenient, but it sure beats burning a set of AA’s anytime you want to turn it on. Finally, a solution to the Alphasmart Dana Battery Problem! :D
The above video is for a commenter on this blog post, and is a more detailed explanation of power source replacement options for the Alphasmart Dana laptop writing slab.
Where to get parts shown in this video:
USB A to B cable:
USB Power Bank:
Rechargable AA Batteries (only 3 batteries needed):
Some Alphasmart Dana articles worth reading: