Meccano-based Hellschreiber Machine

[ZXGuesser] has pulled off a true feat of Meccano engineering: building a Meccano Hellschreiber machine. The design is a close replica of the original Siemens Feld-Hell machine as documented here. What is Hellschreiber, you might ask? It’s a very neat method of sending written messages over the air by synchronizing a printing wheel on the receiving end with pulses generated on the transmitter. By quickly moving the print wheel up and down, arbitrary figures can be printed out. If you want to learn more about Hellschreiber, check out this excellent Hackaday post from almost a decade ago!

The Mastodon thread linked above goes into more detail about the difficulty in building this behemoth — and the slight regret of sticking with the authentic QWERTZ keyboard layout! In order to use the Hellschreiber mode, you have to keep up a steady rhythm of typing at about 2.5 characters per second, otherwise, the receiving end will see randomly spaced gaps between each letter. So while having to type at a steady speed [ZXGuesser] also had to work with a slightly different keyboard layout. Despite this difficulty, some very good quality output was generated!

Incredibly, the output looks just like the output from the original, century-old design. We think this is an absolutely incredible accomplishment, and we hope [ZXGuesser] doesn’t follow through on disassembling this amazing replica — or if they do, we hope it’s documented well enough for others to try their hand at it!

Thanks [BB] for the tip!

10 thoughts on “Meccano-based Hellschreiber Machine

  1. Doh! I knew I shouldn’t have procrastinated for so long on videoing and writing it up properly. I was hoping Hackaday wouldn’t notice it yet :D
    Sadly it will have to come apart at some point to retrieve the bits for my next ridiculous project as it contains a significant percentage of my Meccano! Don’t worry though, I have a lot of ink and impossible ideas left for future models…
    I’m hoping to get on the air with it and join in on the weekly Held Hell net a few times before it comes apart to get lots of example output for the web page. Just need the Round Tuits to all be arranged correctly.

    One thing I don’t think I mentioned on Mastodon that you might get a kick out of: even the print screw is Meccano-derived. I cut the two-start thread into a bit of plastic gun barrel, with a sort of lathe/mill hybrid which I also built out of Meccano! I’ll toot a photo later.

  2. Cool project and i like the use of mecano, it really suits the style of the project and it proves its use. As long as you have enough of it you can build anything.

    1. I got it from an educational science equipment supply company.
      It’s for those mains powered buzzers that whack carbon paper with a pin to make a line of dots on a ribbon that you measure and plot on a graph to calculate acceleration due to gravity and suchlike.
      Assuming schools still do stuff like that. I ordered 10 rolls of paper and they sent me an entire box, so maybe they have a warehouse full.

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