A Tool for Distraction-Free Writing

QuickPad ProBy C.K. MacLeod

I rediscovered my QuickPad Pro in a recent office cleaning frenzy. It was squirreled away in a cupboard with an old VHS video recorder.

QuickPad Pro is an intelligent keyboard, designed for simple writing tasks. Circa Y2K, journalists reportedly hauled them overseas when lugging a 10 lb laptop was inconvenient, or finding a power source was impossible.

My QuickPad Pro weighs in at 2 lbs 2 oz. While the problem of heavy laptops has been addressed with today’s ultrabooks (my 2014 ultrabook weighs in at 2 lbs, 15 oz), you’d be hard pressed to find an ultrabook that will run for 100 hours before it needs a recharge. It was this single fact that kept my QuickPad Pro out of the giveaway box.

Pros and Cons of Old Tech

If you have an intelligent keyboard in your cupboard, don’t recycle it yet. There may be possible new uses for your old tech. Consider these pros and cons:


  • lightweight and durable
  • starts up quickly (one-button start)
  • distraction-free (no Internet connection)
  • an excellent first-draft tool because you can only write in plain text, which means you’ll get into the habit of focusing on writing and leaving editing and formatting for later
  • runs for 100 hours on three AA batteries
  • doesn’t require the use of a mouse (goodbye RSI?)
  • responds to some keyboard shortcuts, which helps with navigation
  • people who own intelligent keyboards love them and still use them; there’s even a Facebook group for the one I own
  • online support for the QuickPad Pro is excellent
  • some authors (James Scott Bell, George R. R. Martin and Bryan Cohen are three examples) are producing reams of writing using old tech
  • unlikely to be stolen in a smash-and-grab, and it won’t be coveted by your kid


  • the screen has a bit of glare, and it isn’t backlit, but this isn’t a deal-breaker
  • the screens on some intelligent keyboards, such as the Alphasmart, are quite small
  • the angle of the screen is a bit awkward, unless you stack a few books under the screen end of the device or sit up straight while writing (probably not a bad idea)
  • over time, the keyboard can become a bit sticky
  • transferring files to your computer (where you’ll edit and format them) can be tricky if your computer cannot recognize your intelligent keyboard
  • intelligent keyboards are no longer being made, so if you want one, you’ll need to keep an eye on Ebay

Tip: Before you write your next novel on an intelligent keyboard, first check to see if you can transfer files to your computer. If you can’t, search for a forum that can offer tips.

New uses for Old Tech

My QuickPad has become another tool in my my RSI blasting arsenal. It’s helped me to create distraction-free writing sessions, and I’m also experimenting with writing in markdown on my Quickpad. Who knows what can happen when old and new tech worlds collide?

Do you use old tech for writing?