I spend a huge amount of time on the phone talking to marketing and technical folks gathering information to use as a basis for writing technical whitepapers, magazine articles, and suchlike. It's at times like this I wish I had my mother's shorthand skills – before she retired she was so fast that she could completely capture a spoken conversation between multiple people.
Once, she went to an opera sung in German and started to write it down in shorthand without thinking (I didn't even know both my parents spoke German until I was 18, but that's a story for another day).
The point is that I end up taking copious notes – my office is packed with piles of notepads on the shelves, tables, and floors. Truth to tell, I like the permanence of hand-written notes – the nuances you can capture with the occasional underlines, exclamation marks, etc.; and the small diagrams I jot down as ideas for possible illustrations.
The pain comes when I eventually start to pen the main piece, at which point I have to transcribe all of my notes into my computer. If only there was a better way...
Well, for quite some time "tablet computers" have been available. These look like a giant touch-screen upon which you write with a plastic scribing device. I looked at these when they first came out, but I wasn't impressed. You know when you're in a store and you use a credit card and you have to enter your signature on a screen and the result looks like you've been drinking or have a serious nervous condition? Well, that pretty much captures the user experience of those early units, so with a tear in my eye I returned to my trusty pen and paper.
But technology has moved on. A more recent development is a sort of hand-held tablet upon which you place a normal paper notepad. You then write on the paper with an ink pen as usual (this is a special digital ink pen), which means you have the security of your physical medium. The clever thing is that the underlying tablet somehow captures page-after-page of your notes and diagrams. Later, at your convenience, you can unload everything to your main computer (your notepad or desktop/side Windows-based PC) via a USB cable.
I was very excited when these little scamps first arrived on the scene ... until I saw the price-tag, at which point I "ran-for-the-hills". But things have changed. A few days ago I saw something called the DigiMemo. This is really cool, and (as far as I'm concerned) an incredibly good deal. The 6" × 9" DigiMemo 6920 costs only $86, while the 8.5" × 11" DigiMemo L20 (the one I want) costs only $136. (These prices are in American Dollars.)
Eeeek Alors! I managed to persuade my office manager that this was a fully justifiable – nay, necessary – office expense, so the company ordered one for me. Actually, we went the whole hog and ordered the bundle with the tablet, a carrying case, and the optional Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. Once you've uploaded your notes to your main computer, the OCR software allows you to convert your hand-written notes into their machine-readable equivalents.
The main tablet – which is less than 0.5" thick and weighs in at only 1.5 pounds – is claimed to run for about 80 hours on four AAA batteries, which makes this an ideal traveling companion (the pen is supposed to run for more than 14 months on its internal battery).
Furthermore, the tablet is supposed to hold up to 999 pages of notes, although I haven't worked out whether this is on its default internal storage media or on an optional SD card (once you've copied notes up to your PC, you can erase them from the tablet, and you still have your hand-written version, of course).
Once you have uploaded your notes to your PC, you can view, edit, and organize your digital pages on the PC. You can also save any digital pages you arbitrarily select as a "book file" (e-Book) and you can share your notes with others via e-Mail. All of this sounds jolly useful.
When you read the specifications this all sounds too much to be true, which means it probably is, but I will report back in more detail once I've laid my hands on the little rascal. Until then, I will sit here looking out the window waiting for the post to arrive in the hopes that today is the day...
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org). And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for our weekly Programmable Logic DesignLine Newsletter.