Typewriter as I/O; lets you play Zork

Okay, for many the fact that this typewriter plays Zork on paper instead of a CRT is the fascinating part of this hack. But we love the implementation that makes the keys of the device an input and output.

The electric typewriter has been fitted with a solenoid for each key (wow, that’s a lot of work). In the image above you can see they are housed on plywood platforms behind the typewriter and connect using a piece of mono-filament fishing line. This flexible connection means the solenoids have no adverse effect when you want to do the typing instead of the Arduino which drives the solenoids. [Johnathan M. Guberman] took advantage of this, adding a resistor for each key. When depressed the key completes a circuit with the resistor, acting as the input. In this way, you can play Zork with a piece of paper as the monitor, typing for the input, and watching the typewriter magically pound out responses. See it happen after the break.

[via Laughing Squid and Make]

26 thoughts on “Typewriter as I/O; lets you play Zork

  1. Wow, thats one way to show off your big GEEKENES.
    133T points to you. Just needs to be smaller. Portable, finished, and for sale in mass quantities.
    LOL

  2. One thing to note, the pistons are not attached.
    the author appears to have solved this, with
    the raised lip in front them to stop the pistons from flying out when the electromagnet releases.

  3. This totally makes me think of 50s and 60s era Science Fiction (like Star Trek.) Whenever a computer would output, it always sounded like a fast-typewriter.

    It makes sense. At the time people probably imagined automating the existing typewriters similar to how this hack works.

    Very cool to watch.

  4. I remember being a kid and using my Mom’s account on the Dartmouth College Timeshare (DCTS) network via an acoustic coupler modem and a wide carriage printer terminal – y’know with the green and white bar tractor feed paper? I used to spend hours playing text based games and then bring the printouts home to re-live them offline! This project is a nice return to the days of yore…

  5. Back in the early days of micro-computers, converting an IBM Selectric typewriter was a high-end alternative to the old ASR teletype as an I/O device. They didn’t need any solenoids; the hack was to tap into the circuit and fire the type ball directly (e.g. http://books.google.ca/books?id=ZD0EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=selectric+conversion+printer&source=bl&ots=aa4MoXHNlD&sig=-BU4bQ6w_u-lsiVVYhb1oPfrWV4&hl=en&ei=OD_PTLHnEtDTngf-6aDlDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=selectric%20conversion%20printer&f=false )

    In comparison, I can’t say I’m too impressed with this hack.

  6. @James Lewis, that reminds me of what Henry Ford is supposed to have said: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

  7. reminds me of an 80’s panasonic typewriter I used to own, it had a rs232 port on it so you could use it as a printer. printed quite a few resumes on it that was saved on an APPLE IIc. No you didn’t want to use the dot matrix printers of the day to print a resume.

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