Getting a home built scanner from ’92 up and running again

In 1992, [Arpi] didn’t have much time for Ninja Turtles, Nintendos, and other wonderful wastes of time his fellow geeks were raised on. He was busy building a scanner for his Commodore 64. Although this very impressive build could have been lost to the sands of time, he pulled his project out of the attic for a “Try to use it again” party. Although this party is not a formal competition, we’re going to say that [Arpi] walked home that night with the most geek cred.

While there are no build details, there is a bunch of info to be gleaned from the gallery about how this machine was built. We’re pretty sure a good majority of the build was a typewriter at one point, and it looks like there’s a windshield wiper motor in there somewhere. Like this completely unrelated but similar build, [Arpi]’s scanner uses a photoresistor and a few LEDs to transfer image data to the custom software. In case you were wondering, yes, the ancient 5 1/4 floppy disk was still readable – one of the few advantages of the huge sectors on these disks.

Check out the videos of this scanner in action after the break, and if you’ve got a decades-old hack sitting in your attic (remember that acoustic modem you built?), send it in on the tip line.

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Wiffletree: a mechanical digital to analog converter

This isn’t a hack. But it is a decidedly interesting piece of mechanical technology. The Whiffletree shown above is a way to turn binary data into a mechanical analog value. [Bill Hammack] explains how this assembly is used in a typewriter and how a whiffletree can convert binary data to a set of analog outputs.

These linkages are what makes an IBM Selectrix Typewriter work. You know, the one with the globe stylus instead of individual hammers for each key? [Bill] uses the typewriter as the example in his illustrations that show how each bit of data positions the output in a predictably different location. We’re familiar with other mechanical representations of binary data but converting to an analog value mechanically is a new concept for us. Lukily, the videos that [Bill] put together are fantastic at explaining the concepts. Not surprising, since he is a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . See them both after the break.

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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.

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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.

Musical typewriter

We have often commented that we’re a bit tired of hearing random notes when someone sends us a musical project. We love home made instruments, circuit bending, and creative sound, we just like some intentional direction to the noise. This just might be an exception to the rule. This typewriter plays random notes as you type.  While it might annoy your cohabitants into a violent rage, it seems oddly cathartic. We have heard people talk about the pleasure of hearing the keys clack as they type. It just seems like you would get used to this and find it just as pleasurable. Maybe we’re crazy. Unfortunately, they don’t divulge any technical details, but we can imagine a simple way of wiring directly into a cheap keyboard to get the same effect.