More options for Alphasmart Dana Battery Life

Typecast bit typed on Alphasmart Dana and injected into a Photoshop 7 document for formatting with Richard Polt’s “Patrician” font and printed on a laser printer, then stamped & chopped & pasted up onto newsprint along with a thermal printout photograph taken on a toy camera from reader Gregory. Having fun with a $5 bag of crafty paper trimmers/scissors/punchers I found at a thrift yesterday! I was contacted by a maker who was testing a new Alphasmart internal rechargeable battery pack (basically a higher-capacity factory replacement rechargeable pack) and he wanted testers who could provide feedback. I indicated my interested in testing the new product – I haven’t heard back yet, but if I get in, I’ll let you know how it works out. I *would* like to see if I can make my Dana a much more convenient and reliable writing machine than it is right now. To succeed, the pack has to be pretty powerful, because the Dana is *very* thirsty for power. The maker states that his battery pack is 3000mah, which is really very good, certainly better than the original’s 1200mAh. I’d love to see if it could be a pack that would keep the machine powered for a good part of the day for heavy use, and at least a week with light use. That would be very nice, as I could then just use the USB brick to top off the batteries or to supplement the power for very long sessions. Dragonball VZ processor! Smokin”! Built 2002. Hey, there’s Easter Eggs silk-screened on the motherboard of the Dana too! See previous posts about Easter Eggs screened onto the motherboards of the AlphaSmart Neos and 3000’s – I love it when companies do this. I’ve seen tiny Pontiac GTO’s silk-screened onto the circuit boards of hard disk drives (for no reason at all except someone at the company wanted it to be there) to Sanskrit writing and artwork and psychedelic mushrooms silk-screened onto the circuit boards in a Sequential Circuits Pro-One analog synthesizer. I get the reason for that one at least. :D The Modification:
The battery modification is simple – you just need to connect the clearly-marked “NIMH(+)” solder pad on the motherboard to the close-by “BAT(+)1” solder pad, connecting the recharging circuit to the non-recharging battery compartment. If you just run a wire connecting the two, that will work, and will also keep the original connector for the factory battery pack intact. However my battery compartment positive terminal on Dana 1 had gotten acid on it and the connecting wire had broken off, so I decided just to clip off the battery pack connector and attach the positive (red) wire to the terminal where the old wire had fallen off. Either way, you’re looping the battery compartment into the recharging circuit so it now charges. Both connectors already share a common ground plane, so you don’t have to worry about that. I did the battery mod on my Dana 1 (non-wireless) so it can recharge regular AA NiMH batteries in the battery compartment. Normally you wouldn’t want that if you use Alkalines ever, because you can set stuff on fire trying to charge Alkalines. However, doing the mod allows you to use whatever rechargables you want, so the tradeoff for not being able to use alkalines in Dana 1 is well worth it considering how useless Alkalines are in a Dana anyway. I’ll need to make a label noting that I did the mod on that machine in case I forget and have some dumb urge to load it with alkalines years from now. I’ll also screw down the battery lid so it’s more secure against unintentional opening and replacing the NiMHs with Alkalines. Success! It’s now charging the NiMH’s I have in the battery compartment! Turns out I got the Dana 2 off of Ebay in 2011! Almost exactly 12 years ago this month. Since that time, I have tended to use the Neo more than the Danas, pretty much entirely due to the more reliable and economical battery life. I am a fan of the Dana’s screen, though, and I’m hoping that having a decent rechargeable battery in the thing will make it much more likely to be used. I then tried printing from the Dana to a parallel port-enabled daisywheel typewriter, and it worked well enough that I typed up a letter on Dana 2 and printed it out on a *typewriter*, via a USB/Centronics adapter that I found at a thrift store about a year ago. I got a good chuckle out of that, because I’ve been trying to get my various writing slabs to print to typewriters for years, and have had really limited success. It’s a silly thing to want to do, but I have nostalgia about the old daisywheel printer I had in the house in the 1980’s. Ahh, the racket of an automatic typewriter! So here’s the test: can I finally settle on a writing slab? Battery life will be determinative. I already have the Neo in that sweet spot, but I’d really like to have the larger screen and soft, green backlight of the Dana. Let’s see if these 2800mAh NiMHs can do the trick with a backup of having the USB charger in the writing bag for topping off. Here’s hopin’! :D

Updated: November 21, 2023 — 11:10 am


Add a Comment
  1. The battery life has kept me from getting the Dana. Plus, the prices on the AlphaSmarts have gone up along with typewriters and classic computers. I used to be able to get any AlphaSmart I wanted for $25 shipped. Now they’re $50+. That screen is delicious, though. And the backlight would be handy! Regardless, you have me wanting to bust out one of my two Neo2’s again. Such a delight to type on.

    By the way, I’ve been in the market for a palmtop type computer for a very long time. Let me know if you have any suggestions or leads.

    1. If you get a Dana, you’ll also want an old sub-1gb SD card – like 32m or 64m one, to save your files on. The internal storage depends on a pair of supercaps which these days aren’t good for much.

      Let’s see, it’s been about a week since I last charged Dana 1, and it’s still at 90%. I’m feeling good about how this will work out :D

      Don’t know much about palmtops – I’ve only ever had one that I picked up in like 1996 from Service Merchandise. a Sharp PC-3000, an XT-8088 CGA 4-greyscale palmtop that I can only find scant mention of on the internet. I loved it, but it was delicate. It inhales AA Alkalines and won’t run on rechargeables. Ran DOS 2.2 and I could get the Duke Nukem sidescroller to run on it. :D

  2. hello,

    we are the maker of the batteries mentioned in your post. please shoot an email and we will send you a unit free of charge

    thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.