Termi2 Is Siri Like It’s 1976

What are your plans for the long weekend? If you don’t have time or don’t want to dive into a new project, why not dust off something left unfinished, or do as Hackaday alum [Cameron Coward] did recently and upgrade an old project with a new brain.

In this case, the project in question is a terminal typewriter — a Texas Instruments Silent 700 Terminal, to be exact — into a sort of late ’70’s version of Siri. The terminal typewriter is a special beast that used an acoustic coupler to send and receive both beeps and boops from distant mainframes. Whereas the first iteration of Termi used a Raspberry Pi Zero W to run a script that queries Wolfram Alpha, [Cameron] decided that between the login requirement, the boot time, and the weird formatting required to get it to work, that there had to be a better way.

Turns out that the better way is to use an ESP32 and read the “serial port”, which is a proprietary port with two serial connections — one for the acoustic coupler, and one for regular serial communication. Our favorite thing about this build, no matter the brain, is that there is a permanent record of all the questions and answers. Be sure to check out the video after the break.

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Playdate Handheld Turned Typewriter

The Playdate is an interesting gaming system. It’s a handheld, has a black and white screen, and superficially reminds us a little bit of the original Game Boy, right down to the button layout. But the fact that it has a second controller that pops out of the side, that this controller is a crank, and that the whole system was made by the same people that made Untitled Goose Game, makes us quite intrigued. Apparently it has made an impact on others, too, because this project turns the gaming system into a typewriter.

The Playdate doesn’t have native support for USB accessories unless it’s plugged into this custom 3D printed dock. Inside of the dock is a Teensy 4.1 which handles some translation between the keyboard and the console. Once the dock is taken care of the text editor needs to be side-loaded to the device as well. The word processor has the ability to move the cursor around, insert and delete text, and the project’s creator, [t0mg], plans to add more features in future versions like support for multiple files, changing the font, and a few other things as well.

For anyone interested in recreating this project, all of the printable files, the text editor, and the schematics are all available in the GitHub repo. It’s an impressive project for a less well-known console that we haven’t seen many other hacks for, unless you count this one-off Arduboy project which took some major inspiration from the Playdate’s crank controller.

Converting An 80s Typewriter Into A Linux Terminal

Typewriters may be long past their heyday, but just because PCs, word processor software, and cheap printers have made them largely obsolete doesn’t mean the world is better off without them. Using a typewriter is a rich sensory experience, from the feel of the keys under your fingers that even the clickiest of PC keyboards can’t compare with, to the weirdly universal sound of the type hitting paper.

So if life hands you a typewriter, why not put it back to work? That’s exactly what [Artillect] did by converting an 80s typewriter into a Linux terminal. The typewriter is a Brother AX-25, one of those electronic typewriters that predated word processing software and had a daisy wheel printhead, a small LCD display, and a whopping 8k of memory for editing documents. [Artillect] started his build by figuring out which keys mapped to which characters in the typewriter’s 8×11 matrix, and then turning an Arduino and two multiplexers loose on the driving the print head. The typewriter’s keyboard is yet used for input, as the project is still very much in the prototyping phase, so a Raspberry Pi acts as a serial monitor between the typewriter and a laptop. The video below has a good overview of the wiring and the software, and shows the typewriter banging out Linux command line output.

For now, [Artillect]’s typewriter acts basically like an old-school teletype. There’s plenty of room to take this further; we’d love to see this turned into a cyberdeck complete with a built-in printer, for instance. But even just as a proof of concept, this is pretty great, and you can be sure we’ll be trolling the thrift stores and yard sales looking for old typewriters.

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An Old Typewriter Speaks To The World

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 Br├╝chert] 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┬á 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.

Clacker Hacker: Popping A Cap In A Brother EP43 Thermal Typewriter

A few months ago, I fell down the internet rabbit hole known as Ted Munk’s typewriter site. I don’t remember if I just saw this Brother EP43 typewriter for sale and searched for information about them, or went looking for one after reading about them. Either way, the result is the same — I gained a typewriter.

Now I’m not really a typewriter collector or anything, and this is my first word processor typewriter. When it arrived from Goodwill, I anxiously popped four ‘C’ cells in and hoped for the best. It made a print head noise, so that was a good sign. But almost immediately after that, there was a BANG! and then a puff of smoke wafted out from the innards. My tiny typewriter was toast. Continue reading “Clacker Hacker: Popping A Cap In A Brother EP43 Thermal Typewriter”

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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Hackaday Podcast 066: The Audio Overdub Episode; Tape Loop Scratcher, Typewriter Simulator, And Relay Adder

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys stomp through a forest full of highly evolved hardware hacks. This week seems particularly plump with audio-related projects, like the thwack-tackular soldenoid typewriter simulator. But it’s the tape-loop scratcher that steals our hearts; an instrument that’s kind of two-turntables-and-a-microphone meets melloman. We hear the clicks of 10-bit numbers falling into place in a delightful adder, and follow it up with the beeps and sweeps of a smartphone-based metal detector.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (60 MB or so.)

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