WHILE AWAITING MY CHILIBURGER at the Coyoteville Café, I decided to capture a few notes on the morning’s ride up through the Yuba region. A patron, who was about to exit, stopped by my spot at the counter. “I can’t help but notice,” he began. “What is that you’re working on?” It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked.
Three decades ago, when I taught 7th grade in Durham, California, Bud, one of my most perceptive students, could not manipulate a pencil no matter how hard he tried. His written work was, in a word, horrible, many times masking the beauty of this thought. That young man was never far from my thinking. (Obviously, he still hasn’t gone far.)
About a dozen years back, before a computer for every kid was all the rage in education, I went searching for a tool that could be used by students with special needs. Specifically, if a child lacked the fine motor coordination to manipulate a pencil, some alternative means of written communication needed to be made available.
The computer folks said, “Just get ‘em a lap-top.” But laptops, in those days, ticketed at just under two grand, and even before the assault on public education became the vogue, that kind of dough was unreasonable even though it is unconscionable to place a price tag on someone’s ability to write.
Wow, I thought. If only I’d had one of these for Bud.
At $225.00 a crack (with the rechargeable battery) I bought three. Then seven more. Then a class set of twenty. Then another.
THEN I BOUGHT ONE MORE. I’d seen these little devices dropped, left on, turned off without “save,” stepped on, argued over and dropped some more. And they never failed. I’d also seen my own handwriting.
Every once in a while, my head is turned by those mini-lap tops with the 10.5-inch screens. Built by Toshiba, HP, Sanyo and just about everyone else, boasting connectivity and supported by Bill Gates and gang, these new mini-marvels are priced only a few quid more than the current generation of AlphaSmart. Yet, the more things these things can do, the more things these things can fail to do.
For taking notes on the road, for enduring the bumps and tosses of the bike’s stiff suspension, for lasting longer than and being more durable than just about anything else I own, I’ll continue to pack my AlphaSmart and gladly answer questions from the curious who see it.
www.alphasmart.com or www.neo-direct.com
Church of the Open Road Press