When Is A Typewriter A Printer? When It Has A Parallel Port

If you want to talk to a typewriter using something other than your fingers on the keys, you could do a lot worse than to pick up a specimen featuring a Centronics parallel port. That’s what happened to [mlupo], who came across an old Swintec 1146 CMP and decided to hack it into an art installation.

At the push of a giant, clicky button, the typewriter now spits out family stories. This is all thanks to an Adafruit KB2040 keyboard driver being used in a new, exciting way — as a printer driver.

More specifically, the CircuitPython program running on the KB2040 takes in a text file and then sends the data one character at a time until a newline is reached. At that point, the typewriter sends a busy signal and the characters are typed.

As soon as the typewriter is no longer occupied, the data stream picks back up until the next newline or until the file is completely typed out.

Once [mlupo] figured out enough of the parallel port protocol, they were able to build a custom breakout board with the KB2040, a female parallel port, and a row of LEDs for debugging that [mlupo] kept because they look cool.

The KB2040 sets the values high on a series of the parallel port’s data pins, along with the port’s STROBE pin, which pulls low when data is ready. During each STROBE cycle, the high and low pins are read by the Swintec as a binary character.

Of course, you can always use the power of Pi to build your own modern typewriter.

Thanks to [foamyguy] for the tip!

Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Ballpoint Typewriters

So you want to minimize finger movement when you type, but don’t have three grand to drop on an old DataHand, or enough time to build the open-source lalboard? Check out these two concept keebs from [SouthPawEngineer], which only look like chord boards.

Every key on the home row is a five-way switch — like a D-pad with straight down input. [SouthPawEngineer] has them set up so that each one covers a QWERTY column. So like, for the left pinky switch, up is Q, right is A, down is Z, and left is 1. Technically, the split has 58 keys, and the uni has 56.

Both of these keebs use KB2040 boards, which are Adafruit’s answer to the keyboard-building craze of these roaring 2020s. These little boards are of course easy to program with CircuitPython, which supports KMK, an offshoot of the popular QMK. Thanks for the tip, [foamyguy]!

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