Writer T. James' Exploration of Words, on the Internet.

The Writer’s Essential Guide to Mobile Tech, Part One: Lose the Laptop.

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! :thumbsup:


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.



  1. Rich Weatherly

    I enjoyed the article, T.James. My HTC One X provides many of the same capabilities but I’m not yet ready to toss my handy laptop. It is lightweight, provides extended battery service per charge and it’s handy to have the larger screen and comfortable keyboard in one place. I can even use my phone to provide WiFi to the Laptop.
    I do agree, the times are a’changing.

    • T. James

      Hi Rich,

      Thanks for popping by, you being a busy man and everything. I did consider your method – it’s certainly more conventional, but I feel it lacks the inherent style of the Phwoard. I anticipate being nominated for several design awards before the end of the year. B-)

  2. Anne Michaud

    And there you go all techie on me.

    How aboot a simple pen and paper, my friend? Simple is best, sometimes♥

    • T. James

      You could use a pen and paper, but getting your thoughts online might be tricky… Does making a paper airplane from your scribblings, or putting them in a bottle, actually work? I could try it, I suppose. ;-)

  3. j d waye

    I don’t even own a cellphone, never mind a Smart One. When my car breaks down, I simply stand at the side of the road and wave. Somebody always stops to help. All this connectivity is great for some people, but the only texts I would get would be from my kids, reminding me we’re out of Dunkaroos.
    I enjoy being unplugged. It lets me exist in the moment. Unshackled. Unfettered. Un-distracted.

    • T. James

      I’m not against the low-tech options, they just don’t work for me. I am hairy and not as pretty as you apparently are, so standing at the roadside and waving tends to cause the drivers of passing cars to accelerate, not slow down and help. I have no idea what a ‘Dunkaroo’ is, but they sound like I should find out.

      Our differing experience of the ‘un’ words is probably down to how we are aiming to get published. If I’m remembering correctly, you are going for traditional publication? To succeed via that route you need to develop your patience and waiting skills… Canvas betas, and wait. Canvas an editor, and wait. Canvas an agent, and wait. Get rejected. Repeat the agent step several times. Wait while your agent canvases a publisher. Repeat this step several times. Wait while publisher fits your book into their schedule… With all that waiting, remaining calm and out of reach of the ability to be compulsively checking your email is a positive and healthy lifestyle choice.
      If, like me, what you are writing at the moment isn’t commercial and would never be picked up by an agent or publisher in a month of Sundays then eBooks are the only option. Then ‘unplugged’ has a different meaning. It means unavailable, unpublished, un-publicised, unacknowledged, and unread.
      Your way is definitely the most tranquil.

  4. j d waye

    LOL. “Tranquil” is not a word anyone ever applied to me before.

  5. j d waye

    PS – I think we’ve both been going about this the wrong way.

    First, write something commercially viable.
    Second, sell your soul to the Devil, at the nearest crossroads.
    Third, enjoy your rewards. (like a new cellphone, perhaps)
    Fourth, write what’s important and significant to you.
    Fifth, have your readers go WTF?

    Now I’ll be busy penning my next novel: 69 Shades of Green. Text me if you need me. See you at the crossroads. ;)

    • T. James

      So, first sellout yourself, then sellout your readers… A cunning plan, I like it! :-)

      This left me wondering though: does the devil do better deals at roundabouts? Doesn’t he have an office? And why is he so keen on fish?

      • j d waye

        I don’t know about the fish or the roundabouts, but I’ll ask him. I’ve got an appointment with him at 3. That is, if my car doesn’t break down on the way there.

        • T. James

          Presumably you’ll be travelling to see him in one of these: http://www.autoexpress.co.uk/kia/soul/35467/kia-soul-inferno B-)

          P.S. Can you ask him why he still plays the fiddle? In this age of political correctness (which I think he invented) surely he should be branching out onto instruments like the Fijian nose flute?

  6. Matthew

    I actually don’t have a laptop. I’ve always preferred just using desktops, and I got a netbook for rare portability. Otherwise, don’t yet have a smartphone – mainly due to not traveling or being out and about enough to really justify the data plan cost.

    I probably will look into getting a smartphone and possibly a tablet at some point, though. I do wish Apple would quit blocking Samsung with all the lawsuit delaying actions. Your Samsung Galaxy is not allowed in the States:


    I’m just glad Apple isn’t in the automobile business and didn’t patent everything to do with air conditioning or headlights or whatever – else we’d just have the option of iMobiles I suppose. Also a good thing they waited to enter the phone market – else there’d probably have been only one manufacturer allowed to sell clamshell phones.

    • T. James

      I find desktops are a viable option, although you do need a sturdy rucksack and and extremely long extension cable… Smartphones aren’t such an attractive proposition in the States as you don’t get the subsidies that we do, so I can see why you’ve not gone for one if you haven’t needed it until now.

      The whole interplay with Apple and Samsung is, as usual, a joke. Most of the software features that are ‘patented’ were available on a Windows Mobile phone I owned about eight years ago, before there was such thing as an iPhone. I think the case was thrown out over here. Hurray for a bit of good old British commonsense! :-D

  7. Tamara Warden

    wow TJ..
    once again you had me giggling, while teaching me something at the same time! who would have thought?!
    I love the idea you have come up with… I have found my own solution… it is called an IPAD! I would die without my iphone and ipad.. I’m somewhat addicted to them, and if I didn’t have them I really fear myself, or someone else could come to harm.
    I even worked out the other day how to hook the iphone and ipad together so that I could have my ipad connected to my internet on my phone! (no small feat on my behalf, I am not tech savvy at all!)

    So what you are really telling us now is that there is no reason as to why you can’t blog 2-3 times a week ;)

    • T. James

      Hi Tamara,

      The iPhone and iPad combo works well for many, but I’m old fashioned and like to type on something with keys. The Phwoard also has the advantage of being quite a lot cheaper. Congrats on working out how to connect the two though, although I thought these days all you had to do was ask Siri? I watched Apple’s latest announcement, but I wasn’t impressed. “Sort out my wifi connection to my iPad,” or, “change the volume levels for different functions independently,” would have got my attention…

      I would love to blog 2-3 times a week, but my ideas don’t always come that quickly, and I’d never have any time for actual writing.

  8. Gareth

    Its a great idea but I’d worry about keeping the phone charged to be honest with you TJ. Mind you you might get odd looks from people in the writers haunt (Coffee shop of your choice.)

    Other than that however go for it. I’ve just got a new moby and its going to take me a while to get used to all the damn functions. I only got it as my old one is pretty much on life support and they’re dazzling me with new fangled things. The bright side is its a querty keyboard so I can make texting a little easier (takes me forever to be honest) and I can add the A-Z road map app which I’m looking forward to.

    • T. James

      Hi Gareth,

      You’ve got my design-brain functioning – recharging is a problem, but now I’ve stolen a solar-panel from my neighbour’s roof and mounted in on a supermarket trolley I am fully mobile. :thumbsup:

  9. J.A. Campbell

    Haha, great post. Thanks for sharing! Your humor and good ideas are most welcome.


    • T. James

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for that – ultra-functional modern design is nothing without immaculate aesthetics, and the Phwoard brings both to its users. :-)

  10. B Yeo

    Love this article. :) I don’t own a cell phone and I am forced to lug my laptop and my notebook around and take advantage of the free internet places like McDonalds or my hotel while my kids run around. :) I need two computers one for me to write and do my thing and the other for my huzzy to play games on. :) I love your set up. We use what we can to do the craft that drives us. :) Really ejoyed your post and loved the names you gave your tools. :)

    • T. James

      Hi Bryden,

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. My wife and I are the same – we have his’n’hers computers. Well, actually, it’s his, his, his’n’hers. Computers come in different shapes and sizes because they are good for different things – this my excuse for keeping the old ones when they have different form factors. It is not because I am addicted to technology. No. No way.

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