Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Digital Carbon Copies

Although typewriters do consume a fair amount of my time I do have other hobbies. I am an ardent Halloween decorator. I am a licensed amateur radio operator (KC7RZR). I love vintage television programs. I also dabble in programming microcontrollers (especially the Arduino).

I am always trying to find ways to marry my interests. This can be difficult but I have a cunning plan. I've been wanting to build a better (for me) version of the USB typewriter. Jack Zylkin has created a kit to convert your typewriter into a USB keyboard. This is really cool. The heart of the system is an Arduino microcontroller (an Amtel chip with a custom bootloader). I, however, do not just want a keyboard for my computer. I actually don't want to connect the typewriter to my computer at all. What I want is a way to create digital carbon copies of what I type. This would be a smart typewriter. I prefer typing onto paper, but sometimes I want to make duplicates and the computer is a perfect way of storing these digital carbon copies (dcc).

Put me in a typewriter!
I want an Arduino to be at the heart of the system. I am familiar with the programming language and I have an invested in the hardware already. Where my plan differs is in the storage of the dcc. Recently, datalogging has become more common on the Arduino. People are adding SD/MCC to their projects to store all kinds of data; temperature, GPS coordinates, XYZ axis from a gyro. It's really an exciting time in microcontrollers. I began to think that it wouldn't be that hard to store every keypress on an SD card. I could then take that card, load it on my computer, format the text, and print off copies . Looking around I found that almost of the FAT libraries for the Arduino environment offer basic read/write/append capability. It wouldn't take much to take an SD or datalogging shield and wire up a matrix of buttons and measure what keys are depressed as I type.

The challenge would be making it look seamless and fully intergrated into the typewriter. I haven't even started to decide wether I will do this project, but it could be an interesting experience.

3 comments:

  1. I bought the kit and have considered how I want to do it, and to which typewriter. There are psk kits with lcd displays that may be worth integrating along with the sd. hmmm.
    73 de ad7eu

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  2. I saw the kit and I disagree with his suggestion for installation. I think there are better contact points for the "switches" rather than the ribbon vibrator bar. All of my Royals have a nice solid unmoving rod that would be the perfect mount point.

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  3. I'm fascinated by this whole cyber-typer interface and have a love-hate relationship with the idea. I explored it a bit in my NaNoWriMo novel. Keep us posted on any experiments you carry out.

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