DynaWrite: My "new" Drafting Keyboard

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Hook, Feb 6, 2021.

  1. Hook

    Hook Caught Watching Prawn

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    I stumbled on a new drafting device out of the blue and it is amazing. Drafting devices are distraction free electronic keyboards that store what you type and transfer it to your computer. They tend to be simple devices where the keyboard is everything. They allow a writer to just push words out without either the mental editor or the internet getting in their way.

    This kind of device is not just something I find really helpful for writing, I also just really love them the way some people really love typewriters. I have two Alphasmart Neo 2s and two Alphasmart Danas (the latter a Palm OS keyboard). This newest one I discovered by accident just a couple of weeks ago when someone on the Alphasmart forum stumbled on one. I was intrigued and found one on Ebay for $60.

    DynaWrite 1.jpg

    This is the Dynawrite sitting on my 15" Thinkpad so you can see the size. It has a small monochrome screen with a greenish/blue optionl blacklight, and a --wait for it-- Cherry MX mechanical keyboard that is just a delight to type on. At the back, on the left of the screen, you will see a silvery USB thumb drive plugged in that I can use to carry anything I write to my computer.

    DynaWrite 2.jpg

    Here you see the simple setup. There is a message window. You can select from 5 fonts with a large array of font sizes. And you just type, then save it as a text file. I load the file onto the USB stick and pop it into the computer. A perfect drafting device. It even has a file manager.

    DynaWrite 3.jpg
    As you can see from the file manager interface, this is (my guess, it isn't documented anywhere) embedded WinCE. And herein lies the one problem with this device-- the most benighted UI I have used in a while. I'm sure it would work better with a touch screen and stylus. Instead, you are forced to se a dizzying array of keyboard shortcuts that change from screen to screen and navigation of screen elements can onlu be done with the tab key-- the UI ignores the arrow keys. Luckily, I only need to do 4 things: write, save copy to USB drive, copy from USB drive. I have figured out how to do those things and so I no longer care how bad the UI is.

    Did I mention that the keyboard is just astonishing?

    DynaWrite 4.jpg

    I don't know quite how thing never came up on my radar before given my interest in keyboard devices. This one was never picked up by nerds or writers. It was marketed to high functioning people with disabilities. As such, it has a lot of functionality that I ignore, including sophisticated type to talk capabilities. The only discussions I can find of this device or places like ALS forums. But when you clear aside all that functionality, this is one of the finest tools for draft writing I have found.

    This is what the Freewrite and the Traveller (Astrohaus) should have been.

    By the way, this came to me in perfect, unblemished condition. I don't think it was ever used. I even opened it up (simple torx screws) and the insides are shiny and clean. It has a Li-ion Lithium battery that seems to be in very good condition. Haven't yet given it a full test, but it doesn't run down quickly.

    For me, this was an incredible find and I will be doing all my drafts on this. :newpalm:
     
  2. raspabalsa

    raspabalsa Brain stuck BogoMipping

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    Great find, Hook! I miss mechanical keyboards, and given the problems I'm having matching my current Logitech (non-mech) model I may have to buy a new keyboard and I'm seriously thinking about getting a mechanical one.

    Have you tried connecting USB peripherals? I'm guessing a mouse would help handling the UI. Better yet, a USB hub, so you can keep mouse and USB drive connected at all times.

    Hook, what about those grey keys labeled Word1 through 5? I guess they're not for Macros (I see a key labeled Macro on the left). Are they for often-used words - although I'm not sure this is useful, or even if it makes sense at all to have such function. Maybe for whoever writes the scripts for Samuel L. Jackson's roles... He could set one key to motherf***** and save a few hundred keypresses per movie :D
     
  3. Hook

    Hook Caught Watching Prawn

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    The gray keys are all speech related. When word prediction is enabled (I disabled) there are 5 large boxes (and I mean large) on the writing screen where word predictions appear. The gray word keys will let you hear each word pronounced. The gray key in the right hand corner, above the backspace, is a speech key. Hitting that key will read the contents of the writing window out loud (though you can customize how much it reads). So, if you are writing porno in a cafe, be careful when you backspace. :vbeek: :vbgrin: :vbrolleyes:

    By the way, you can't turn off sound, you can only turn the volume way down. I saw when I took it apart it would be easy to disconnect the speaker (which takes up the back side of the display) and if it ever becomes a problem I will do that. :vbcool:
     
  4. jigwashere

    jigwashere Mobile Deity

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    You could install a simple switch to disconnect the speaker :). If you don't want to tackle that yourself, you could see if raspy would be willing while you're enjoying a cup of coffee with him. :newpalm: (FIELD TRIP!!!!)
     
  5. raspabalsa

    raspabalsa Brain stuck BogoMipping

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    Yeah, a much easier solution would be not to watch porn in a cafe, especially since it surely would look weird in such low-res and black-on-blue screen :rolleyes::p. But jig's suggestions surely work. And I'd love to go on a field trip with you guys :newpalm:
     
  6. Hook

    Hook Caught Watching Prawn

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    That was "write porno" not "watch" :vbrolleyes: No video on this thing. And, no I don't plan on writing any porno. But I would love the field trip. :newpalm:
     
  7. raspabalsa

    raspabalsa Brain stuck BogoMipping

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    Yeah, not my fault... I guess I'll go add another tick on the counter ;)
     
  8. raspabalsa

    raspabalsa Brain stuck BogoMipping

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    Back to topic, I was reading the Dynawrite's specs here and the page says it has USB host capabilities, so it should work with the mouse or even the USB hub. The page also says it has a speaker/headphone jack, so it would be easy to use this port as a switch for the internal speaker: simply connect any headphones or even an unwired headphone plug, and the speaker should be silenced.
     
  9. Hook

    Hook Caught Watching Prawn

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    Unfortunately, the software doesn't recognize mice, I tried, and the manual doesn't list mice as an option. It will, oddly enough, use an external keyboard. Why would you want an external keyboard? I'm guessing for more advanced disabilities a different keyboard design might be needed.

    The manual, which I downloaded from the same page you linked to, is fascinating for showing just how convoluted doing anything with this UI is in the How-to section. Let's say I've written something and I want to transfer it to the USB stick to transport it to my computer for editing in my word processor. Hit Fn-File to open File manager, use arrow keys to select file. hit Alt-y to create a copy of the file, hit ALT-m to open a dialog to move the copy of the file, hit ALT-i to select a drop down to select the file destination, except you can't use the drop down UI element so you have to type USB, which will show you the root of the thumb drive. If you want to put a file in a folder on the flash drive rather than in the root (top tip, don't), you have to arrow down to select the folder. Then you hit Alt-f to open the folder. Finally you hit Alt-O for OK and the copy of the file with the file name changed to "Copy of filename" to it's destination on the USB drive.

    Lol.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2021
  10. RickAgresta

    RickAgresta Peanut, leader of the Peanutty Forces

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    Raspy's going to go on a Field trip to lick what? :eek:
     

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