Computer Corner: Electronic Notetaking

Reprinted from PN May 2001
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Imagine not having to fiddle with a button on your laptop, hunt for a table to type on, search for an electrical outlet, or wait eternal moments for the darned computer to "boot up" while that elusive flash of brilliance zips out of your head at the speed of light!

This is what electronic notetaking is all about: easy access to a typing device that stores text instantly.

Two examples of such products are the AlphaSmart 3000 and the Laser PC6. The devices are often called "Smart Keyboards" and cost less than $300. They are powered by AA batteries, offer a standard-size keyboard, and boot up ready to be typed on within seconds.

So, what's the hitch? The devices store text files and do not have fancy features like Windows? style icons, Internet access, or some of the nifty software applications available in executive-style PDA's (Personal Digital Assistants). For the most part, electronic notetakers are for typing notes. And for people who have an easier time typing than writing, the devices can be liberating pieces of access equipment.

The AlphaSmart 3000 and the Laser PC6 offer basic accessibility features such as Sticky Keys and control of repeat keys. On the AlphaSmart 3000, the keyboard layout can be changed from the standard QWERTY to left, right, or two-hand Dvorak. The Laser PC6 has a wider display (8 lines by 40 characters) and can force a larger font to appear on the screen.

Otherwise, both devices are very DOS-ie looking with grayish/green LCD displays and almost black text. Text wraps to within the display area until sent to a PC, where it conforms to the user's own margin settings, font style, and font size. The devices offer spell check and calculator features, and e-mail is now an available option.

In using electronic notetakers, files save right on the devices' firmware—no disk drive to hassle with. Downloading to a laptop or PC is easy using a cable that plugs into the keyboard port of your standard PC (with an extra jack available to also keep your standard keyboard plugged in) or an infrared sender/receiver pod. Priced at only $15, the cable is long enough to stay readily accessible for any end user who can connect a PS2 plug at his or her desktop.

To find out more about the featured electronic notetaking devices, contact the companies:

For AlphaSmart products AlphaSmart, Inc. 20400 Stevens Creek Boulevard, Suite 300 Cupertino, CA 95014 (888) 274-0680 / (408) 252-9500 / /

For Laser PC6 products Perfect Solutions Software, Inc. 15950 Schweizner Court West Palm Beach, FL 33414-7128 (800) 726-7086 / (561) 790-0108 / /

The above information is provided by Susan LeHew, assistive technology coordinator, Rehabilitation Services Administration-Arizona. Send computer questions to her at


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Computer Corner: Electronic Notetaking


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