Hacker Turns Thermal Clacker Into USB Keyboard

Back before there were laptops and subsequently, netbooks, there were these adorable thermal typewriter/word processors that are lovingly referred to by their fans as baby wedges or wedgies. These fascinating little machines can put words on paper two different ways: you can either use a prohibitively expensive little ribbon cartridge and regular copy paper, or you can go the easy route and get yourself a 96′ roll of thermal fax paper and type until you feel like tearing off the page.

[David] was lucky enough to pick up a Canon S-70 in working condition for next to nothing, thinking it would make an awesome USB keyboard, and we agree. The PSoC 5 that now controls it may be overkill, but it’s pretty affordable, and it was right there on the desk just waiting for a purpose. And bonus — it has enough I/O for all of those loud and lovely keyswitches.

One thing that keeps these baby wedges within the typewriter camp is the Shift Lock function, which can only be disengaged by pressing Shift and had its own discrete logic circuitry on the board before he was forced to remove it.

That little screen is pure word processor and was used to show the typing buffer — all the characters you have a chance to correct before the print head commits them to paper. In a win for word processors everywhere, the screen was repurposed to show the current word count.

He was kind enough to post his firmware as well as real-time footage of the build. Watch him demo it in the wild after the break, and then stick around for part one of the build saga.

Portable word processors were still being made ten years ago, though they were mostly aimed at the primary school market as keyboarding trainers. Our own [Tom Nardi] recently did a teardown of a model called The Writer that relies on IR to send files.

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FreeSoC, For When You Need 68 I/O Pins

Like many of us, [Jon] began his journey through the magical world of microcontrollers with an Arduino. For a beginner, the Arduino is a wonderful tool, but [Jon] quickly found himself limited by the platform. There are too few pins on the Arduino, and and the platform doesn’t really lend itself to extremely complex projects. To this end, [Jon] designed freeSoC, an Arduino-compatible platform based on the Cypress Semiconductor PSoC 5.

The Cypress PSoC 5 is an extremely capable microcontroller with 60 general purpose I/O pins and 8 special purpose, high current outputs. Every pin on [Jon]’s freeSoC is completely configurable; if you want 24 SPI ports and a dozen 20-bit ADCs, just launch Cypress’ design software and configure the chip graphically. With this many I/O ports, the PSoC 5 is as useful as an FPGA, without all the hassle of actually being and FPGA.

A really neat feature of the freeSoC is its ability to be programmed graphically. Using Cypress’ PSoC Creator IDE, the multitude of I/O pins can be configured to just about anything very easily. Because the PSoC 5 is based on an ARM Cortex-M3, programming the freeSoC is as easy as any one of many ARM dev boards that were recently released.

[Jon] came up with a very, very neat project here, and it’s something we can definitely see the utility of.

Thanks [Dale] for sending this one in.