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Note Taking Devices for Students?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the save-the-trees dept.

Portables 144

Gavin Scott asks: "I'm looking for solutions for a college student who needs an inexpensive mechanism for note taking in class. She suffers from a condition that makes writing notes out by hand slow and painful. One of the small sexy sub-notebook computers would be ideal, but at $1,500-$2,500 these are completely out of reach budget-wise. She has a perfectly good desktop system at home, so something that simply allowed typing in notes that could then be transferred to the PC would be ideal. I've considered things like a Palm-type device with an external keyboard, but I'm interested in knowing what other options people might suggest. Or any opinions on what kind of lightweight almost-laptop devices are good in, say, the sub-$500 range?"

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First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10027719)


Talk to the disabled students' office (5, Informative)

mind21_98 (18647) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027729)

Universities usually have an office for dealing with disabilities like what you mention. They can help with special arrangements if needed. I know this isn't what you wanted, but if note-taking is slow and painful, imagine what taking an exam would be like. :/

As for hardware, I would recommend a laptop. They'd be of much greater use than a PDA would (from experience).

Get back to work!! (4, Funny)

SlashChick (544252) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027765)

Signed, Your Boss

(Yes, I really am his boss! Note to Slashdotters: Don't send a link to your f1rstp0zt on Slashdot to your boss during your working hours. :D )

Re:Get back to work!! (2, Interesting)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027913)

I'd go one step further- NEVER send a link to SLASHDOT to your BOSS at all- if you see a topic that would interest him/her, drill down and send them a copy of the original article.

Re:Get back to work!! (2, Interesting)

shufler (262955) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028176)

That's a good piece of advice. There's no sense in wasting all that appearence of net-savvy or apparent in-depth knowledge of the industry.


Oh wait, links from slashdot? Nevermind.

Re:Get back to work!! (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028247)

That's a good piece of advice. There's no sense in wasting all that appearence of net-savvy or apparent in-depth knowledge of the industry.

Especially given the fact that anybody with an arts degree (especially a Master's of Business ARTS degree) couldn't possibly understand anyway.

Re:Get back to work!! (1)

The Limp Devil (513137) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028325)

Oh, come on! I'm not the only historian here, and certainly not the only one without a techincal degree!

Re:Get back to work!! (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029222)

I wouldn't go quite that far. However if I read slashdot at work and saw something I thought the boss would be interested in I'd make sure to send the URL to my home account, then at home I'd write an email back (not a forward, a clean email) with that URL. That way it obviously comes from my home account after hours. Looks good to the boss - I'm thinking about work on my time, instead of reading slashdot at work.

I have no interest in my boss knowing my slashdot id. True I have more friends than foes listed, but it only takes one political comment to get on the bad side of my boss. (well not my current boss, we are pretty close, but I've had several bosses before that we far apart) It would be worse if someone searched out my old posts from before konqueror included spell check.

Oh, and the if up there is because I don't want to loose my job. I've been warned enough about wasting time at work that I'm very careful about the sites I do visit at work. If I really do have an hour to waste I make sure the sites can be passed off as work related. I may be in technology but slashdot isn't close enough.

Re:Get back to work!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10030841)

you lose your virginity with a loose woman.

Typical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10028361)

This is the typical boss-mentality. This guy took 5 minutes out of his day to provide assistance to someone in need and all the boss can say is "Get back to work!" An employee who is a decent enough human being to provide a small bit of assistance to someone suffering from a disability shouldn't be castigated like this.

Yeah, I know this is a joke and SlashChick is probably a pretty cool person (with a name like that how could she not?) but, seriously, there are a lot of PHBs which would howl if they new their employees were doing anything other than what they were paid to do. Kinda sad.

Re:Get back to work!! (4, Funny)

menscher (597856) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028722)

More importantly, make sure you know your Boss' Slashdot username. Had an occasion about 9 months ago where my boss submitted an "Ask Slashdot". I posted a rant about how it was the most utterly moronic question ever asked, etc. As you might guess, that didn't go over so well. ;)

Re:Get back to work!! (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 10 years ago | (#10032277)

Well, where's the link?

Re:Get back to work!! (2, Funny)

bergeron76 (176351) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028742)

Do you not find it ironic that you're lambasting your employee for reading slashdot via a posting on slashdot?

Apparantly, you "lead by example"...

Re:Get back to work!! (1)

yasth (203461) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028938)

You have a higher userid then him though, and yet you run him. How oh How did this evil come to pass? :-P

Re:Get back to work!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10030921)

Note to you: I'd never buy hosting from someone who feels she has to flaunt her gender in promoting a business. I buy from people who are competent, not because they have tits.

Re:If they won't pay for a laptop (1)

Bastian (66383) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028108)

Get a Dana from AlphaSmart. It's just a laptop that runs PalmOS. Full keyboard so you don't have to use the stylus to take notes, although it may still be necessary to use a stylus as a mouse.

Still, I think getting a laptop is best. Especially if you'll be taking courses that involve lots of math, you'll want to have a program that allows you to type equations easily (such as Mathematica).

After having tried both palm and laptop (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028145)

I'd agree with parent.
It's a lot easier to take notes on a laptop, especially since it is easier to structure the notes in a word processor than in, say, Palm Vx-notepad. Get on of those with a full-sized keyboard if she needs to take notes involving many numbers. ... Though, that would usually bust the economical frame you mentioned.

In general, it's nice to have a laptop. If she buys a used laptop and a laptop-specific webcam, she can even take pictures to add to her notes, in case there's illustrations she needs (mind the quality of the picture, though, it's often quite illegible if there's any writing on a blackboard more than 3 metres away)

Re:Talk to the disabled students' office (1)

Atypical Stranger (75746) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029606)


I had a friend who had difficulty taking notes. The office arranged for notes to be taken by another student in the class and then copies were made at the office for the disabled student.

They handled it very discretely and the other student's in the class weren't even aware of the problem. The note taker didn't even know who they were taking notes for.

Extra arrangements were also made for exams though I don't know the specifics.

Re:Talk to the disabled students' office (1)

CableModemSniper (556285) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029762)

So that's who I was taking notes for!

stop trying to get down her pants (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10027740)


Dictaphone (2, Informative)

lizardloop (721368) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027779)

Might not be entirely ideal but it's a fairly quick way of making notes and they aren't massively expensive.

MD-recorder (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028167)

A friend of mine recorded his psychology-lessons on MD for future reference. Had a whole library of lectures.

never underestimate your calculator ;) (3, Informative)

applegoddess (768530) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027792)

Texas Instruments makes a keyboard compatible with some of their (older) graphing calculators. With their NoteFolio program it cant be too hard to take notes in class with a graphing calculator like the TI-89 and the keyboard. ard/features/features.html []

Re:never underestimate your calculator ;) (1)

ElForesto (763160) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027919)

Yeesh. What can't those things do?

I wasted most of high school geometry making video poker and video blackjack programs on mine. Who knew I could do something useful with it?

Re:never underestimate your calculator ;) (3, Interesting)

brilinux (255400) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029368)

We are approaching off-topicness, but I have an HP calculator (HP-48GX) from which I have surfed the net (yes, Slashdot worked), checked my e-mail, played ADVENT and Nethack via the serial port, and taken notes in class. It is possible to get software to remap the keyboard to be qwerty-like and to rotate the screen, to aid in note-taking. Not only is it cheaper (~$100 now) but it can also do a lot more than many other calculators. Back on topic, I also new a guy with the same writing problem, and he was able to get money from the local government to help pay for a subnotebook for the purpose of note-taking in class. He certainly did not let his disability slow him down.

Note Taking Devices for Students? (2, Interesting)

gougou42 (732963) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027808)

How about a small voice recorder and a digital camera ? Less than $500 and very effective.

Re:Note Taking Devices for Students? (1)

rritterson (588983) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027871)

Thats an excellent idea, but recording the voice and picture of the lecturer requires permission, which isn't always easy to get, not to mention a flash during a lecture would be very irritating for everyone. (My History Prof specifically banned anyone from recording his lectures in a class announcemnt, although I don't know if he would have made an exception in the submitter's case.)

Re:Note Taking Devices for Students? (1)

snooo53 (663796) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028020)

Good idea although why not just buy a video camera? Then she can take it back to her room, and FF through the lecture. Sure, it's a little more expensive, but it's only one thing to worry about

Heck, if she could set up the camera, she wouldn't even need to go to class. (unless the teacher required active participation)

Why not.... (1)

Compuser (14899) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027821)

Laptop... Ebay...

How about a used laptop? (3, Informative)

ElForesto (763160) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027824)

Dell sells a lot of stuff on eBay. Most of it consists of refurbs and returned leases. Probably pretty good for saving a load on a lightweight laptop. []

Re:How about a used laptop? (1)

spooky_nerd (646914) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028201)

Yes, there are some pretty light and small laptops that can be had for not much money. Personally I like the Toshiba 7100 series for old systems that are still light-weight.

retrobox (2, Informative)

robochan (706488) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029803) has a fantastic selection as well - the HP Omnibook 6000 I'm typing this on, a PII700 w/384 meg ram, came from there(just over $300)
clicky clicky []

Vocational Rehabilitation (5, Informative)

Gangis (310282) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027828)

Assuming you're in the US, each state has a Voc Rehab department which provides funding for the disabled going to college. They pay for the entire tuition for me, and my books as well. Sounds like she has a fully qualifying disablity, so VR should be able to buy her a laptop. They did buy me one too, and it was $1800. Just find a VR office in your area and arrange a meeting with the counselor. Also bring proof (doctor's note, records, etc.) of the disability.

Re:Vocational Rehabilitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10028003)

I really don't know how I feel about this...

One one hand I'm glad that you're going to collage.
On the other hand, I never had got to go myself - and yet, now, I pay over 60% of my income in taxes.

Sometimes, I wish that I could go. But with all the taxed it's quite hard.

Re:Vocational Rehabilitation (1)

m_evanchik (398143) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029375)

I'm going to assume that the above poster lives in the USA, since he is complaining about a US government program.

Considering that the top income tax rate in the United States is somewhere around 40%, I'd say you need a new accountant.

Re:Vocational Rehabilitation (1)

JET 666 (28153) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029926)

State + Feds =?

Re:Vocational Rehabilitation (1)

m_evanchik (398143) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030181)

I doubt that you would find state taxes in the 20% range. New York State is considered a high tax rate, and it's highest marginal tax rate is about 7%. Add municipal taxes of a very high rate, like for New York City, and you are still only paying 4% maximum additional.

Furthermore, State and municipal income taxes, as well as most property taxes, are deductible at the Federal level, so adding the numbers doesn't make sense.

Finally, none of this takes into account deductions. If a person is at the highest marginal tax rate, it should be presumed that he is able to offset his tax burden with various deductions.

But if you'll look at this document 4&sequence =0#table1A
you'll see that the effective rate that even the highest 1% pay is about 33%.

As the average income of the top 1% in 2001 was over $700,000, I can hardly imagine that such a person would be unable to afford college tuition.

This is all probably mute since the original AC poster is demonstratably pulling high numbers out of his kiester with little resemblance to any actual tax burden.

The bottom line is that if you don't have lot of money there are many government programs available to help you pay for college, and if you don't qualify for these grants, your income is almost certainly sizeable enough to pay for it yourself.

Whining that the taxman is keeping you from going to college is baloney.

Re:Vocational Rehabilitation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10030957)

This is all probably mute since the...

Hello, Grammar Nazi here. The word mute means that you can't speak, or the button which toggles sound on/off for your television. The word moot is what you're looking for.

Re:Vocational Rehabilitation (2, Interesting)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 10 years ago | (#10032067)

Lets play pretend : $100K salary.
Highest tax bracket in the US is 28% for Federal, kicking in at about $70k a year. Lets call this $20k after deductions.
Tack on another 6.2% for Social Security, plus another 6.2% to cover employer matching if you are self employed. Another $10k here.
Add in 8.25% sales tax on everything in a few of the bigger states. There goes $3k
Add in 6% state income tax on the average (I hear CA is more.) Nice $5k here.
Kick in a cheapo house at $250,000, tax rate of 2.5% in the city and you are paying another $6k.
Register your vehicles and pay the licensing, taxes, and inspection taxes : $1k tops.

That's about $45k right off the top in taxes. You are probably right, just in taxes he isn't paying 60%, but it is brushing up against the Half-Way mark. Add in insurance (car = $1500, house = $1500, medical for a 2 person family = $5,000) and you bust right through the half way mark at $53,000 gone before you buy your first candy bar, and I assumed way low on the price of the house. But going with it, knock another $1,800/month in house payments, $150/mo in electricity, $100/mo in cable (tv/Internet), $100/mo in phone (cell + landline), $50/mo in water, $50/mo in natural gas, $100/mo in gasoline and there goes another $28k, summing $81k before you buy your first candy bar. Throw in a relatively conservative $250/mo for a car payment (lease or buy) because you need something dependable to get you to your $100k/year job, and there goes another $3k - don't forget your 7% ($7k) towards a 401(k) or some sort of retirement plan and bumping you up against the $91k mark in just fixed expenses. Leaves a whopping $9,000 per year, or $750 per month for food, clothes, a computer, software licensing, liquor, eye glasses / contact lenses, medical deductables, lunch at work, toys, haircuts, and what have you.

Yea, $100k/year is a lot, but after the government takes half and fixed expenses take another third there isn't a lot left over.

As for the OP: we all hated taking notes in class. It sucks, and it is painful - but we do it. If you are female, taking tech classes with nerds ... I recommend buddying up with a few of the nerdiest guys and offering to bake them brownies or something(!) in exchange for a photocopy of their notes. If it wasn't for my amazing note-taking and scholarly techniques in college I probably never would have seen a decent pair of tits, much less home made brownies.

I'd recommend a used Apple iBook (4, Informative)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027837)

It's durable and has a full keyboard. You should be able to pick up one of the year or so old G3 models for about $500. For that price, expect a 700-odd mhz snow (white) model. Those have 1024x768 displays. The older color, toilet-seat style models have 800x600 displays and because of that I wouldn't recommend them.

When I advertised on Craigslist (LA) [] for an Apple laptop, I got a PowerBook G4 (original model) for $600. However, for a student the iBook might be better because it's closer to being indestructible.

If you don't like Apple, any used laptop would probably do better than a PDA, even with a keyboard attachment. I used a color palm with the keyboard attachment for a while, and I found that the keyboard folded up on me whenever I tried to type! She would have similar problems, especially considering her health situation.

For a non-Apple laptop, the best quality is probably an IBM ThinkPad. Older ones are dirt cheap, and they will still run reliably and connect up to the mother ship to send back the notes.

If she wants something fuss-free, though, I really don't think you can beat an iBook.

Hope that helps.


I suggest... (2, Funny)

I_Love_Pocky! (751171) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027847)

Affixing Bionic Arms.

Perhaps you could try to get her into some kind of pilot program so that it doesn't cost her anything. Then not only will she be able to take notes, perhaps with her new super-human strength she could fight crime on the side.

Seriously though, I think the palm idea is a good one. A notebook is a lot to lug around, and the head aches involved with an out of date one (the kind you will get for sub $500) may not be worth it. I picked up my last laptop ($350) for this very purpose, and the stinking hard drive crashed on me in the first month. Laptop components take a lot more abuse than desktop computers, so it is worthwhile to consider the wear and tear a used laptop has already endured.

A palm (or other pda) on the other hand doesn't have any moving parts, so they are a lot harder to break.

Oh, and one more thing... (2, Insightful)

I_Love_Pocky! (751171) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027901)

Battery life.

Even a brand new battery may not have the kind of battery-life required for a daily class schedule. A pda will last much longer. Either way, expect to have to recharge daily.

Re:Oh, and one more thing... (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028529)

My IBM X31 1.6GHz (3 lbs, full keyboard, 12" screen, most perfect piece of technolust known to mankind) lasts 5 hours using just Word. If you're in class for more than 5 hours at a stretch, you're working WAAAY too hard.

Re:Oh, and one more thing... (1)

I_Love_Pocky! (751171) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029135)

... and if you can get me one for under $500.00, I'll buy two.

Pricing (2, Funny)

cbr2702 (750255) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029530)

Sure. $250 for the first and $25,000 for the second.

Re:Oh, and one more thing... (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030145)

I got mine for $999 USD - I know you were being sarcastic, but that's pretty darn close.

eMate (4, Informative)

bandy (99800) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027853)

The eMate is probably the exactly right thing for her. It will sync with a PC or a Mac [even still] and it is easy on batteries. It will need its hinge problem fixed, but there are plenty of people on the net in the USA/Canada and Europe who know how to do that.

  • Sub-$500
  • Quiet
  • Bulletproof [once the hinge cable is fixed!]
  • Easy on the batteries
  • Can draw sketches as well as type
NewtonTalk email list []

Re:eMate (4, Funny)

green pizza (159161) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029285)

I was in a CompUSA store in early 1997 when an Apple rep was demoing the eMate to some CompUSA salespeople. Part of his demo was to fling the eMac down the aisle!! It cartwheeled, tumbled, and finally skidded to a stop about 50 feet away. He picked it up and went back to showing off the various preinstalled applications!

Re:eMate (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 10 years ago | (#10032306)

So, he puts down the eMate he is demoing, jumps into a time machine, travels to 2002, and returns to 1997 with an eMac to throw down the aisle? Amazing!

The Apple eMate would be perfect (3, Informative)

jgaynor (205453) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027873)

The now End-Of-Life apple Emate would be PERFECT for what youre talking about. It was basically an Apple newton in a small laptop form factor. If I remember correctly Apple marketted them to schoolkids for this exact purpose. Here's a nice synopsis [] at everymac.

It can at least sync back to a mac, getting it to sync back to a PC shouldnt be a problem. They're SUPER cheap [] on ebay.

iPod + Voice Recorder. (1)

GregChant (305127) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027876)

Get an iPod [] and the Belkin iPod Voice Recorder [] . No muss, no fuss, complete transcript of the class under 400 dollars.

Re:iPod + Voice Recorder. (1)

I_Love_Pocky! (751171) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028013)

Hopefully she isn't taking any classes that have figures or things written on the board, or she would be screwed.

I had one or two classes like that in college, but the vast majority used some combination of white/blackboard, overheads, and powerpoint.

I'd say no go on the voice recorders.

On the other hand, I have also had similar problems taking notes with laptops in the past. It can be rather hard to takes notes in a math class using a keyboard. I did have some success using a windows ce pda to take notes because I could draw figures.

Re:iPod + Voice Recorder. (1)

FlipmodePlaya (719010) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028021)

Or you could buy an MP3 player with a voice recorder built in, such as the Neuros or one of the iRiver players. They'll be MUCH cheaper, and have better battery life, so you can probably get one of the bigger (HDD wise) models and store 50 million hours of lecturing...

As is mentioned elsewhere in the discussion, though, many profs won't like you recording them, you'll need to ask.

Depends on desktop OS (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027892)

If she's a Windows User, I'd recomend an IPAQ with the $50 thumbboard upgrade (the H2200 series is what I use- total cost $350 retail, but you can probably find it in the $250 range online). If she's a Linux or Mac user, then PalmOS is your better bet, and I believe Handspring makes a Visor with thumbboard for under $400.

Old Apple eMate 300? (0, Redundant)

Arkham (10779) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027909)

If price is an issue, what about one of these:

Apple eMate 300 []

I have one in the closet, and they work pretty well. You can buy them on eBay for about $60 or so, and they have a touch screen, a full keyboard, and 12+ hour battery life.

I have heard of people getting them working with modems and ethernet, but I have not tried it myself. It has a PCMCIA slot though, so it's certainly feasible.

Disability Program (5, Informative)

ewithrow (409712) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027929)

At my university if there is a student that may be unable to take notes for a class due to a disability then all he/she needs to do is inform the dean of students. They get in contact with the professor and the prof makes an announcement in class that they are looking for someone with good hand writing to take detailed notes. They make copies of the notes for the person with the disability and pay the note taker a small fee for their extra work. You may want to check to see if your college provides this, it beats spending hundreds or thousands on some piece of equipment.

Re:Disability Program (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028554)

I really hate saying this (because who am I, a lowly slashbot to influence the mods?) but mod this sucker up. Your student would definitely benefit from somebody taking notes - she would be able to focus solely on the lectures, then read the notes which were taken from a different perspective. Seems perfect to me!

Re:Disability Program (1)

Fritzed (634646) | more than 10 years ago | (#10031120)

It's a good suggestion, but it's so much nicer to take notes for yourself. Easier to read, the whole idea of notes, is to take note of things that YOU think are important, not simply to transcribe what the teacher says. If you can do it by yourself, it is just so much easier to look back over your own words and review what was said.

-> Fritz

Re:Disability Program (2, Insightful)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 10 years ago | (#10032121)

There is no technical substitute for hand written notes in a technical class (math / ee / cs / whatever.) Good luck on a keyboard trying to enter a differential equation like delta x/xy over a limit as x approaches 0, big S n(x)^n-1 hey fucker slow down I'm trying to type this shit ... damnit. Hell it's hard enough doing it by hand in ink, no way it's going to happen on a palm or a laptop - and God forbid the prof make a quick verbal aside about something said three pages ago.

Get copies of the notes from someone else. She might even make a friend in the process - which is what college is all about.

Worth a shot (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#10027946)

Okay, this may not be very practical, but I thought I'd suggest it anyway:

PocketPC with a voice recorder. I dunno if she can get away with talking, but I figured it's at least a unique answer. When I did system testing a year ago, I found it was quicker just to have my PocketPC nearby, press the record button like a walkie-talkie and record my notes. Then I'd get back to my PC, listen to each one, and transcribe what I said.

There are a couple of caveats here:

1.) Obviously she's gonna haveta talk out loud for this to work. This worked in my situation, but possibly not in hers.

2.) You have to download a special codec to play those .WAV files from the PocketPC on your desktop. Although I can't imagine she'd really need that as once she's transcribed them she's got them. But I was shocked that these files a.) Don't automatically synch with the desktop and b.) They don't play without a special codec installed. Grr. Leave it to MS to break something like that.

many such devices (3, Informative)

dalutong (260603) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028061)

I'm not going to remember the name right now but I spoke to a writer at a conference recently -- the device just had a tiny lcd attached to a keyboard. she plugged it into the usb port on one of the public desktops there and uploaded the text to wordpad. it was pretty cool. she said she got it because she didn't have the money for a laptop so it can't be that expensive.

here's one i found quickly on google.

Re:many such devices (1)

dalutong (260603) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028091) -- i think this is the one the writer had. hope it helps!

AlphaSmart (2, Informative)

Pantheraleo2k3 (673123) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028082)

AlphaSmart [] has a few products that may interest you. The AlphaSmart 3000 (US$200)is a dumb keyboard which stores about 100 pages of text, and 3 AA batteries run it for 300-700 hours. If you need to take notes involving graphics, the Dana [] (US$400), which is a Palm OS hybrid, may be the right thing. The Dana Wireless [] also has Wi-Fi access.

For something with a bit more power than the 3000 but not a full Palm OS hybrid, you may be interested in the Neo [] , which is due to be released in September.

Palm and Keyboard (2, Insightful)

rider_prider (698555) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028100)

Recently finished degree, had palm 3xe and folding keyboard, took all my notes, super easy to carry and small enough to use on any desk. No problems with battery life either, no way any laptop can make it thru a full day of classes without being plugged in...

Mobilepro (2, Informative)

-=[Dr. AJAX]=- (17537) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028104)

I got an old NEC mobilepro for similar requirements. It's small, has a keyboard similiar to handheld keyboards and is nice and cheap. The only problem I had was that it ran WinCE 2.11. That version of CE prevented me from using my wifi card with it. So I installed BSD on it and now it works perfectly for viewing, editing, and transfering files on the go.

Palm M100 (2, Informative)

Sentry21 (8183) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028162)

As long as the student in question has good eyesight (or good eyesight correction), you can spend a few bucks on a Palm M100 (probably find them used for $20-40) and a cheapo keyboard. If you scrounged eBay, you could probably find them for less than $50 USD together. They're small and portable, can fit in a purse, and 2 megs of memory is more than enough for a day's worth of notes.

Another option would be to get one of the fancy Sony ones with cameras, whcih can also capture overhead screens.


Disability help? (1)

Sandman1971 (516283) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028181)

Assuming her disability is legit and recognized, isn't there a department at the school that can help, or governemnt funding? I know that's the case here in Canada. She can probably get a laptop paid for by the school (or the government). Much easier to investigate that than using an "ask Slashdot" and far more effective ;)

Try the AlphaSmart (1)

CAR912 (788234) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028202)

I recommend the AlphaSmart [] , they are basically portable keyboards with a bunch of memory. Connect to a computer with a special keyboard wire, and send. There are many different types, and all shouldn't be too expensive.

Alpha Smart! (5, Informative)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028328)

The Alpha Smart [] is exactly the device you are looking for.

It's used primarily (and geared toward) the K-12 education market for students exactly like the one you described.

They are excellent for notetaking and incredibly simple to use. The essential idea is that it's like a miniature word processor that will repeat your keystrokes once you plug it into the computer. Of course, you can edit what you're typing on the builtin LCD.

With the original Alpha Smart (not being produced anymore, but easily findable on Ebay) and the 3000 ($200 direct) interfacing with the computer is embarassingly simple. Simply plug the thing into ANY PC or Mac's keyboard (has ADB and PS2 -- the new ones also have USB), open Word, hit send, and it mimicks a keyboard typing the document. No software required.

That's $200, easily within your price range. I've used them in the school I work in, and find them to be an incredible tool for the students which need them.

If you want something more advanced, $400 will fetch you a similar device with a bigger screen powered by palmOS and 802.11 built in. I've never used them, but with alphasmart's reputation, I expect it to be just as good.

Oh yeah. Did I mention it's designed for K-12? They're durable as hell. I've seen them take a serious beating without being damaged. Thank god for no moving parts and shatter resistant plastic!

Re:Alpha Smart! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10030430)

I certainly hope the story submitter goes with an Alphasmart solution because it perfectly fits the criteria given.

As someone who has owned an Alphie I will say the 3000 has a spongier keyboard than the Dana because it has removable keys that need to pop out. As an advantage the keyboard can be completely rearranged to match Dvorak, left or right handed (only) Dvorak, or other international layouts. If this isn't a feature you're looking for you might consider spending a little extra for a Dana. The Dana has one of the nicest typing keyboards out there which is worth the relatively low 20 hours battery life versus the 3000's ~400-700 hours.

Product Idea ... (3, Interesting)

Breakerofthings (321914) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028329)

I am not a l33t hardware guy, or anything, but this gives me an idea for a product:

a device consisting of a keyboard, with a 1 line LCD Screen across the top (can even be segmented, like on a cheesy calculator), that allows you to type, and see what you are typing, and not much else ... and which buffers your keystrokes into a couple of K of RAM, then writes it all out to a CF card (or flash card standard of your choice).

Maybe even skip the flash; just have a MB of RAM; that's it. the KB could have a regular old kb connector, and you can hit a special key sequence to dump the memory to the KB Port. (The software here would be SO simple ... just increment a pointer on every keystroke, writing the scan code into the cell; decrement the ptr on backspace ...

The point is, this could be manufactured REALLY cheap; and would be ideal for taking notes. You could even outfit it with the guts of one of these [] to take snapshots of blackboards, etc.

It would seem like something like this could sell for < $50 .. maybe even around $25 (given enough volume ... keyboards are < $10 nowadays).
Even starving college kids could afford one.

TRS-80? (1)

RackinFrackin (152232) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028607)

If all she needs is a cheap device she can type on, then why not consider a TRS-80 Model 100 or 102? They are super-cheap, have a full-size keyboard, and an RS-232 port for uploading the notes to her desktop machine.

I see two possible downsides: The keyboard doesn't have as good of a feel as a new laptop, and the small amount of RAM (32 KB) might be a problem. (I have no idea how many KB a day's worth of notes would be.) However, the websites about the Model 100 and 102 claim that there are a lot of writers who use them as portable text-entry machines, so it might be a decent solution.

Re:TRS-80? (1)

rusty0101 (565565) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028862)

I own a model 200, and am pretty happy with it. It may not be perfect, and for now I happen to like my thinkpad more, but it is a reliable bit of hardware, with no moving parts, unless I want to hang my disk drive off of the serial port.

The disk drive has a capacity of about 100 k, or possibly two 100k partitions. has more information, and pricing. 102s are going from $150 to $350, depending upon memory and condition. 100's are going from $75 to $150, aldo depending upon memory and condition.

One thing to remember is that 32k of raw text, nor formating, is about the equivalent of 10 8 1/2 x 11" pieces of paper. Unless you are taking more notes than that, you probably won't run out of memory on a daily basis.

Good luck.


pen OCR (1)

man_ls (248470) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028737)

Logitech io.

'nuff said.

Re:pen OCR (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10028955)

the woman has trouble writing, but is apparently ok typing. this is the exact opposite of what she needs.

When I was in school.... (2, Interesting)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#10028846)

I just used a laptop. A cheap one, either used or closeout. I got one partway through high school, which then lasted until my senior year of college. Walmart is selling new generic ones for a few hundered now.

The trick is to set up style sheets and macros and such for Word to allow you to get all of the symbols and stuff.

Of course, typing may not help too much if you have hand problems.

Most unversities, when faced with a student who has a medically documented problem taking notes the normal way, will generally provide you with "accomidations". All you need is a doctor to vouch for you. Accomodiations will generally be some sort of notetaking service, at least.

Different schools do it differently. Some schools can move heaven and earth for you if you have a documented dissability.

Speaking from experience (1)

agraupe (769778) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029144)

I too have a condition that makes writing slow, and slightly painful (cerebral palsy). That being said, I have no trouble with taking notes. It is generally doing essays and so on that cause me trouble, and most schools are more than accomodating (as well as the province for my provincial exams; I got to use a computer). I used to have a Palm and a PocketPC, both with folding keyboards, and I must say that it isn't a perfect solution. I still take notes by hand, and I just ask nicely for computer time if I need to do anything longer. The person in question should also try to not make the notes verbose, that could help.

Speaking from experience-Court-ing an answer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10029494)

Hmmm. I'm thinking more along the lines of what a court reporter uses. Fast, accurate, small.

Model 100! (2, Informative)

DaveJay (133437) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029161)

Check 'em out. Cheap, unbreakable, full-size keyboard.

Apple eMate (1)

green pizza (159161) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029324)

The (old) Apple eMate would be a good choice, as many others have pointed out. It's a durable laptop based on a hybrid of the Newton 130 and Newton 2000. It uses the software from the 2000, but the logicboard of the 130... still, it's more than fast enough for the bundled office suite and many other lightweight Newton apps.

Note that some CPU-intensive apps designed for the 2000 may not work well on the eMate, as the Newton 2000 has about 7x the CPU performance.

Old, but cheap and effective (1)

PhlegmMaster (596165) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029335)

It's easy to pick up an old Apple Newton from somewhere like eBay.

I've got an MP2000 myself and it's great for taking notes with it's handwriting recognition. If you need something a bit more than a basic "Notes" program, then there's software like Newton Works and external keyboards for them (I have both).

As long as you have a serial port (or a usb to serial adapter) you can sync it up and transfer documents and packages across. Or if you have a Mac, you can sync over TCP/IP.

You already answered the question (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029445)

Since you can get a Palm for about $80 and a keyboard for $25, I can't image why you would want to fish for $500 solutions, but - hey - it's a free world (in some locales).

Not to sound cynical... (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029491)

But I gotta ask: what condition does your friend have that makes it easier to type than to handwrite?

It's called being a geek. (1)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030154)

Not only do I type about twice as fast as I handwrite, but typing gives you the ability of organizing, formatting and editing what you write after the fact.

Handwritten notes simply don't (unless you feel like wasting time copying them over and over).

Re:It's called being a geek. (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 10 years ago | (#10031939)

Everything you say is true, and I too type better than I write, but it is wholly irrelevant: the original poster implied a disability, not convenience or performance.

Unless you believe that "being a geek" IS a disability.

Re:Not to sound cynical... (1)

Fritzed (634646) | more than 10 years ago | (#10031105)

I'm in no way related to the poster of this problem. However, I can totally relate. I have a motor control problem that I have had my whole life causing me to shake, you wouldn't notice if you didn't see my handwriting, or if I held my hand out in front of you.

The movement is minute enough that it doesn't cause me to miss keys on a standard keyboard. However. because of this, I write painstakingly slow. Often too slow to take usefull notes in a lecture class. I use a laptop to take notes, I have used a computer to write papers since 5th grade. this was highly unusual in 1993, but my teachers were greatful to be able to read my papers. At this point I am pretty off the subject, but it is because of this, that I got into computers.

-> Fritz

cassette? (2, Insightful)

neilsly (106751) | more than 10 years ago | (#10029664)

whatever happened to using a micro cassette recorder?

Some Ideas- a handheld PC (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030013)

I'm not sure if she has a problem with smaller keyboards, but if not I would check out a WinCE handheld PC. The Jornada 720/728 ($200-600 used or refurb) or the Sigmarion 3 (~$450 imported) are both very nice. They keyboard is smaller, about 75% of full size- however, the mechanism is just like a regular laptop, and I can touch type on one with my fattie fingers with no problem at 60-70 WPM. There is also the NEC MobilePro line (~$200 for the 780 to $600+ for the 900) which some folks prefer because the keyboard is full size. For me, they're too big- I prefer a device I can fit in my pocket, which I can do with the Jornada 72x or the Sigmarion 3. These all have network capabilities, through PCMCIA slots (MobilePro and Jornada) or CF (Sigmarion, Jornada).

Another option worth looking into is the AlphaSmart Dana line. Keyboard is pretty big. I've never had one of these, but I've heard good things. A little more expensive, and they run Palm OS which is both good and bad.

If she wants to be really cheap, she could look into getting an Apple Newton eMate. You can get them on eBay for $50-150, and they're *very* nice for notetaking. They keyboard is very nice, and they're downright indestructable. The AlphaSmart Dana snapped up lucrative educational market whole that the eMate left open when Jobs killed off the Newton. They may be older, but they're still very capable, still can talk to modern Macs, PCs and even Linux/Unix, can get online via wifi or ethernet, and get the best battery life out of all of these except the low-end Dana.

All of the above devices have touch screens as well. She may not be using it much, but it's worth noting.

tandy 100, 102, or 200 (1)

tech_guru5182 (577981) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030041)

These are the original laptops, virtually indestructable, and get 16+ hours to just 4 AA batteries. You can transfer files to windows via serial port with a null modem cable, and the SerialKey devices Accessibility option.

Re:tandy 100, 102, or 200 (1)

tech_guru5182 (577981) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030047)

I forgot to mention that I actually used this method durring my last semester of class, and the model 100 or 102 can be found very cheaply.

Old Laptop (1)

alexjohns (53323) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030078)

Why not buy an old laptop from ebay? Some sell for less than $50. Even if it can't network, the floppy should at least work.

stenography ? (1)

wotevah (620758) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030445)

Maybe she could learn stenography ? and/or to use one of those steno machines.

Alphasmart Dana (1)

toolz (2119) | more than 10 years ago | (#10030625)

Alphasmart Dana []

Alphasmart Dana Wireless []

Virtually indestructable, designed for people who tend to beat it, drop it, dunk it or slam it - i.e. for my teenage daughter, and me.

And has a great keyboard.

'nuff said.

Some old machines to fill this need: (1)

Myself (57572) | more than 10 years ago | (#10031098)

The IBM WorkPad z50 and Vadem Clio (also sold as the Sharp Mobilon Tripad) are clamshell-style PDAs with full keyboards. They both get excellent (7 or 8 hours) battery life and are comfortable to type on, though the Clio's curved keyboard takes a little getting used to.

I've mentioned these devices before [] in a different context.

psion series 5/5mx (1)

mqx (792882) | more than 10 years ago | (#10031435)

This machine isn't in production any more, but it's actually a perfect notetaking computer: runs off AA batteries, has a small touch screen allowing stylus drawing, and a clamshell design with a workable keyboard -- documents can be translate to/from PC and a CF slot provides additional storage. It powers on and off instantly, and is small and portable. There's even a browser, email and other network tools, plus the inbuilt IrDA allows SMS/data interface to a mobile phone.

You can pick up second hand 5mx's for a good price, probably no more than 150$USD.

What I say is from actual experience because I used a s5 take notes for my degree over 2 years. Other similar form factor PDA's are impractically designed for this purpose, as are larger and more clunky notebooks. The s5 was perfect, and many other students commented on how neat it was. I carried it around in a small A5 sized carry case -- fitted easily in my bag, or I could carry it by hand (fantastic when you go for lunch/dinner/pub after class and can hold the carry case in your hand when you go to toilet/etc -- no concerns about expensive notebook being stolen).

If I were a student again: I would use a psion for class and library use, and have a notebook at home for serious work (i.e. assignments/etc) - sometimes necessary to take the notebook into class or library, but rarely.

It's a real shame the psion series 5 was stopped: it has a very definite market space for this type of activity.

$600 portable from (1)

vincecate (741268) | more than 10 years ago | (#10031753)

You can get a very powerful brand new portable for $600 from This is a real price without any rebates troubles. It is full featured with DVD, wireless, etc. I have one and recommend it to anyone with limited funds.

Re:$600 portable from (1)

vincecate (741268) | more than 10 years ago | (#10031845)

You can see the page at for the machine [] . Some more details:
  • AMD Athlon XP-M 1600+ processor
  • 14.1" XGA TFT LCD screen
  • 40 GB hard drive
  • 128 MB RAM
  • DVD-ROM drive
  • Integrated 802.11b wireless networking
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
  • On-board 1GB/100M/10M Base-T LAN Ethernet
  • 56 K V.90 modem
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports

Ask the profs for help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#10031894)

Have the professors wear a microphone and pocket tape recorder.

How about a Jornada 720 or something? (2, Interesting)

MikeLip (797771) | more than 10 years ago | (#10032308)

They have a reasonable keyboard, Windows OS, a voice recorder if you need it, plus the usual Microsoft apps. No messing around when you get back to home base, either, you just sync it and you're good to go on your desktop with what you've done during the day on the palmtop.

Tape recorder (1)

HeyLaughingBoy (182206) | more than 10 years ago | (#10032313)

Why not just record the prof's lecture and then transcribe what sections she needs to back in the dorm?
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