About 80% of my computer use is reading and writing text files, and I’d love to be able to do that during otherwise wasted time. A notebook pc is way too expensive for me, and seems like overkill for such a minor task. I don’t even need a color screen.
All I am looking for is a keyboard, a screen with 100-200 characters visible, a way to transfer back and forth to my pc, and a pricetag under $75. I have seen some $20-$40 pocket organizers which claim to be able to do this, but they seem designed for making appointments with 80-character descriptions, and I’m hoping for a couple of hundred words or so.
I’d like to hear what experiences other people have had, and what recommendations you might make.
I do the same as Meephead. I use my Palm for taking notes in class. It’s great. The lowest end Palm I know of, the m100, sells for ~$150, and the keyboard for another $100. The new keyboards fold up to a size just larger than the Palm itself.
One option you might look at - go to Ebay and check out the Tandy WP-2 word processor, or the Radio Shack Model 100 computer. Both of these are old, old technology, but still highly usable. The WP-2 might especially fit your needs. It’s about the size of an 8.5 X 11 notebook, has a full-size full throw keyboard, and displays something like 8 lines of 80 column text. The files are downloadable to your PC through a built-in serial port. The thing runs on AA batteries, and lasts for many, many hours on a set.
I have one of these, and they are a great little box. You might find one cheap, and for straight word processing they are hard to beat. It also has a fairly rudimentary contact manager and address database, and I think they have a built-in modem as well. I got mine for $50.
The Model 100 computer is the same form factor, but a little thicker. It has a word processor built in, a database program, and BASIC so you can program it. I think the screen might be 40 characters instead of 80, though.
You might look into WindowsCE handhelds. They usually have large screens and built-in keyboards, and weigh at most 2 lb. Unfortunately many of them have very small keyboards which are impossible to touch-type on, and the few exceptions (HP Jornada 820, IBM z50 and I think the NEC MobilePro 800 series) are not very cheap. The IBM z50 is going for over $200 on eBay. If you don’t mind a smaller keyboard, you can get something like a Casio A-11 for around $50.
I have both the HP Jornada 820 and a Palm+GoType! keyboard combination. The Palm is far better as an organizer, but the HP is better for writing - I wrote most of my Master’s thesis on it. It has a large keyboard, a 640x480 color screen and a 10-hour battery life so I can charge it overnight and write all day anywhere without ever worrying about finding an outlet. I hear the IBM z50 is even better - has that famous IBM ThinkPad style keyboard.