Next week I’m on holiday, and this got me thinking… My online writing friends are an unusually mobile and outgoing lot; some of them like to travel, even when they don’t have to. As anyone knows, spending more time on social networks than penning words is essential for the serious writer. But when you are on-the-go, how do you keep writing and hooked up to the intravenous drip-feed of tweets, posts, and comments that we all need so desperately? Today’s interconnected technology would appear to provide the answer, but other’s experiences have found it wanting. In this post you will find the solution—innovation isn’t dead—read on and be amazed!
As my friends, Mr Colin Barnes (who secreted himself in an isolated stone cottage and a canal boat during the past twelve months) and Miss Krista Walsh (who has yet to post pictures of herself at Comic Con, 2012, fuelling all kinds of rumours about her cosplay) found out, a laptop is not the ideal solution, even though it has a decent keyboard. Most writers use a laptop because the tiny little bedsits they live in have electrical wiring so old all the juice a full-size PC or Mac sucks would burn the place down. Other writers nest elsewhere, and choose a laptop for reasons of space; Harry Potter lived under the stairs just like his creator J. K. Rowling when she was poor and unknown*. Mouse-like, writers often squeeze into the tiniest nooks in people’s homes—closets, wardrobes, coalbunkers, shoeboxes. (If you know of a small recess in your home and notice a tiny increase in your bank balance every month, you should go and check because you probably have a writer who has quietly taken up residence).
But laptops are not truly portable. Although physically easier to move around than a typewriter (one reason why writers today tend to be less robust than their forebears), a laptop cannot connect to the internet without wifi or an ethernet cable. Outcome: no social networking, and a lonely writer is not a productive one. The non-luddites among you are now thinking of the smartphone as it has the connectivity, but what about the decent keyboard we writers need? (Emotionally the tappity-tap-tap sound is soothing, and helps us to think).
This week I found the solution! First let me introduce you to my smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy Note. It doesn’t have a name, but I guess it wouldn’t mind you calling it Sammy.
Now Sammy can do a very clever trick. Sammy can connect to USB devices, with one of these:
This is Sammy’s friend Carol Cable, but Sammy doesn’t mind that she is cheap because she came from eBay (he understands stigma—he was free with a contract). Carol’s vital statistics: she has a full sized female USB port at one end, and there is a male micro-USB connector at the other (female readers are probably are nodding in sympathy here). (Carol’s unusual anatomy could put some off, but Sammy is very modern and doesn’t mind).
For those know-it-alls who are screaming, “Bluetooth,” at their screens right now, you are forgetting one thing—writers are nearly all poor, and a decent Bluetooth tapper that is good for typing is expensive. So it’s time to spice things up a bit and introduce Kevin Keyboard—the other love in Carol’s life and Sammy’s rival for her affections (the fact Kevin has a full-size male USB connector does not make Sammy happy).
Sammy is also not happy that Kevin himself is more than full-size—he’s a broad beefy bruiser with separate arrow keys, maxed-out ‘Return’ key, and even dedicated ‘Pause’ and ‘Insert’ keys. Sammy has a touch keypad, but according to Carol, using him is fiddly and becomes a little irritating when he doesn’t respond immediately.
Now, despite the apparent emotional mismatch, this threesome actually fits together rather nicely:
Low and behold, we have a laptop replacement with anywhere internet connectivity. This is sheer genius—if I say so myself—because of the touch-screen you will not even need a mouse (which are in short supply anyway as starving writers cannot afford to miss out on a readily available source of protein even if the tail is a little chewy).
This arrangement also has additional advantages. For those who think better when they are pacing back and forth, note the extra-long cable on the keyboard. You can now wander around the room typing your inspirations one-handed while leaving your phone-as-screen safely on a solid surface (you may have to squint a little, but two magnifying glasses duct-taped onto some sunglasses frames—lenses removed—should help). If you are concerned about loss of typing speed, you could invest in a theatre ice-cream salesperson’s strap-tray to type two-handed.
Laptops also generate lots of heat (which is only good if you already have a large family and now want to actively pursue family planning but can’t afford the operation). Writers will no longer suffer from heat burns to their thighs and unmentionables (I know the term is archaic, but I am a good boy I am).
Finally, there is the not-unimportant style angle to consider. Most laptops are either Macs, or trying to look like Macs. Years ago, to have a Mac was to make a statement about your individuality—now everyone and their granny has one, or one that looks like one (you can praise my ‘masterful’ use of the English language in this sentence in the comments, but I am near the end of this blog post and I’m getting tired). Sporting this industrial MacGyver / A Team styled phone and keyboard combo no one can accuse you of being a clone.
The term ‘Phablet‘ has already been used to describe phones like Sammy with tablet-like large screens. Today you have been privileged to witness the birth of a new mobile form factor—the Phwoard—a novel combining of phone with keyboard—stylin’ with raw phwoar for the ultimate in portable sexiness. Get one, and pull the nerd of your dreams today!
This concludes Part One of my The Writer’s Essential Guide To Mobile Tech mini-series. Whether or not other posts in the series appear at an undecided date in the future may be decided at another time, possibly, but definitely only after all technical issues have been resolved.
* This rumour is unsubstantiated. Flushed with success it is believed by some that, despite her own humility about her meagre origins, J. K. Rowling’s cunning press secretaries and agents seek to suppress this information to preserve her mythical godlike status.
Laptop image used under Creative Commons License. Clink image for details.