Typewriters are something which was once ubiquitous, yet which abruptly faded away and are now a rare sight. There was a period of a few years in which electric typewriters and computers existed side-by-side though, and it’s one of these which [Jonah Brüchert] has experimented with connecting to a computer for use as a printer or terminal.
The machine in question is a SIGMA SM 8200i typewriter, which is a rebadged version of the East German Erika S3004. It has an intriguing 26-pin connector on its side which provides access to a 1200 baud serial port. It uses its own character encoding dubbed “gdrascii”, for which there is a Python library that he could port to Rust. The result is a terminal in the old style, from the days when access to a computer was through a teletype rather than a screen. All that’s missing is a punched tape reader at its side!
We’ve featured a lot of typewriters here over the ears, but this isn’t the first that has received a terminal conversion.
If you’ve got a working Model 33 Teletype, every project starts to look like an excuse to use it. While the hammering, whirring symphony of a teleprinter going full tilt brings to mind a simpler time of room-sized computers and 300 baud connections, it turns out that a Teletype makes a decent AI conversationalist, within the limits of AI, of course.
The Teletype machine that [Hugh Pyle] used for this interesting project, a Model 33 ASR with the paper tape reader, is a nostalgia piece that figures prominently in many of his projects. As such, [Hugh] has access to tons of Teletype documentation, so when OpenAI released their GPT-2 text generation language model, he decided to use the docs as a training set for the model, and then use the Teletype to print out text generated by the model. Initial results were about as weird as you’d expect for something trained on technical docs from the 1960s. The next step was obvious: make a chat-bot out of it and stream the results live. The teletype can be seen clattering away in the recorded stream below, using the chat history as a prompt for generating text responses, sometimes coherent, sometimes disturbing, and sometimes just plain weird.
Alas, the chat-bot and stream are only active a couple of times a week, so you’ll have to wait a bit to try it out. But it looks like a fun project, and we appreciate the mash-up of retro tech and AI. We’ve seen teleprinters revived for modern use before, both for texting and Tweeting, but this one almost has a mind of its own.
Continue reading “AI-Enabled Teletype Live Streams Nearly Coherent Conversations”
A teleprinter is, at its heart, an automatic typewriter. It’s electrically controlled and has some smarts to be able to decode an incoming message and has something that will move the keys. These printers have been in use since the late 1800’s and [AethericLtd] have refurbished an old 1930’s design and given it a bit of steampunk flair.
As is common with older mechanical devices that have been sitting for extended periods of time, the first thing this machine needed was a bath. The machine was separated into its three main parts and soaked in a degreasing solvent. The keyboard was the dirtiest, so it got an overnight soak. Since little of the mechanism was electrical, most of it could be submerged which helped with the cleaning.
The next step in the restoration was lubrication. In order to do a proper job, the manuals (which were available online) were consulted and synthetic motor oil used for lubrication. Once all the hundreds of parts were oiled, [AethericLtd] started working on the wiring. The original wiring in this machine was called Deltabeston – a type of wire by General Electric which uses asbestos insulation. To play it safe, that wire was left alone. The selector magnet required only 4 volts to pull up, but 4 volts wasn’t enough to run the machine. The power supply used was a 120 VDC, 200 mA supply through a 2 KΩ, 10 W resistor.
Once everything was back together and working, [AethericLtd] could take machine out and show it off. The website describes not only the restoration process but also the setup, how to connect to the machine and how to communicate with the machine. Great work! If you are interested in these machines, there have been a few Teleprinter projects on the site before: this one has been modified to connect to a modern modem, and this one prints out tweets.
Continue reading “Teletype Machine Resurrected”
This week, we’re taking the wayback machine to 1940 for an informative, fast-paced look at the teleprinter. At the telegram office’s counter, [Mary] recites her well-wishes to the clerk. He fills out a form, stuffs it into a small canister, and sends it whooshing through a tube down to the instrument room. Here, an operator types up the telegram on a fascinating electro-mechanical device known as a teleprinter, and [Mary]’s congratulatory offering is transmitted over wires to her friend’s local telegraph office hundreds of miles away.
We see that the teleprinter is a transceiver that mechanically converts the operator’s key presses into a 5-digit binary code. For example, ‘y’ = 10101. This code is then transmitted as electrical pulses to teleprinters at distant offices, where they are translated back into alphanumerical data. This film does a fantastic job of explaining the methods by which all of this occurs and does so with an abstracted, color-coded model of the teleprinter’s innards.
The conversion from operator input to binary output is explained first, followed by the mechanical translation back to text on the receiving end. Here, it is typed out on a skinny paper tape by the type wheel shown above. Telegraphists in the receiving offices of this era cut and pasted the tape on a blank telegram in the form of meaningful prose. Finally, it is delivered to its intended recipient by a cheeky lad on a motorbike.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Teleprinter Tour, Teardown”