Typewriter as a terminal?

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bushnrvn's picture
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Typewriter as a terminal?

While doing some reading about RTTY, I went down a rabbit hole that led me back to vintage computing. Reading about the IBM Selectric I learned there was at least one variant that was used as an interactive terminal for some home computers. Specifically, the Trendata 1000. Was this the only instance of this? Is it possible to interface any old typewriter with a computer provided the proper connections are able to be made? I may be over simplifying it - ASCII conversion from the electrical signal would need to occur, but since I don't know anything about typewriters in this regard, I wouldn't know where to start. I guess for the earlier ones (that were electrically driven purely mechanically) a great deal of work would need to be done to even read the different key presses?

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Re: Typewriter as a terminal?

I had an old Anderson Jacobson AJ 841 ( http://terminals.classiccmp.org/wiki/index.php/Anderson_Jacobson_AJ_841 ) terminal based on the IBM Selectric. Aside from the acoustic coupler modem, it also had a serial port which I used to interface to my Apple II. I did this by building my own serial card with custom firmware to (among other things) convert from ASCII to EBCDIC. This board is actually up on eBay should anyone get their hands on a working terminal (http://www.ebay.com/itm/201216996018 ). These terminals produced beautiful printouts and allowed for multiple fonts using the swapable print balls.

Unfortunately, being quite mechanical in their construction, they were difficult to maintain and eventually I had to get rid of mine. I did keep the acoustical coupler for nostalgia. But I can still recall the music (I mean racket) it made while printing out a long program listing. But what a sight to see it in operation!

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Re: Typewriter as a terminal?

IBM selectrics modified to work as printers were commonly available in the late 70's. I think that only certain models of the Selectric were easily adaptable to an all electronic interface. There was an electro-mechanical conversion approach that essentially put a bunch of solenoids on top the keyboard and when activated, they would strike the correct key to "type" the character.

Some companies specialized in conversions and conversion kits and it became a bit of an minor industry.

regards,
Mike Willegal

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Re: Typewriter as a terminal?

Interesting. I wonder how difficult that would be to find? Seems like even if the machines were common at one point, it is a collector's niche and won't be easy to fill.

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