Saturday, February 18, 2006

Writing Tools

I just bought a new computer. My current PC is five years old and slower than Jade Goodie trying to think of, well, anything. But I digress. What struck me was the difference in buying this new computer as opposed to PC purchases of the past.

The machine I eventually bought was a cheap, low-end Dell with as few bells and whistles as I could manage. In the past I always bought high-end computers to handle systems programming and heavy graphics. These days, however, I'm only interested in writing and wanted a computer that could handle word processing. Anything more would not only be a waste of money but a potential distraction.

In fact, I really don't do any writing on my computer. I use that for editing and managing my web site (and, of course, downloading porn). For putting one word next to another, I use an AlphaSmart. I first bought one when I was living in the States. They are brilliant, dead easy to use and practically indestructible. Don't let the fact that I managed to ruin mine put you off (it involved a sticky key, a can of WD-40 and the fact that I am still in need of adult supervision), you can throw them in a back pack and take them camping or to the sea shore or mountain climbing in Peru. They get 700 hours on three AA batteries and hold about 100 pages of text without having to off-load.

When I decided to begin taking my writing seriously, I ordered another AlphaSmart. Over the next two years I wrote my novel, dozens of articles and the Postcards . . . manuscript, all during the morning commute to my office.

Now that I am in rewrite mode, I bought a Dana, the next step up from the AlphaSmart. It's a bit more fiddly and gets about a tenth of the battery life (only 70 hours, compared to 7 minutes on a laptop) but it's still rugged and easy to use.

Both the AS and the Dana are instant on, and I like that. Press a button and it blinks on, not only to the document you were working on but to the very same place you left off. I consider them indispensable for my writing, as I rarely have the luxury of writing at home and I much prefer to write when and where the opportunity arises.

I didn't mean to turn this into an ad for AlphaSmart, it was supposed to be a discussion about writing tools and how, for a writer, less is usually more. So, I guess my point is, if you're thinking of buying a computer for writing, buy a cheap one, and use the money you save to buy an AlphaSmart.

No comments:

Post a Comment