Red Bull Creation: A Giant Daisy Wheel Printer

While most of the teams in this year’s Red Bull Creation didn’t really pay attention to the theme of ‘reinventing the wheel’, 1.21 Jiggawatts did. Their creation, a giant typewriter that can be suspended along the side of a building, takes its inspiration directly from 1970s typewriters and printers. Yes, it’s a giant daisy wheel typewriter.

The basic idea of a daisy wheel typewriter is a wheel with a few dozen petals, on the end of which is a single letter. To print a letter, the wheel spins around, and a solenoid mechanism strikes the letter against a piece of paper. This was cutting edge tech in the 70s, and was a fast (and cheap) way for computers to print out letter-quality reports.

1.21 Jiggawatts used a ladder as the rail to move down a line of text. The movement from line to line was supposed to be done by dangling the ladder off a chain with a few sprockets attached to motors. Unfortunately, the team couldn’t quite get the machine working for the competition and live event, but the build does show an amazing amount of creativity and respect for classic, forgotten technology.


17 thoughts on “Red Bull Creation: A Giant Daisy Wheel Printer

  1. Daisywheel printers were cheap and accurate, but they were never fast. If memory serves, they were about on par with the 9-pin dot-matrix printers of the era as far as speed goes, though the output looked nicer. (don’t be surprised if I am wrong about this, I haven’t compared printers of those types since the 80’s.)

    1. Daisywheels were neither cheap nor fast. A “fast” commercial quality daisywheel (like a Diablo 630) would run close to $2000 US and print 40-45 cps. A 9-pin dot matrix that cost maybe $300 (Epson RX or FX for example) would go 120-240 cps.

      These from roughly the mid-80s.

      1. I used a Diablo 630 with a Xerox 820-II Information Processor. Not a “computer”. Xerox didn’t do “computers”, nevermind it had a Z-80 CPU, 64K RAM and two 360K floppy drives and could run any text only CP/M software.

        The Diablo was plenty fast on single strike but bold double-strike underline slowed it to a crawl. ;) 8 hits to produce each underlined character that way.

        There were some 630’s that were faster, they had a longer print wheel motor with more torque so it could start, spin and stop quicker.

        The successor to the 630 was even quicker because it had bumps on the backs of the wheel petals and a matching notch in the hammer so it didn’t have the settling time of the 630 and earlier Diablo printers.

        Before the 630 was the HyType series, originally developed by a team at Singer (yup, the sewing machine company). When management didn’t show interest in going forward with the project, the entire printer team left and started the Diablo company.

        HyType was officially NOT short for Hyper Typer, which was a name they’d very briefly considered.

    1. It’s the modern way: 95% some dude’s face droning on about stuff, very little just showing us the damn thing. A picture is worth a thousand minutes dull explaining on Youtube…

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