Brian's AlphSmart Journal


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 What if AlphaSmart had branched out into Journals?

The AlphaSmart 3000

[The following is what I typed up (not on the AlphaSmart itself) as I worked my way through the user manual.]

I saw this gadget pop up on ebay and after a quick bit of research I decided the asking price was a good deal. While the 3000 looks quirky my research led me to Wikipedia where the AlphaSmart Pro looks more appealing to me. The 3000 was released in the year 2000, the pro in 1995. Having said that, while the pictures of my (soon to be) 3000 were a little on the dull side, as I unpackaged it from its bubblewrap upon arrival I could see the translucent nature of the plastic; the way it caught my eye, and as I realised it was more 2000-esque in this manner than I had at first realised, made me smile - I immediately liked it more.


Simple to Use:
Just turn it on and start typing, turn it off when you’re finished - everything is automatically saved as you type. With its built-in AlphaWord word processor, you can write stories, make outlines, input data for spreadsheets, take notes and more, and then easily transfer to any computer or print directly to most printers with a single keystroke.

... Up to
100 pages of text, spell checker, cut/copy/paste... [further on it states approx. 25 KB per page, so that equates to a total approximate memory of 200 KB accessible to the user].

The AlphaSmart 3000 is lightweight (two pounds), portable (700 hours on 3 AA batteries).

It feels somewhat heavy yet quite rugged while at the same time the fit and finish of the plastic seems cheap. It is styled in an old Mac translucent plastic that was popular in the 2000s, and further to the Appleness, it has option and 'Command' keys.

As a side note, in the 2000s I transferred the innards of my PC into a new case with matching keyboard, mouse and speakers that were of this Apple-esque styling; again it was cheap. Thankfully the keys have stood the test of time; the labels remain and all function; my initial impression of them though is that it doesn't inspire me to type on it; the keys are quite low profile and with very little travel - I'll have to use it for a while to see how I get on with it.] The four gel-domed rubber feet are also still present.

It is awkward that the AlphaSmart 3000 requires an odd number of batteries as my devices typically use four and I charge them as such, meaning I will likely wear out three batteries charging them... although at 700 hours (approx. 1 month [of typing?]) perhaps I'll be better off buying some non-rechargeables. Originally a NiMH battery pack was an optional user install (with instructions in the manual), and while this could charge over USB, it held less power than three AAs. Powering (or charging this battery) from an AC adapter is also an option but that is awkward. Apparently you can keep using the device for up to 8 hours after the low battery indicator (AA) is displayed, which is reassuring (this is only 20 minutes with the Ni-MH option). CTRL+Command+B will bring up the battery level - I'm starting mine at 50%... let's see how this goes.

The manual initially implies that files will remain stored in the device even without power/batteries, however, further reading will reveal that there is a CR2032 battery present for this (for when the main batteries run out or are removed).

AlphaSmart 3000 also uses a secondary backup battery that is not user-accessible. This 3V lithium coin cell battery (CR2032) powers the memory, preventing data loss when the unit is turned off and the primary AA batteries or rechargeable battery pack are dead. This lithium battery should be good for approximately 7–10 years. It is mounted in a socket and is replaceable.

The above is a little contradictory! "Not user-accessible... [yet] is replaceable.]" I tested mine by removing the main batteries for two minutes, as suggested by the manual, and then put them back in and went to see if my test file was still present... Yes! I can see it through the translucent case above the top right-edge of the keyboard, but not clear enough to confirm it isn't leaking - these rarely leak but the manual does say these can last 7-10 years and this device is older than that.

Transferring Text to a Computer

I wondered how this device would transfer the files to my computer - would I require special software (not included) or archaic technique? No, when plugged into a computer with a printer-type USB cable it behaves like a USB keyboard and you can type into a text/Word document with it (for older machines an 'Y Cable' may be required); pressing the send key will send the contents of one of your files (as if you were tying it, but faster) - the AlphaSmart 3000 supports 8 different files accissible through the 'file' keys. There is also an infrared facility, but your receiving computer would need to be compatible with this. Now the question is, can you get text from your computer into the AlphaSpart?

You must have AlphaBeam software or Get Utility 3.0 or newer installed on your
computer to enable the transfer.

As a side note, the AlphaSmart Pro, released 5 years earlier in 1995, operated as a PS/2 keyboard instead. This meant it was compatible with Windows 95 and NT, unlike the 3000.

January 16 2006 was's high point according to the WayBackMachine...

An initial test shows that the device will power on to which ever file was being worked on last and it states this briefly while powering up.

There is a data recovery option which I wish I had read about before creating my test file as that potentially over-wrote data for that one, but I found some interesting things!...

I thought to myself that it would be funny to find someone's saucy novel... well!...

file 1: "Test.d on the 29th May 2022hgfjhydm
kvgg5" [Now I recall that the ebay seller had put a photo up with "Tested on..." on the screen, then deleted it and I'd done my test with "Test." overwriting the deleted data of the first 5 characters."

file 3: "Hayley cope loves simon and emma loves dominic"

file 7: "fgdfbj" - perhaps this is the password to someone's multi-million dollar crypto-currency account.

file 8: "ghghgfhjggfjhggjoisey when she wees!!!" - remnants of the final chapter of that novel I suppose.

While deleting files clearly doesn't erase them securely the device does have Password Protection capability, particularly with multiple users in mind... you just have to contact AlphaSmart to obtain a master password.

SmartApplets are mini-software applications that extend the AlphaSmart 3000’s functionality for keyboarding, quizzing, outlining, and more. Smart-Applets are available as either shrink-wrapped software (on CDs or disks), or as downloads to the AlphaSmart 3000.

I pressed the applets key to find I had, besides Alphaword and Calculator, AlphaKeys, whatever that is.

Other observations:

- There is a brief User Guide label on the underside of the machine.

- I have pondered the lack of backlight for the screen.

- This device is far more energy-efficient to type on than a laptop.

- How much memory have I used up on my AlphaSmart?

When an AlphaSmart 3000 file is full, a message will be displayed... The file status dialog box can be accessed by pressing Command+I while in a file. The box displays the current number of pages in a file, and how much space is left.

My journal file that at present spans just over two days, takes up 9.5 files and has 3.0 pages left... i.e. I could fill a file in four days (when I have a lot to write)! 4 x 8 = 32... therefore there is a total capacity (at my present rate) to Journal for a month.

There is a warning in the manual:

Please note that downloading a SmartApplet to the AlphaSmart 3000 resets (erases) all the files and settings, and adding SmartApplets to the AlphaSmart 3000 decreases the total memory or file capacity.

Since I'd previously calculated the user's useable area to be around 200K, the total memory, I would suspect, is 256KB (assuming the OS takes up only 56K).

- Transfer files to the AlphaSmart?

The manual states:

Get Utility [still available] is a software utility application for PC or Mac that allows the user to send text from a computer to an AlphaSmart 3000... You can send text to an AlphaSmart from your computer by using [the] USB [cable]... The program transfers the current contents of the Windows Clipboard to an attached AlphaSmart 3000. (The Clipboard is a memory buffer that allows the transfer of information between different programs.)