Royal Typewriter Gets A Second (or Third) Life

Usually when we are restoring something with a keyboard, it is some kind of old computer or terminal. But [Make it Kozi] wanted an old-fashioned typewriter. The problem is, as he notes, they are nostalgically popular these days, so picking up a working model can be pricey. The answer? Buy a junker and restore it. You can watch the whole process in the video below, too, but nearly the only sound you’ll hear is the clacking of the keys. He doesn’t say a word until around the 14-minute mark. Just warning you if you have it playing in the background!

Of course, even if you can find a $10 typewriter, it probably won’t be the same kind, nor will it have the same problems. However, it is a good bet that any old mechanical typewriter will need many of the same steps.

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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!

Wandering Through Old Word Processors Yields A Beast

The world once ran on hardcopy, and when the digital age started to bring new tools and ways of doing things, documents were ripe for change. Today, word processors and digital documents are so ubiquitous that they are hardly worth a thought, but that didn’t happen all at once. [Cathode Ray Dude] has a soft spot for old word processors and the journey they took over decades, and he walks through the Olivetti ETV 2700.

In the days of character displays and no multitasking, WYSIWYG as a concept was still a long ways off.

The ETV 2700 is a monstrous machine; a fusion of old-school word processor, x86-based hardware, and electric 17 inch-wide typewriter.

With it one could boot up a word processor that is nothing like the WYSIWYG of today, write and edit a document, and upon command, the typewriter portion could electronically type out a page. A bit like a printer, but it really is an electric typewriter with a computer interface. Characters were hammered out one at a time with daisy wheel and ink ribbon on a manually-loaded page using all the usual typewriter controls.

While internally the machine has an x86 processor, expects a monitor and even boots MS-DOS, the keyboard had its own layout (and even proprietary keys and functions), did not support graphical output, and in other ways was unusual even by the standards of the oddball decades during which designers and products experimented with figuring out what worked best in terms of functionality and usability.

Nowadays, we see AI-enabled typewriter projects and porting vintage OSes to vintage word processor hardware, but such projects are in some part possible in part thanks to the durability of these devices. The entire video is embedded below, but you can jump directly to what the Olivetti ETV 2700 looked like on the inside if that’s what interests you most.

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

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The Busy Box Macro Pad

Well, I must admit that Google Translate completely failed me here, and thus I have no real idea what the trick is to this beautiful, stunning transparent split keyboard by [illness072]. Allegedly, the older tweets (exes?) hold the key to this magic, but again, Google Translate.

Based on top picture, I assume that the answer lies in something like thin white PCB fingers bent to accommodate the row stagger and hiding cleverly behind the keys.

Anyone who can read what I assume is Japanese, please advise what is going on in the comments below.

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Raspi-Powered Typewriter Is A Real MUSE

Thanks to parenting and life in general, [Brendan] had fallen out of the habit of writing and wasn’t happy about it. If you write anything ever, you already know there are endless distractions when it comes to doing so on a computer. Sure, there always typewriters, but it’s difficult to do anything with the fruits of a typewriter other than scan it in or make copies, and it’s basically un-editable except by hand.

Instead of just sitting down and writing, [Brendan] did what any of us would do — took the time to create an elegant solution. The Most Unusual Sentence Extractor, or MUSE, is a Raspberry Pi-based typewriter with the best of both worlds. It’s essentially a word processor, but it can save to the cloud.

[Brendan] found beautiful inspiration in the Olympia Traveller de Luxe typewriter, a delightfully boxy affair made in the 1960s and 70s with lovely keys. Starting with a board, [Brendan] set about re-creating the lines of the Traveller de Luxe in Tinkercad.

Since it doesn’t really need a platen, this was the perfect place to mount a screen using black PVC. At first, [Brendan] was going to use an e-ink screen, but a mishap led to a better solution — an LCD touchscreen that makes document navigation a breeze.

We absolutely love the look of this machine, which was obviously a labor of love. And yeah, it does the trick:[Brendan] is writing again. Though it maybe be inconvenient, we agree that it really is nice to have a dedicated workstation for certain things.

Looking for the complete opposite of this project? How about a Chat GPT-assisted daisywheel typewriter?

Taking Mechanical Keyboard Sounds To The Next Level

When it comes to mechanical keyboards, there’s no end to the amount of customization that can be done. The size and layout of the keyboard is the first thing to figure out, and then switches, keycaps, and then a bunch of other customizations inside the keyboard like the mounting plate and whether or not to add foam strips and other sound- and vibration-deadening features. Of course some prefer to go the other direction with it as well, omitting the foam and installing keys with a more noticeable click, and still others go even further than that by building a separate machine to make their keyboard activity as disruptive as it could possibly be.

This started as a joke among [ac2ev] and some coworkers, who were already teasing about the distinct sound of the mechanical keyboard. This machine, based on a Teensy microcontroller, sits between any USB keyboard and its host computer, intercepting keystrokes and using a small solenoid to tap on a block of wood every time a keystroke is detected. There’s also a bell inside that rings when the enter key is pressed, similar to the return carriage notification for typewriters, and as an additional touch an audio amplifier with attached speaker plays the Mario power-up sound whenever the caps lock key is pressed.

[ac2ev] notes that this could be pushed to the extreme by running a much larger solenoid powered by mains electricity, but since this was more of a proof-of-concept demonstration for some coworkers the smaller solenoid was used instead. The source code for the build can be found on the project’s GitHub page and there’s also a video of this machine in action here as well. Be careful with noisy mechanical keyboards, though, as the sounds the keys produce can sometimes be decoded to determine what the user is typing.

IBM Selectric Typewriters Finally Get DIY Typeballs

IBM’s Selectric line of typewriters were quite popular in the 1960s, thanks in part to an innovation called the typeball which allowed for easy font changes on a single machine. Unfortunately, as if often the case when specialized components are involved, it’s an idea that hasn’t aged particularly well. The Selectric typewriters are now around 60 years old and since IBM isn’t making replacement parts, those restoring these machines have had to get somewhat creative like using a 3D printer to build new typeballs.

It sounds like it would be a simple, but much like the frustration caused with modern printers, interfacing automated computer systems with real-world objects like paper and ink is not often as straightforward as we would like. The main problem is getting sharp edges on the printed characters which is easy enough with metal but takes some more finesse with a printed plastic surface. For the print, each character is modelled in OpenSCAD and then an automated process generates the 3D support structure that connects the character to the typeball.

This process was easier for certain characters but got more complicated for characters with interior sections or which had a lot of sharp angles and corners. Testing the new part shows promise, although the plastic components will likely not last as long as their metal counterparts. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Regular Hackaday readers may recall that the ability to 3D print replacement Selectric typeballs has been on the community’s mind for years. When we last covered the concept in 2020 we reasoned that producing them on resin printers might be a viable option, and in the end, that does indeed seem to have been the missing element. In fact, this design is based on that same one we covered previously — it’s just taken this long for desktop resin 3D printing technology to mature enough.