Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Thoughts on a Hybrid Writing Process

SCM Galaxie Twelve and The Writer Plus, text-entry keyboard
A Hybrid Writing Process

With the basis for a hybrid writing process defined, let's compare the better known AlphaSmart Neo with the Advanced Keyboard Technologies (AKT) The Writer Plus.

AlphaSmart Neo and AKT The Writer Plus Comparing Writing Keyboards

Either device would be sufficient for merging with a typewriter into a hybrid creativity system, were it not for the connectivity issue evident with The Writer Plus device. Perhaps some enterprising person will create a replacement, that will keep the used market for these devices viable as tools for creativity. Regardless, the easier to connect Neo is still readily available in the used online marketplace.

AlphaSmart Neo and AKT The Writer Plus

I like the idea of restraining the use of the computer for as long as possible in the writing process, to minimize its distractions. These keyboard text editor devices seem to be a reasonable way to bridge the gap between typewriter and word processor, by employing the necessity for first-draft revisions into an opportunity to keyboard the typewritten text into digital format. I especially like the convenience of these devices, their immediate boot-up and remarkable battery life.

AlphaSmart Neo and AKT The Writer Plus

How far into the writing process a person chooses to use a typewriter is up to them. At the minimum, I'd expect vignettes, character studies and rough ideas to easily be documented to paper via typewriter, which has the benefit of inspiring much openminded creativity, considering the physicality of the mechanical device in conjunction with the medium of paper.

There's an obvious practical limit to a paper-based writing process in this day, but these dedicated writing keyboards might serve to bridge the gap between the two. I'm hoping to do more of this hybrid writing for myself in the near future, and also as a way to thoroughly test both the Neo and The Writer Plus (along with a third machine I've yet to mention) in a longterm comparison test. Stay tuned.

Post-Script: The text of this article was written with, and beamed from, The Writer Plus.



Blogger Bill M said...

Both of those look handy for situations where a typewriter would not be acceptable because of typing noise. I don't have either in my collection. For the few situations where I like to write without the noise of a typewriter or by hand I disable the wireless comms on my notebook PC and use it. I'd rather just a small device like a text writer though.

3:48 AM  
Blogger Mike A. said...

Interesting thoughts Joe. I use three methods myself.

Typewriter - This is the best way to write undistracted. Besides having the advantage of seeing what I write (helps when I lose my train of thought), The rhythm and sounds and tactile feedback associated with manual typewriters seems to stir my creative juices and keep them flowing. Unfortunately the typewriter doesn't always lend itself to on the go portability and convenience. To edit with a typewriter requires a pen or pencil and space to write around the printed text. Woody Allen stapled his edits to the page with one of those little red swing line staplers.

Neo - This is easy to grab, weighs practically nothing and can be tossed into practically anything from a drawstring bag, a back pack or whatever else the writer may have on their person. In fact, the hump above the screen is a nice fit to my hand if I simply want to snatch it up and go. On top of that, it is relatively inexpensive. The average price is about thirty bucks so it is feasible to have several of these around in case one should fail. Editing is built in and the writer can move the cursor around the text with a variety of keyboard strokes and, as you mentioned, it is possible to copy, cut and paste bits to pretty much any location. Also, worthy of note are a spell check and (I believe) thesaurus built in as well as word count. Nice features for sure. In addition there is a typing tutor and other cool stuff that can be had via the applets.

But wait - there's more. I also enjoy paper in the form of tablets and Field Notes books. A lot can be said for outlines, notes and hand drafting a page. There is a more direct connection from the brain to the page and back. As for editing, a pen in a different color helps to fix mistakes or make changes. All the above mentioned software is between the writer's ears and memory is virtually unlimited and requires no batteries.

As a final note - Astrohouse make a rather pricey unit called the Freewrite - a nifty hybrid between typewriter and the Neo. I don't imagine the price will drop anytime soon, but they are in manufacture so there is the element of support.


6:30 AM  
Blogger Richard P said...

I wasn't familiar with The Writer Plus. It makes a great-looking pair with that Galaxie.

5:16 PM  

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