Need to Reference the US Constitution Fast? How’s 6 Seconds Sound?

CONSTI2GO-Thibault-Brevet-2

Well, unless you know exactly what you’re referencing it’s going to take you a lot longer, but this clever serial receipt printer hack will let you print the whole darn thing in just 6 seconds!

Commissioned by [Jeff Goldenson] for his LABRARY.bike (quite literally a pop-up library on a bike), it was actually shown off at SXSW Interactive — did anyone see it in person? The artist-hacker who created it is [Thibault Brevet], the guy who brought us the DRM chair that only works 8 times before it falls to pieces.

Anyway, this cool and rather suspicious looking tube with a serial cord hanging out contains an Arduino, a max232 chip and a small Li-Po battery. The Arduino communicates with the printer through the max232 chip by converting the TTL signal to RS-232. It has a single button on top, which when it is connected to the printer will send out the US Constitution over the serial interface via ESC/p language.

Did we mention how fast it is?

Receipt printers are a lot of fun once you figure out how to communicate with them. After that you’ll be wasting receipt paper like no tomorrow with this extremely wasteful (but awesome) printer based video game!

[Thanks Itay!]

Comments

  1. ScottishCaptain says:

    I heard this thing was fast, but just how fast is it?

    • James Hobson says:

      I heard it was six seconds fast.

      • ScottishCaptain says:

        Which means what, exactly?

        It would be awesome if the story included a meaningful unit, like inches per second or something. I’m more curious to know if this guy actually did something to the machine to make it print that fast, or if the printer is running at a normal speed (in which case I have no idea why “6 seconds” is impressive- it’s like saying you printed out 2000 pages on a $40K Xerox in 5 minutes, which is precisely what that machine was designed to do).

        • illwill says:

          I would assume it’s a thermal receipt printer, which are usually pretty quick to print out say , a UPS shipping label, I would guess the impressiveness is the arduino keeping up with the overhead demand of spooling out the file.

        • RunnerPack says:

          The unit is “Constitutions per second” and this printer can do ~0.167 CPS. ;)

          The speed is probably due to a combination of the small font used and an ESC/p command for feed rate and/or image darkness (darker thermal marks take longer to make, obviously).

          • Tony says:

            …and the commands sequences are different for every printer, even within brands. Dealing with receipt printers is like going back to the old “write your own driver” DOS days.

          • tekkieneet says:

            Back in those darker days, the printer manufacturer actually provided enough documentation for their ESC command set that someone could actually write a driver.

            I still remember writing an assembly language graphing function that does the rasterization on the fly with a single N columns x8 dots buffer for each pass to run in a 8-bit machine with less than 32kB. I am too lazy to do stuff like that these days.

          • John says:

            Having actually written drivers for a few, I can attest that the documentation leaves out many important details. Just because “documentation” exists does not mean it is complete or detailed enough to write a driver quickly or easily.

          • Shakipu says:

            You can’t imagine how shitty it is when you have to deal with RFID tags you need to encode while printing… 61 tags/min. You can’t go faster with this kind of printers : http://www.toshibatec-ris.com/products_overseas/printer/desktop_barcode_printer/b-ex4t1/

          • MRE says:

            Yeah trying to get them up and running can be a barrel of noFun.
            When working on the membership payment box http://hackaday.com/2014/03/13/automatically-accept-membership-fees-or-donations/
            I ended up using LadyAda’s library. After fiddling with the serial rates I eventually found the one my printer liked. Fought with it for a while to do graphics but no luck, and only SOME of the font codes worked.
            And it is slow as molasses. Not sure if that’s the library or the printer. At any rate, The Adafruit library is a good place to start for ANY printer, then tune it up for YOUR printer.

  2. lawful says:

    well at least if you want it shredded in less than 6 seconds, look no further than Washington D.C., the capital of constitution shredding using an industrial shredder called “congress”.

  3. sqelch says:

    That is totally awesome. love it

  4. vonskippy says:

    Even cheap receipt printers run at 200-300 mm per second (8 to 11 inches per second), so there’s no “hack” at the printer level, it’s all about the oh so artsy fartsy stuffing the US Constitution into a self contained serial device (you know, the same exact thing that any smart phone, tablet, notebook, laptop, or computer could do).

  5. RunnerPack says:

    I wonder where that cool PMMA(?) cylinder came from, and how much they are…

  6. vonskippy says:

    FYI – google brings it up in about 0.29 seconds, and it’s searchable.

  7. Tony says:

    Does it print the amendments as well?

    (Well, there’s only one, and for some weird reason they started the number at ‘two’.)

    • TM says:

      Ha! Don’t worry though, they’re working on fixing that oversight.

      BTW, it took congress 202 years to get around to ratifying the 27th amendment. Stick that in your 6 second printer!

  8. Hirudinea says:

    Gee, wonder what other document you could fit into that tube?

    • Matt Hewitt says:

      er.. Any? What would you place there, in order of importance to you, or the world of large? A riposte, a critique? An ammendment, or an endorsement? Or maybe a repeat, as a reinforcement. hard to say, isn’t it? I think it is fine as it is,, Re-purpose as you need or wish, but i have to say.. That was quite poetic..

  9. danielf says:

    The picture above looks more like the declaration of independence than the constitution.It is a much shorter document.

  10. henry says:

    10 constitutions a minute? My A4 laserjet can do 35 a minute, and for an LJ it’s considered pretty slow.

    • the gambler says:

      Love it especially considering i have a few of those printers laying around. Now it makes me want to look into using them with an arduino as a logger with a pushbutton to get a printout of errors if any occur.

      • MRE says:

        At the last Tokyo MAKE fair, there was a guy who wrote a choose your own adventure game printed on the thermal printer, and a number keypad interface. Too bad for me it was in Japanese, so I got lost pretty fast and ‘died’ in 3 or 4 steps.
        I plan on recreating it in English, If I could just sit down and write a decent adventure story.

  11. danielf says:

    Sorry, my bad. I shot my mouth off before looking it up…

  12. Ed3 says:

    Perfect response to the Demolition Man Verbal Morality Statute printer.

    It could be a commentary on how some police departments issue tickets. I haven’t been pulled over recently, but Google seems to think receipt-style ticket printers are common throughout law enforcement. Not just in the parking enforcement department either.

    It could also be commentary on how we document our lives in the modern day. With all our intellectual works migrating to “the cloud”, our remaining paper trail is the credit card receipts, invoices, and various other small transactional documents printed on these printers. When the EMP takes out our digital libraries, all that will be left is a trail of rental car agreements. That is until they fade into blank pieces of paper.

  13. Matt Hewitt says:

    I’m a Brit… and i have to say.. I feckin’ loved that! That said a lot more than meets the eye..

  14. +1 Bard says:

    Don’t try to take that on a plane, the TSA considers the US constitution extremely dangerous. Although I can’t imagine why. ;-)

  15. JRDM says:

    It’s nice, and it’s a nice challenge, but thermal paper is only good for transmitting disposable information, and its benefits are diminishing.

  16. I actually built something like this 6 or so years ago, when I worked for a company who did POS systems. I wanted something that could test the printer easily, so I built essentially the same thing, except using a microchip pic and max232, and was called “Magic 8 Ball Tester” – every time you hit the button, it would spit out a random Magic 8 Ball response.

  17. kajer says:

    I love the pile of paper at his desk!!! I had a Epson TMS-L90 at my desk, and used it to log errors when British Telecom was being flakey. I came in after a weekend with a new roll of paper filling my cube with link flaps. and BGP neighbor changes.

  18. Whatnot says:

    Might be an idea for those shops that use insanely long receipts for the smallest purchases.

  19. Printed at the bottom of an angry customer’s reciept, mwahahaha

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