Teletype Twitter Frontend

The folks from NYC Resistor got their hands on a teletype machine and hacked it to monitor Twitter. This eighty-year-old beast bangs out messages that it receives at 45.45 baud. This isn’t a project that turns something into a teletype, but rather finds a different way to feed the machine data. In this case, a python script parses Twitter and sends the data it finds to an Arduino board. The Arduino in turn formats the message into the serial format necessary to communicate with the device. To the left you can see a trend plotter, learn more about both in the video after the break.

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[Thanks James]

29 thoughts on “Teletype Twitter Frontend

  1. nothing preserves a 80 something like shoving a blue led into it

    thank god we didnt do this back in the 80’s, everything would be neon pink and green with “hair forever” painted on the side

  2. When I read they used an Arduino to interface a 60mA current loop I just shook my head in disbelief. If you wonder why the Arduino is bad, this is a perfect example. Its like opening a boiled egg with a sledge-hammer just because the sledge-hammer is handy and you are too lazy to care about the best way to do it.

    All NYC Resistor had to do is ask Google and/or root around in for an elegant solution. Instead they picked up a sledge-hammer. What kind of example is this for upcoming generations of hackers?

  3. 1) There’s not actually a blue LED on it, just a reflective NYCR logo that has a blue-ish tint in the photo.

    2) It’s not steampunk, it’s just really old. Steampunk by Hackaday’s standards would be if we took a modern printer and put it in a crappy wooden box and glued some brass fittings and a piece of pipe to it.

  4. @Drone

    Not sure why you find it offensive to use the tools at hand to solve a problem. I don’t know what you think the most elegant solution is to produce a 45.45 baud BAUDOT serial stream at 100v 60ma DC. Having the micro-controller in the middle sure makes shifting the speed of the serial stream easier. The arduino bootloader and IDE makes developing the firmware painless.

    I agree that the atmega168 or atmega328 is overkill. But then again, this project wasn’t to make the most technically perfect interface for the teletype. It was to repair the teletype and hack together an interface. Then make it do something somewhat interesting.

  5. @ nv, I agree, what is this elegant solution, and yes while they used a bigger than really needed mcu its just extra pins and ram

    If someone has a better way of doing it, write a blog or something and link to it, till then its just pixie dust and unicorn farts

  6. @Macpod. In desperate times the paper being by the machine is toilet paper.

    @elohttub; Steampunk is stuff masquerading as the real deal by by fashion mostly. This teleprinter is the real deal, not steampunk.

    @brian4120 RS232 is a standard. This teleprinter is still a serial device that use a communications standard other than rs232.

    1. A little off topic but steampunk sucks in any form or definition because these “artists” destroy rare and serviceable stuff. second, there is little info on converting ASCII to Baudot, my first thought was Arduino, it takes some processor power to convert a 7-8 bit code to a 5 bit code. “serial is more than RS232, there must be 50 serial protocols

  7. Any details of the circuitry used? I’ve been trying to do something similar with a model 32 teletype. It seems to be very finicky about the waveform you feed the coil.

    1. Yes, rise time is critical, you need at least 1ms. a model 32 is a 5 bit (Baudot) A model 33 is 7 bit (ASCII) they look the same like the 28 (Baudot) and 35 (ASCII).

  8. I saw this on Make tv about half a year ago (at least) when they *just* started working on it. I don’t think this was a ‘quick hacked up version’. Considering this, if it takes you half a year to write a couple pages of code and wire up an arduino..i dunno. At least they KNOW about teletypes. That is better than most people these days.

  9. I’ve done some research into this, as we have both an RS-232 Twitter teletype at our lab (, and an older Baudot machine that is not yet on twitter.

    By tweaking certain serial port parameters with setserial in Linux, you can generate custom baud rates. Look at the spd_cust option here:

    Then you use stty to set the terminal to 5 data bits, two stop bits (which is close enough to the 1.5 stop bits normally required).

    Then you just have your Python script convert ASCII to Baudot and send it to the serial port as normal. No Arduino required.

    I’ll be implementing this shortly. I’m a little pissed NYCR got there first, but I’ll be doing it without the Arduino. ;)

  10. Our Aetheric Message Machine is a Teletype Model 15 underneath. Our web site has all the information on interfacing these devices. Look under “Connecting”.

    A Windows desktop PC with a standard serial port will operate at 45 baud, 5 bits, no parity, 1.5 stop bits if asked. It’s more difficult with Linux, because Linux uses an ancient UNIX serial port interface with the 16 speeds supported on DEC PDP-11 machines.

    We now use a USB to serial converter with the baud rate tables modified to support 45 baud, so we can use a subnotebook with no serial port.
    This is all documented on our web site.

    Driving the selector magnet requires a drive circuit capable of a 1ms rise time into a 4H inductance. Details are on the web site.

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