How about a typewriter for input to your iPad?

Much has been written about writing on the iPad. Those tapping out more than a few lines often opt for a Bluetooth keyboard. But the cool kids get one of these:

The USB Typewriter.

You can star in your own personal film noir fantasy with this USB-powered input device that works with any USB-capable computer, including the iPad. When mounted in back and connected, the iPad rides the carriage* from right to left as you type. It even registers a carriage return automatically and places the cursor beneath the previous line.

The best part is that there are several models to choose from, ranging in price from US$400-500. DIY types can order a $200 kit to convert their own typewriter. We love it.

*Youngn’s: The “carriage” is where the “paper” used to go and get struck by the “ink ribbon.” Ask an old person. He’ll tell you all about it.


A “magic pocket”

The tools of the author’s trade used to be simple and few–something to write with, something to write on. Today we have a lot more help–or distraction, depending on your proclivities.

The computer, with its keyboard, spell-checker, dictation software, gorgeous printing, great organizing abilities, has become indispensable for me. I love to type, and have always hated to write. Typing is liberating for me.

I don’t use spelling and grammar checking features, usually–although I am grateful for it catching my rare spelling mistakes. But I love being able to move things around, to search-and-replace, to change typefaces–like a carpenter who loves her hammer and saw, I love the computer-based tools of my trade.

And then there’s the Internet. Wikipedia. Google. I have to force myself to get up and move around, to focus my eyes on objects at different distances, because I get so engrossed with the almost-infinite wealth of information at my fingertips.

So when I come across a truly useful innovation, I get excited. is one such.

At first it seems like another “hard drive in the cloud”–a site that lets you store your stuff and access it at your convenience.  They’ve been around for years.

What makes Dropbox special? Like so many other amazingly popular developments–think iPod, Facebook, iPad–it’s not the originality of the functionality that makes the wonderfulness. It’s the overall feeling that gears, buttons, levers, and waiting time are out of the way. It bring me back to something Nicholas Negroponte said years ago, when asked what’s the next step beyond personal computing: “Intimacy” was his response.

I think a lot of Apple’s magic, a lot of why the simple Google search screen instantly became more popular than AltaVista, Yahoo!, and others, can be explained by that word, “intimacy.” These engaging experiences feel disintermediated. We feel as if we are in direct contact with what we’re trying to do, with nothing in the way.

That’s how Dropbox feels. You download a program to your Mac, PC, or Linux box. It sets up a special folder on your computer. Anything you put in that folder is automatically, invisibly synced with a secure storage location in the cloud. Any other computer from which you access your Dropbox account–and even your iPhone, with some limitations–can then access the same information. Dropbox makes sure everything is all in sync, all the time.

It’s free for up to 2 gigs. (You can get additional increments of 250 megs for each person you refer, up to 8 gigs; that’s why the link above is my affiliate link.) For 50 gigs, it’s $9.99/month or $99.99/year.

What would you use it for? Well, backups, for one–painless, unattended backups. Sharing large files, for another.

Dropbox says it’s like a magic pocket–put stuff in it from any computer, retrieve it from any other. I like that image.

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