Is There a Little Computery-Thing That Does This?

OK, here’s the deal. I may be starting a new book soon, and most of my research involves transcribing newspaper and magazine articles from old scrapbooks and clippings files. In the past, I’ve done this by hand on paper (ouch), or reading them (quietly!!) into a tape recorder, to be transcribed later. I do not want to take my precious and expensive Toshiba laptop all the way into the city and uptown.

So. Does anyone make a little keyboard thingie I can bring to the library and type the information into and then e-mail it to myself so I can download it onto my computer later? Not a telephone: I need a keyboard . . . Not a fullsized one, but something bigger than a phone keypad.

It’s 2004. Someone must have invented something like this by now! Something that will cost me less than a month’s rent?

I’ve used a Palm Pilot with an add-on folding keyboard. It folded in fourths, so it was the size of the palm pilot, and had a stand that held the palm up at an angle for easy viewing. This was in 2001, I assume they are still made.

The palm had a notepad-like application.

Sounds like you want this. This page is for an accessory keyboard for a Palm PDA (the PDA is shown in the photo as well). You’ll want the PDA (they go for around $100-$200), and something like the foldable keyboard I linked to. You would also be able to directly download files from the PDA to your laptop; no emailing required. The whole thing will fit neatly in yoru purse.

Have you considered a digital camera? The little ones fit in a pocket easily.

This doesn’t give you text files, but it does give you a pretty nice image of the whole page. I do this all the time to take pictures of directions, addresses, whiteboards, etc. for later reference. You may be able to OCR the text in later to save typing, as well.

Pic of keyboard attached to Palm Pilot

If you have a PDA or compatible cellular phone you might try out this Targus folding keyboard. I haven’t used this particular model, but my wife has used an earlier one to take notes in class. They’re a little small but quite serviceable and the keys aren’t too noisy.

You should be able to get it and a no-frills PDA without using up much of the rent money.

Most libraries have computers. The computers have floppy disks or even CD Burners. You can write what you want and save them to either the floppy disk or the CD. I have done that and copied the work from the floppy or CD to my computer at home. If you have a hotmail account or other email, you can just log on to that and email the information to yourself at home.

How about a Blackberry? this model would probably suit your needs the best.

There are also a range of scanner pens available for almost all palmtop computers. These things are relatively cheap and probably even better for your purposes than a keyboard. About as thick as a caving knife and half the length, you use it like a pen. Simply run the scan head across the lines and it reads the data into the computer. It reads about as fast as a moderate human reader. Comes with the advantage that everything can then be converted directly to text via OCR without needing to type anything. Very neat devices, and I’ve used them many times for library reference works that can’t be borrowed (and in some cases shouldn’t have been copied electronically).

Could you be more specific? Some people can buy a new Toshiba laptop for a month’s rent…

Anyway how about an Alphasmart Dana? I’ve never used it but I’ve seen it in stores, and the full-size keyboard looks pretty good. It’s a self-contained unit so it may be easier to manage than a PDA + keyboard setup.

But if you have a use for a regular PDA, that route might be more versatile. I’ve owned both the above-mentioned folding keyboard and the GoType. I preferred the GoType because it was simpler to set up and self-supporting. The folding keyboard needs a flat surface to use on, but the GoType can be used on your laps (not exactly easy, but it’s doable.)

Thanks, all . . . These PDAs and BlackBerrys–could I actually input/save information on them, and/or e-mail the text to my home and work e-mail addresses?

Lincoln Center had no computers, sadly.

Hi Eve!

Take a look at the DocuPen scanner:

It comes also with OCR software; so later at home, one can transfer the files to text.

Even if the original is written text, I think the images that this gizmo saves, are good enough so then one can type what is needed later at home.

As for the PDAs: be sure they have wireless included, and that the library offers wireless portals.

I have to report that connecting to the Internet and e-mail with a PDA may be easy, but the wireless connection sucks battery power like a leech on steroids, be ready to take your power supply of the PDA to the library too.

I’m a journalist, and I’ve been using a device like this, the Sharp OZ-750, and its predecessors as a simple portable note-taker for more than ten years. It’s a small qwerty-keyboard-based device with a simple monochrome text-only display. It runs on a couple of AA batteries that will last for months on end.

It doesn’t have e-mail capability, but you can transfer files to your PC with a simple cable connection. Simple, cheap, capable of touch typing without a lot of extra external stuff.

It looks like Sharp has fallen prey to the tablet-based PDA craze and is no longer making the OZ-750, but you can probably get them used (or new like the one in the link) for well under $100.

I think you’d find it does exactly what you want.

Palm type solutions are likely to clumsy. A mini-notebook is really what you need. They are expensive, but you’re worth it.

Get this one Sony VAIO® Notebook PC with Intel® Centrino™ Mobile Technology Pentium® M Processor 1GHz It’s an amazing little machine.

Most PDA’s have a decent amount of memory, more than you’d want to transcribe in one day for certain. They typically connect to a PC via a USB or Serial cable (older models)

You can get wireless internet options for them, but that is more expense and you have to pay for service as well.

Well, if you’re considering a full-blown notebook, you can get one for a lot cheaper if you don’t need the latest and greatest technology: Sony VAIO Picture Book. Only 2.2 pounds and smaller than the one linked above.

I had one of these, but I still liked my Sharp better for simple note-taking. The Sharp weighs only a few ounces and fits in a jacket pocket. Let’s face it: do you really need color, Windows, 2-3 minutes to boot up, etc., etc., just to put a few words into a file?

Have you considered something that converts audio into text? I used to play blackjack on a computer which understood the words “hit” “stand” and “double” which is obviously not enough for your purposes. That was probably at least five years ago, and I don’t know how much the technology has evolved since then, but it might be worth looking at.

Eve I’m disappointed in you. I would think that a lover of old fashioned things would see that history offers a solution superior to any technological geegaw. You need a boy friday. Ask Lypsinka if you can borrow her manservant John to transcribe these texts, type them into his computerb and e-mail them to you.

Such work is not proper for a lady.

I just spent half an hour typing notes and questions and links and asking about all your links and hit the wrong goddam key and lost the whole post.

Which pretty much tells you how much use some of these dealies will be to me.

If I’m feeling better I will try again. Goddam. There are one or two suggestions which might or might not be perfect, with some more details, but I am too disgusted to type that whole huge post again right now.


OK, some excellent suggestions here, I am going to print out some and show the to the IT Boy at work, who can answer my fluff-headed questions. What I need is something that can hold 50 pages of text or more, and that I can e-mail to my work and home e-dresses (I don’t want to risk the thing crashing or me pushing the wrong button and losing everything, as I am wont to do).

Palm Pilot with add-on keyboard: This looks really good! How much text can it hold, and can it e-mail?

Digital camera or scanner pens: I usually only need a few lines from a page, or from a paragraph, so this really wouldn’t be the trick.

BlackBerry: Again, looks swell. Again, can it e-mail? How much text will it hold?

Alphasmart Dana; GoType: Ditto. Text? E-mail?

Sharp OZ-750: “You can transfer files to your PC with a simple cable connection.” You can, maybe, but me?

Sony VAIO® Notebook PC with Intel® Centrino: $2000? Hahahahaha.

Boy Friday: Tried this. They tend to giggle and get bored and you have to take them out for gin.