Alphasmart 2000 and VirtualBox — believe it!

Well. The Alphasmart family of products were a series of dedicated word processors. They had/have a number of great features that have made them attractive to people who have to produce text — they run on 3 AA batteries for about a year between changes, they save every keystroke you make, the screen is readable in bright light (it’s not backlit at all, I should say), they boot up instantly — like a calculator, say — and you cannot connect them to the internet to help distract yourself when writing. They are robust, portable and these days very cheap second hand.

I have got an Alphasmart 2000 and the newer Neo. The Neo is very simple to get files off — it connects to any modern computer using a USB cable and acts as an external keyboard that can send text to any application as if it is being typed in. Hence the Neo is a very useful portable low hassle low distraction writing tool.

Top: Alphasmart 2000. Bottom: Neo 2.

Top: Alphasmart 2000. Bottom: Neo 2.

The older Alphasmart 2000 is more problematic. It uses a PS/2 cable to pretend to be a keyboard — it is from 1997 — and computers these days don’t generally have PS/2 ports, and further I don’t have the original cable, otherwise I could just use  PS/2 to USB converter (I have ordered a cable, I should admit).

But…

I do have a USB infrared thingummywhatsit:

Alphasmart IrDA wireless pod for USB (ACC-IR01 USB).

Alphasmart IrDA wireless pod for USB (ACC-IR01 USB).

Now, I simply cannot get connectivity via IR to work on my Windows 7 computer at work or on my Windows 10 netbook, but, strangely, if I use the ‘Get Utility‘ I can connect both machines to the IR dongle using my Windows 7 virtual machine hosted by a Debian Linux box.

That’s right. I installed the utility at http://www.renaissance.com/portals/0/neodownloads/Get%20Utility3.2.4_Windows_1108.zip on a Win 32 guest inside VB on a (64 bit) Linux host, and I can interface with the Neo and the 2000 and get files on and off. I just make sure the USB IR pod is passed through using the ‘USB Devices’ entry in the ‘Devices’ menu of the virtual machine.

Alphasmart 2000 connected to the infrared do-hikky and talking to Windows 7 inside VirtualBox.

Alphasmart 2000 connected to the infrared do-hikky and talking to Windows 7 inside VirtualBox.

Go figure!

So all that means I can get text on and off both devices no worries.

Alphawhat?

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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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