Teletype machine from an electric typewriter

This project, by an unknown hacker, patches into an electric typewriter and uses it as a Teletype. An AVR ATmega168 microcontroller patches into the key matrix of the typewriter which allows it to artificially type. Now, data can be sent over a serial connection to the AVR for output on the typewriter.

We’re not quite sure what this is going to be used for.  We’ve seen hacks like this for Twitter reading in the past but he makes no mention of that type of use. Personally, we’d like to have this just to “print” out the occasional letter. Typewriters are so rarely used these days it would be a bit peculiar to get a letter that has the dimpled impressions associated with slamming a die into a piece of paper.


  1. osgeld says:

    yea that would be cool as a “printer” but not very practical that Im running to the thrift store RIGHT NOW!!!

  2. Nemo says:

    Curse my slowness. I was inspired by that twitter-hacked typewriter long ago to embark on my own electric typewriter hacking project, with this exact result as the goal. I’m 3/4 done, but I guess the internet is saturated by now :\

  3. neweller says:

    I would love to see this as a conversation from Fringe. That would freak someone out.

  4. Paul Potter says:

    Great idea.

  5. Geekman says:

    @Nemo add an Xbee for a wireless link ?

  6. andar_b says:

    Actually, though technically you probably do slam a dye into the paper, it’s a DIE that does the slamming of the dye. I think that is probably the word you meant to use.

    Professional writers (even blogging is pro IMO) should know how to do so.

    Anyway, the project is neat too. Too bad the frequent problems with writing detract from the experience on HAD

  7. andar_b says:

    Aww, that’s cute. It removed my {pedant} and {/pedant} tags

  8. Stu says:

    Yeah! That would rock! Not sure how you’d simulate the mirror and the mirror image typewriter keys tapping away though.
    Lets just not go and follow out those job instructions-track down Anna Torv and top her!?

  9. James Jarvis says:
  10. synth says:

    Actually, though technically you probably do slam a dye into the paper, it’s a DIE that does the slamming of the dye. I think that is probably the word you meant to use.

    Professional writers (even blogging is pro IMO) should know how to do so.

    Anyway, the project is neat too. Too bad the frequent problems with writing detract from the experience on HAD

    Posted at 4:07 pm on Feb 11th, 2010 by andar_b

    haha, i was just about to post something very similar.
    looks like i’m not the only asshole. ;]

  11. Seth says:

    @ James

    Yeah, I was thinking about daisy wheel printers, too. They’re cheap on eBay.

    But they’re all like 30 years old. I wonder what interface they use? RS232C?

  12. Mike Szczys says:

    @synth: You’re not the only one… there’s tons of you guys out there!

  13. Spork says:

    More than you know. ;]

    I think this would be awesome for printing a résumé. What kind of candidate for employment types up their résumé on a typewriter?
    The one you’re about to hire, I bet.

  14. linus says:

    Feel is a huge factor in a persons decision making, when selecting which papers to read from a stack. Struck type is sure to make an impression.

  15. Alton Toth says:

    “Struck type is sure to make an impression.”

    That is the most fantastic line of punnery I have read all week. Congrats. (NOT sarcasm)

  16. Buzz says:

    We had a daisywheel electronic typewriter that had an optional “pc interface” ( centronics parallel ) to make it also work like a Diablo compatible printer. I’m pretty sure it was an Olivetti 901. ( It was a *sweet* printer/typewriter combo for the day.

  17. Entropia says:

    This is actually not by an unknown hacker, his handle is numist. I tipped him off that his project was featured here. :P

  18. Agent420 says:

    Funny, I was just looking at an old typewriter at my parents house thinking of this ;-) Plus, I always wanted an old teletype.

    You gotta love the mechanical element.

  19. Agent420 says:

    btw – notice the cent sign isn’t on keyboards anymore?

  20. Agent420 says:

    oh, and this would be great for printing ascii art

    Do check out the 1948 article about doing this on a typewriter ;-)

  21. Nemo says:

    @Agent-That’s the goal of my project!
    @Geekman-Good idea, I was going to use a direct wired connection, but wireless would be nicer for interface with other devices.

    It will still live on my website even if the rest of the internet is saturated.

  22. googfan says:

    i was thinking about doing this w/ an adruino

  23. googfan says:

    oops. ARDUINO

  24. fartface says:

    YAWN. IBM selectric rs232 port. simply hook it to a modem and you are done.

    Problem is you are limited to 300baud those thigns were S……..L………O………W…..

  25. Scotty says:

    This was a common hobbiest project back in the mid ’70s to ’80s. What we wanted was a ASR or KSR-35 teletype.
    The selectric has a set of rails that are pressed by keys with slots creating each selectric code. The typewrite is purely mechanical and solenoids were used to pull the rails, creating each code. Worked like a charm. Could still be used as a typewriter. Converting ascii to selectric though, that took more electronics. It was fun. About the time mine was finished the MX-80 dot matrix was down in price and I snatched one up.
    This is a VERY old hack.

  26. fartface says:

    @entropia he’s unknown to most of us old timers and other high level hardware hackers. Dont see him hosting any R4 shows or having talks at blackhat.

    He aint’ uber 1337 Yo!, to be world renown yet.

  27. Agent420 says:

    @Scotty – what’s old is new again ;-)

  28. misha says:

    This could be useful for adding spell check to an electric typewriter. If you did more work to read in the keys thru the microcontroller, process them on a PC ( do basic spell check) then hack another mechanism/button to actually make the words hit the page, once the writer agrees with any spelling corrections done. That would be cool, a perfectly typed page each time.

  29. Viadd says:

    Back in antiquity (late ’70s) there was an interface device that converted an electric typewriter to a computer printer. It mounted over the keyboard and had one solenoid for each key.

    Next step is a robot arm that picks up a pencil and does hunt-and-peck with the eraser end on an old manual Olivetti, using text-to-speech on the computer and and the reverse on the robot arm end so that you don’t have to string any cables.

    Now that’s a hack.

  30. numist says:

    funny how word gets around. thanks for the tip, Entropia.

  31. numist says:

    article: I don’t know what I’m going to use it for, but it’s more useful now than it was just languishing in a closet. chances are it will wind up at work and print out build breakages and pours from the kegerator (via RFID)

    googfan: if you’re going to do this from scratch I recommend using a Mega or something with more pins. the normal ‘duino has one pin free after everything is wired up, making it a pretty big hassle to debug.

    misha: unfortunately this model already has a 70,000 word dictionary built in. but it’s English, so it beeped after every word of the Lorem Ipsum test.

  32. matt says:

    Just glad he hacked up a new-ish typewriter. I wouldn’t dare do this to my Coronamatic 2200.

  33. james holden says:

    i kinda miss the buzz of a dot matrix printer

    but i don’t think i’ll ever want to hear a typewriter again.

  34. Let’s see, if I spoke nice to a computer would it take the data and fill in a three part carbonless form neatly and readable?

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