Friday, December 10, 2010

Typecast From the Front Part II

Yesterday Enrique shared his views. Richard commented that the spelling and typing were very good. I would have to agree. Today, we will be hearing from Zaul, also in my 5th period. I have gone ahead and enhanced the images using GIMP rather than wasting time rescanning each page. This sould be much more readable.

Royal Aristocrat

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Olympia Has Arrived

When I came home from work I was greeted with a box. In this box was the new Olympia. After a little cleaning-up it looks wonderful. It's a nice heavy typewriter. I'll post a few pictures and a little commentary sometime later tomorrow.

Typecast From the Front

Enrique's response to "What do you like about using the typewriters in class?"

Smith-Corona Skyriter
EDITORIAL: I apologize for the quality of this scan. I intend to rescan it as soon as possible. The paper on which it is written is not, in fact, gray.

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.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Young Truth

The Weekly Inventory (which at this rate should be renamed The Often As I Can Inventory) has been returned, tabulated, and analyzed. So far, the data has been supporting my view that typewriters are still a useful tool in the classroom and that many high school students will use one if given the opportunity.Is this any surprise? Anecdotal examples are all around. Tom Furrier, by way of his interesting blog, says that he has noticed that a trend has become a movement. Matt, a 16 year old in Massachusetts, has his own typewriter-centric blog called Life in Typewriterdom that is clearly a source of author's pride. Typewriters are not just for crusty old journalists or the social contrarian.

I could go on and on about how much the inventories support this information. For example, 100% of 53 students who use a typewriter in my classes "enjoy using the machine" and find that they "feel their writing has more meaning" when they use a typewriter. I could mention that 67% of the students who responded to the question feel "that they have a unique connection" to great authors who used a typewriter. I could also tell you that 90% of 53 students like the sound of the typewriter "very much."

But, I would rather have some of them tell you what they like best about using the typewriter. So, for the next few days I am taking some special responses from my students and will post them as typecasts. Each will bear the title "Typecasts from the Front." You will be able to hear directly from them what it is about typewriters that make them so special.

Also, December 13th marks the three-month mark for the Classroom Typewriter Project. I don't know what excitement we will have planned, but it will be something special!

UPDATE: I am awaiting the installation of a scanner before I proceed with the typecasts. My school has a wonderfully complex ticket system that would be perfectly at home in the movie Brazil. While I can educate children I do not have the intellectual capacity for installing a basic computer accessory. Patiently I wait.

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Data Set

Today I collected a new set of inventories and I am working on analyzing the data. There is an interesting mass on the horizon. I'll have a bit more information later today.

I have been a little scant on the classroom component of this blog, so for those of you interested in that will find plenty to chew over the weekend.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Olympian from the West

I love it when Greek mythological allusions make it into products. I am thinking, of course, of Zeus' messenger; Hermes. He is the winged sandal-wearing trouble-maker. Our Hermes, however, has never caused an ounce of trouble. But there is a new member for our typing pantheon winging its way across the United States.

An Olympia SM-3 (from an anonymous donor) is on its way to Phoenix (more Greek mythology). The donor was a student at ASU in Tempe (as in Vale of Tempe) in the late 70s. This particular machine is a blueish color with all the wonderful chrome bits and pieces. I think it is a really pretty machine.

I am excited to finally have an Olympia in the collection. I have never used one and there have been some requests for more European machines. We'll see what condition this one is in and if I need to do a few tweaks. There are some bits I have been reading about rubber bushings that might need to be replaced.

I wonder if anyone ever sent in the coupon to hear the "full story set to music?"

I am also proud that this is my Diamond post. 60 is the largest number of posts I have ever made to any blog. I must really like this stuff.