Build An ESP32 Stock Ticker To Watch Your GME Gains

Meme investing is all the rage these days, and what better way to get in on the loss fun than with your very own old-timey mechanical stock ticker? Unfortunately, they’re about as expensive and rare as you might expect for a piece of Victorian-era electronics. Lucky for us, [secretbatcave] has shown that you can put together a functional look-alike that costs about as much as a GameStop (GME) share was worth before it started heading to the Moon.

This might seem like an ambitious project, but in actuality the machine only has a few moving parts. There’s a stepper motor to feed the paper, another to spin an inked embossing wheel, and a couple of solenoids attached to a pusher plate. Rather than trying to move the heavy wheel, the pusher plate smashes the paper up into it. The fact that this produces a satisfying “clack” sound as each character is printed is just an added bonus.

Extending the base to hold the solenoids.

To sell the look, [secretbatcave] put the whole mechanism inside a tall glass dome from IKEA. The matching wooden base was extended so the pusher plate solenoids could fit inside, after which it was dunked in ink and sprayed with a gloss sealer to give it that shiny black finish people seemed to love in the 1900s. With the addition of an engraved brass nameplate, it looks like the machine fell out of a time warp.

In terms of electronics, there’s an ESP32, a pair of stepper motor controllers, and a relay for the solenoids. As of right now it all lives in a rather utilitarian box that’s tethered to the ticker, but we’re sure the lot could get tucked under the base with the help of a custom PCB should you be so inclined.

With an ESP32 at the helm, the ticker could easily be configured to print out whatever data it receives over the network or picks up from MQTT. With hardware like this and a pair of Diamond Hands, those tendies are as good as yours.

14 thoughts on “Build An ESP32 Stock Ticker To Watch Your GME Gains

  1. He might get better print quality if he used a rubber strip on his pressure plate. That would make any parallelism issues between the typewheel and pressure plate less important.

    Curious as to where he got the typewheel

  2. A comment, a suggestion, an idea, and a question–

    The comment: This is a fabulous project and appears well-executed. It’s interesting, visually appealing, and might have some novel applications. Well done, sir.

    My suggestion: Were I to build a version of this (and I just might), it would seem advantageous to mill a slot or channel in the base to provide a means of egress for the printed tape. That would allow the device to be used with the protective glass dome in place. (It might also be worth adding a piece of serrated steel at the point where the tape exits to allow it to be ripped off, cleanly (think–adhesive tape dispenser or waxed-paper box.)

    My idea: Could the font wheel be 3d printed as an alternative to purchasing one? I wonder how long a wheel made of PLA or ABS would last before wearing out . This would not seem a high-impact application, after all.

    Finally, my question: Where do you get a roll of paper tape for this machine? There are Hellschreiber enthusiasts who cut their own tape from spools of calculator paper, but is there a ready-made source for half or 3/4-inch tape?

    1. If you can print a Selectric ball and get halfway decent results, I’m sure you could print an embossing wheel like this.

      To deal with wear, the design could be done in such a way that each character is on its own removable block that could be popped out of the wheel and replaced independently of the others. That way you don’t have to reprint the whole thing just because your most commonly used characters are starting to get worn down.

  3. I always wondered how did a real stock ticker work. I mean: it received the signal through a single pair of cables, so… how did it decide whether to select a character (I presume it does it by pulses) or activate the hammer to print the currently selected?

    1. For Calahan’s 1868 ticker, it seems like each pulse from the transmitter would advance the receiver to the next character. That’s all I can make of it, so presumably a pause on the character would indicate a selection. Perhaps another line is used to indicate “print”.

      1. I found that the Edison model used two lines: one for sending pulses for the wheel (and it was polarity encoded: you can choose the direction of rotation), and another for sending the “print” command (again polarity encoded: there were two wheels joined, one with letters and another with numbers, and two hammers, one for each wheel, where one polarity activated one of the hammers, and the other polarity activated the other).

    2. This page gives some more leads, as well as lists of patent numbers (which you can search to bring up). It also says that a separate line was used to “home” all the receiving machines to make sure the sender all receivers were in unison. Also, letters were on one wheel, numbers and symbols on another wheel.

      1. These early tickers were kind of impressive, since two solenoids were the only powered devices in them. One would tick the type wheel to the next character, and the other would both print the character onto the paper as well as advance the paper to the next space. A bit of clockwork and imagination was needed to make that all happen. It makes devices like the one in the video above seem kind of clunky in comparison.

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