A portable typewriter for the modern correspondent
Yes, she’s pretty and she can type. Or more correctly, I can type on her. That sweet little thing above is my “new” refurb’d Apple iPad mini with the ultrathin keyboard cover from Logitech. The cover, billed as the “the other half of your iPad mini,” is a folding iPad cover featuring a “real” keyboard, which dispenses with the touchscreen nonsense when it comes to writing something. Perversely, I view the iPad as the other half of my keyboard; instead of the keyboard being the other half of my iPad. Here’s the story…
A while back my laptop died. I couldn’t feel too bad about that, after all, it was one of the original laptops. It was actually the one Moses got from his dad. It was big enough and heavy enough that a lap-dancer could’ve done her act on it. As a matter of fact, that’s why I thought they called them laptops…
Anyway, as I have to carry so much crap around with me just to stay alive, I can’t abide heavy computers. Or thick computers. Actually, I can barely abide computers at all. But I have a job coming up that’s going to require some posting from the field (more about that in a minute) so I had to go computer shopping.
My requirements for a replacement laptop were: light, cheapish, light, thin, and light. Oh yes, and light. Now, a while back, I had a clinic-owned Sony Vaio “P,” but it’s since been retired. Frankly, I don’t miss it much. The screen was too high res. Even with my tri-focals I had a hard time reading it. And the keyboard was badly designed. It was too easy to bump the arrow keys and all the sudden find yourself typing in the middle of the previous paragraph. It was light enough and small enough, but it was already off my list—as a machine to write on it was no damn good. In fact, about the only thing it was good for was as a chick magnet. If you want to make new friends, just take a Sony Vaio “P” to a Starbucks… Actually come to think of it, it was more of a nerd magnet than strictly a chick magnet. If I were bisexual, I would have had it made totally with that computer in hand.
So after looking at netbooks online (no time to drive 150 miles roundtrip to the nearest BestBuy) and being underwhelmed, I remembered reading that Logitech was making a keyboard cover for the big iPad. I type most of my work on one of their better-than-sex Wave keyboards, so this company is pretty dear to my heart. I also vaguely knew there was a smaller iPad so I wondered….
Well one thing led to another and I ordered an iPad mini. And before you ask, I just got the wireless version. And I got the smallest memory. Hell, it’s just a typewriter, people. I don’t even have a second page of “aps” on it yet, and probably never will. Oh and I choose white over black because I’m a medical correspondent and all…
Speaking of white, I had a few white-knuckle moments during the four days waiting for the little white computer to arrive in a little white truck. Would the keyboard be too small? Would my fingers wander, or get tangled up in each other? Would the keys be nice and springy or mushy like rotten fruit? Shopping online can be so stressful. Shoes you should try on. Cameras you should hold in your hands before choosing. Keyboards you should type on. There are some things you should just buy in person, if you can make the time to do it.
But I’m happy to report that the ultrathin keyboard is like a well-designed studio apartment. Yeah, it’s cramped, but the space is well used. It’s a good typing machine. And truth be told, it’s only about half an inch narrower right-to-left than a desktop’s keyboard, and about the same top-to-bottom on the letter keys. Of course the number keys are preemies, but that doesn’t bother me much.
Oh, it’s blue tooth (better than blue something else). The charge on the keyboard is said to last three months. We’ll see. When it’s working as a cover, it snaps right onto the iPad with a long, thin hinged magnet. Rio has said at least five times, “But I thought magnets were bad for computers!” Yeah, me too, son.
Closing the cover turns the iPad off. Opening it turns it on. Pretty clever. When the keyboard needs to do its typing thing you pull the cover off and drop the iPod into a slot that holds it back at a “perfect” viewing angle.
It works pretty slick, but I keep reaching for a mouse, then looking for a track pad. What the fuck? Oh. Right. Touchscreen. Just leave a greasy fingerprint wherever you want the cursor to go. The outside of the keyboard is aluminum, and looks just like the back of the iPad itself minus the shiny metal apple that Eve just took the bite of knowledge of good-and-evil out of.
Folded up, the keyboard and iPad look like Star Trek meets African safari. Slick, modern, and tough. Oh. Right. And thin and light. :-)
Wow. How my life has changed over the last year, tech-wise. A rechargeable glucometer, a digital B&W camera, a touch-screen insulin pump, and now this: a portable typewriter I could carry in the pocket of a pair of cargo pants if I wanted to. On the one hand, it’s thrilling. On the other hand, we are all one good solar flare away from extinction. Unfuckingbeleivable.
Now, I’d never want to do all my work on this mini/ultrathin, but it’ll be a nice reporter’s tool when I’m out in the field. The keys are lively, and while pretty much flat on their tops, they have enough separation between them that my fingers don’t wander off on to the wrong keys causing me to type Zmpe od yjr yo,r gpt s;; hppf ,rm yp vp,r yp yjr sof pg yjr vpimytu/ when I intended to type something else altogether. I hate it when that happens.
What? The image on the screen of my new portable typewriter? Oh, that’s a picture of the Remington Streamliner. It’s one of the original “portable” typewriters, circa 1941. It tips the scales at 10 pounds 9 ounces. “Streamlined” it stands about 5 inches off the desk. My new baby weighs 1 pound 2 ounces. And talk about streamlined: Folded up and ready to carry, the iPad and its case/keyboard are only one-half inch thick. It’s about the size and weight of my orginal Kindle, and I can slip it into the back pocket of my Go-Bag—right now a Domke F 803 Satchel.
To complete the package, I picked up a copy of Apple’s Pages, a $9.99 word-processing “ap.” Compare that to the 150 clams a new copy of Word will set you back. I found the software simple and elegant to use, and I can email myself a copy of any document and it opens on my desktop PC as a writing industry standard Word file. Awesome.
Of course I did dither over whether or not to get the full-sized iPad. It would have given me a full-sized keyboard. But it would have been at the cost of 17 more ounces. That’s an extra pound + to carry. Plus it’s thicker. And bigger all the way around. More dinero, too, and no matter how hard I work I never seem to have enough of that.
And where am I going with my new typewriter? To Phoneix at the end of this month. I’m covering the 22nd Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists for Diabetes Mine. I’m gonna use my new computer to write posts in the evenings from the Motel 6 at the end of the airport runway. I’ll also send updates for my editors to tweet (I always feel guilty when I get an email saying that someone is now following me on Twitter. I think, boy are they ever gonna be bored… I only “tweet” about once a month).
I might even take a whack at using the mini to take notes during the seminars. Out of years of habit I generally take notes in a small spiral-bound notebook. But the last big conference I was at, I was surrounded by the clacking of keys and I had the only pen in the room… and I had to wonder…
And who knows? Maybe I’ll also check and send email on it. And Skype home to see how the family is doing. And shop on eBay, and maybe even surf for porn.
Hah! Just try doing any of those things on a Remington portable typewriter!