I’m participating in Fun-a-Day, a daily art challenge through the month of January, committed to do a daily post here detailing some Big Art Idea or project that looms somewhere out in my future.
Though honestly, I’m not sure this counts as an art big idea. We’ll say it is a humble but laborious idea I’ve been thinking about for a while. I want to create a USB typewriter keyboard.
This is not trail blazing here. There are people who’ve done this and done it well. But damnit, it is so cool, it could stand to be done again. And plus I need it for other projects, the Decision-Maker for instance.
I’ve seen a lot of bad attempts at doing this, one in which someone added a tiny finicky reed switch to each of the 50 or so keys on the typewriter keyboard. That sounds like hell.
The best implementation I’ve seen is some clever genius who noted that nearly every key on the typewriter keyboard depressed a single long crossbar under the frame (it advances the carriage one space). The designer created a custom board to mount underneath and secured contacts to this bar so that as each key came down, it grounded a specific contact sending a signal to the USB circuitry. Clever!
Our USB Typewriter circuitry can transform your manual typewriter into a retro-futuristic marvel. Use a gorgeous vintage typewriter as the main keyboard for your Mac or PC, or type with ink-on-paper while electronically recording your keystrokes! The USB Typewriter also makes an outstanding keyboard dock for your iPad or tablet PC.
Such a beautiful idea, it is pretty much ridiculous. And a really elegant implementation.
My favorite typewriter in the world is the hulking IBM Correcting Selectric II, a beastly behemoth that weighs more than a modern economy car, yet so sensitive to your touch, it knows what you will type before you even type it. Many Selectric users have observed that their typewriter would already have completed their typing tasks by the time they arrived in the morning.
I’d love to convert an old Selectric, but it would not be so simple to convert. This wonder of modern electro-mechanical engineering has little in common with standard typewriters (except that it makes letters on paper).