Towards a 21st-Century Typewriter?

Is a 21st Century Typewriter Possible?



Filed under public typewriting, Type-IN

16 responses to “Towards a 21st-Century Typewriter?

  1. cool idea! a couple possibilities: I had a cheap camera that powered the flash much as you suggest, but I think it used a capacitor. Maybe the energy from the spacebar could be used as well?
    Also the instructions could go on or under the paper tray.

  2. This is one of my recurrent fantasies, but you’ve thought of a number of great angles that hadn’t occurred to me. Let’s add that the exterior design has got to be stunningly beautiful.

    Is this madness? Not necessarily. The moment may be right. Let’s remember that mechanical watches are still sold, often at huge prices, and are considered prestige items. A typewriter is no more complicated, and is easier to assemble. The idea just has to catch on. An international design competition would help.

  3. key-locked carriage? I’d be skeptical of that, considering how many typewriters still have their case keys. 😀

  4. Bill M

    Completely mechanical. Any electrical needs must be supplied by power generated when pressing the keys. Well, really no electrical anything or it’sll be obsolete to soon or something will fail.

    • OK, let’s see:
      1) not keys, but the carriage return. People are too sensitive about key touch. But carriage return is just brute force. SO… couple small magnets on the spring motor, couple coils right next to it. When the carriage is pushed to return, the magnets spin past the coil and generate a little bit of power to charge the batteries. The only permanent part is this generator, and maybe the battery compartment. The circuitry would be on a board, just in an open space, nothing permanent, any more than a ribbon would be! Ditto for the panel that holds the USB out and the SD socket.

  5. My Byron has a key-locked carriage which looks really cool — like a car — but it’s a miracle that the keys are still around after 45 years.

  6. I like the specifications. Take some typewriters and a specification display with a Kickstarter like intro reel to an area Maker Faire and just watch what happens. The Arduino nerds will go crazy on the challenge of integrating power generation, storage and lighting. The USB typewriter interface already exists and the kit is $80 (and a whole bunch of labor), but a Hackerspace might get into making this type of machine for fun. There has to be a Hackerspace or three in Philly.

    • Yeah, I think we could start by building a couple USBs — just met Jack (USBtypewriter) Zylkin and have invited him…
      and then just mock an SD slot, and a big “features” poster, showing what it would offer, maybe even a retail price for verisimilitude.

  7. I still am puzzling over the mechanical type hammers – as I was reading, my mind was brewing up a moving-carriage, stationary-daisywheel device, perhaps with solar cells stylishly incorporated into the case top. Something maybe the rough size of a Skyriter, with powered carriage return. All the good stuff – typewriter clack, in-progress hard copy, memory onto the SD, etc etc. Hmmm…

    • Hmmm
      that’s where there will be some basic decisions…
      My hope is human powered… with the other stuff attached as trim… and probably a manual carriage return, because that is part of the manual experience of “line rhythm” which be important — or not… do daisywheels click in a satisfying enough fashion?

      The other thought is just that the manual carriage return can generate enough to power the circuits…

      Solar cells on top could be cool–or just a jack in to take solar cell power…?

  8. Oh, and then there’s the question of the IBM Selectric–
    it’s actually a mechanical machine–could its lever-tree action be:
    * lightened
    * powered by a clockwork/rubber (v. cool) or portable drill-type motor (kind of boring)
    or sewing machine foot treadle/flywheel, with a flex drive (like car speedos)
    –have to find out how tolerant the mech is of speed fluctuations/lowest rpm that will function…
    * reduced in size
    * made to still work with all the golf balls out there…
    * perhaps even made to use as many old Selectric parts as possible–like
    “waaaay backwards/forwards compatible”

  9. GB

    Has anyone looked at the SWINTEC typewriter ( Manufactured overseas but sold from New Jersey?
    It has some of the features you’re talking about – memory (but only their “Word Processor” model has portable storage – a 3.5 inch disc – remember them?). There ought to be a way to route the memory to an SD chip or USB device. The problem is – they need to be plugged in and can’t be used in a stand-alone mechanical mode.
    Still – perhaps it’s a place to start?

  10. Look at your olympia case, or your SCM. The case could be a docking station where the larger battery and more permanent memory resides, perhaps with the usb and other upgrade connections. The typewriter could be kept minimal but enchanced when docked. Also the spring loading in the keytops could be where the logging switches go.

  11. For a purely mechanical machine, I wonder if we don’t take a cue from the past, and go with some of the earlier designs? Is there a simpler way to get letters on the page than the mass of springs and linkages? I’m inclined to say “no” since manufactures had years to work on it, and the classic frontstrike design “won” by virtue of utility and usefulness to the typist. But for a DIY typewriter, or even a kit machine, something like a Blick with its single typing surface probably involves fewer moving parts, and far fewer parts that needed to take a hard impact. That seems to be the weakest point right now — there’s no good, cheap way to make high-tolerance, high-durability parts from the current 3-D printers without something fancy like sintering a master, making a mold, and pouring your own steel. Egad.

    The AlphaSmart is really what I consider the modern typewriter. If it had a hardcopy option, or could print directly to a printer, you’d be set. Some clever fellow could probably whip up a print adapter with an Arduino that would be connectable to modern printers and allow connectivity to the older techology in the AS.

    • I too am a long-time AlphaSmart user, and I agree wholeheartedly. I have always had fine motor control troubles with my hands, and my handwriting is just unusable, so I learned to keyboard as a kid, on my dad’s old Underwood manual typewriter. My daughter, born in 1986, inherited the nerve issues with the hands (thanks, dad!) and had the same issues with writing, so she too learned to keyboard early. When the AS Pro came out, I bought one for each of us, and it went everywhere with her, in and out of school. When she started high school, I bought each of us an AS3000IR, and she used it through high school, college, and after, until it died tragically in an apartment fire. I replaced it with a Neo2, which she still carries. I went with a Dana, because of the PalmOS. Both of us are 2-finger typers – she uses her index fingers, and I use the index figer on my left hand, and middle finger on the right. When daughter was in college, almost all the office printers were IR equipped, and she could stop into an office and buzz off print. It was only Courier font, 12 point, and double-spaced, but it would print. I am with you; if the AS3000 would USB to a PCL printer, it would be awesome.

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