A typewriter that's a computer keyboard? Or a computer keyboard that's a typewriter?

The world may never know.

Regardless, using one of these brings with it a certain giddiness not normally found in typing one's own name. Not to mention, it's ever so popular with the ladies, house guests and lady house guests.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff.


1 - Model A IBM Electric Typewriter (EBAY!)
1 - Cheap USB keyboard
50 - Mini momentary push buttons (www.goldmine-elec.com Part #G12851A)
8 - Multi-strand spacer bars (metalliferous.com - Part #QB7853Y)
4 - 12" round brass rods (metalliferous.com - Probably, if memory holds true, Part #BR6075)
2 - Prototype circuit board (PCB)
1 - Tube syringe-type epoxy
1 - Spool of 22AWG black wire
1 - Role black gaffer's tape
1 - Role white gaffer's tape
50 - Small plastic pull-ties


- Soldering iron
- Metal clipper
- Small metal handsaw
- Needle-nose pliers
- Screwdriver set
<p>I literally just made a joke the other day to my friend in my computer engineering class about if someone asks us to hook their typewriter up to their PC. I now know how. Thank you for this instructable!</p>
I should point out that Sullen 70's comment regarding the Movie "Brazil" also brings to mind the TV series "Max Headroom," which also had old typewriters as computer keyboard terminals in the offices of the fictional Network XXIII (Those of you not familliar should Google it for more information). Several scenes in this series also show close-ups of old typewriters that were wired as computer input devices.
Actually, if you pay closer attention in Max Headroom, the typewriters are often not &quot;wired&quot; at all.
I stand corrected. I guess I must have had too much caffeine that day, ;-)
I can't believe I finally found you. Maybe. Does this make it possible to hit a key on your typewriter which will play a note on the musical keyboard? Zig
Love this. Could you do this for a Music Keyboard as easily ? Have a university assignments in which we create a art animation with music. I thought if i could somehow connect a usb keyboard to the electric paino when a key was being pressed on the electric paino it would recognise and correspond to a key on the usb keyboard. Any ideas? Sarah
Not really sure. It would be trickier I would imagine. This seems like something that would be easier to do in software than in hardware.
<a href="http://www.bome.com/products/miditranslator" rel="nofollow">www.bome.com/products/miditranslator</a>&nbsp;Bome's MIDI translator is the software you're looking for.<br /> <br /> You'll need a MIDI to USB converter if your keyboard doesn't already have a usb plug on it. Either way, you'll be plugging it directly into your computer.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> You then can use the software to translate notes into actual keystrokes.<br /> <br />
Sara, I <a rel="nofollow" href="http://fifthbiz.blogspot.com/2009/05/some-ideas-are-better-than-others.html">hacked open a casiotone keyboard some time ago</a>, and there are a LOT more cables, scratching off stuff, and I think that it would save you a lot of time to just learn to control midi events.<br/><br/>You are going to have to do the software work anyways, so you might as well do everything in software.<br/>
Too bad you couldn't leave the typewriter functioning. The model A was a great clunky beast with a wonderful sound as it typed!<br />
LOL I'd love to the the look on the engineers face that made this typewriter if he saw the main picture for step 12, and knew what this machine is being used for. It looks like it has been assimilated by the borg.<br />
Mac ftw! Im just wondering what Mac that is. 
Using Firefox, I'm getting "QuickTime is missing software required to perform this operation. Unfortunately, it is not available on the QuickTime server." when I try to view your video. Since it won't tell me WHAT software is missing, can anyone else tell me what I need? (And don't tell me Internet Explorer!)
Have you ever thought about "steampunking" this design up a bit? And with that in mind couldn't you simplify the design by putting corresponding buttons were the hammer hits thus reducing the amount of visible wire"s? I'm asking having just been inspired by SyFy's new show "Warehouse 13" some paint, some misc gears, rivets, and add a flat screen (where the paper drum used to be) and perfect 1800's computer.
Ever see the movie "Brazil"? A fitting tribute.
i agree. now i kind of want to make a computer like they had in the movie. but i think that is a dangerous project (in that i can see myself pouring a lot of time and effort into but ultimately not completing it). this guy made one though <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.ahleman.com/ElectriClerk.html">http://www.ahleman.com/ElectriClerk.html</a><br/>
The value of making paper copies of all computer based correspondence is priceless. So now when you email a friend you can send a backup snail mail copy. Amazing!
That is awesome !! May i ask how much the typewriter was ? i'd love to get one to play with :D Haha this is very cool fav, 5*
Honestly, I don't remember. You can find them on Ebay for pretty cheap.
Ok thanks ill check
Just in case anyone else would like to know, I checked ebay and there's tons of 'em on there, for anything acceptable it'll probably be from 10 dollars and up (although I didn't check specifically for the typewriter in the instructable). Shipping's gonna be killer though.
right about the shipping
really cool chief -- im astonished at how much work you put into this! im glad it works though! :) grats- have fun!
There are freeware programs that play a 'clack' typewriter sound whenever a key is pressed and even the 'Carriage Return' when the Enter key is pressed!
thats great or you could follow this Instructable and not be lame
fail It was an addition,a recommendation.He wasn't suggesting another solution IMHO.
not very nice..
That sounds cool !!
Awesome indeed. I have a fancy to do this with a proper mechanical typewriter. They are currently breeding in our house. My hubby and i had two old portables (now never used) and I bought a beautiful old black and gold situpandbeg type 1930s machine off ebay thinking to do the conversion but it is too lovely to mess up. However what happened next was interesting: in a house with 3 PCs and 2 laptops, our teenagers appropriated the old typewriter and started writing novels (1 each!) on it. Then my son obtained two more of the more modern portables, one for use when typing in bed and the other for modding. We are awash with the things but still havent done this mod which I really want to do. Essentially what I wanted to do was set a keyboard under the typewriter strikers somehow.
Nice work. Does this still function as a typewriter as well? I've been interested in modifying a Casio keyboard into a typewriter for musical purposes, but I would also like it to function as a typewriter still. My understanding is that the matrix for most computer keyboards isn't that different from the matrix for a musical keyboard, so I thought your Instructable might be a good starting place.
No, it made my life a lot easier to disable the typewriter function. I suppose you could keep it working as a typewriter, but it may take a little work. I've seen a couple different schemes for musical keyboards, but you should be able to find one that has a nice matrix like a computer keyboard.
Do normal Typewriters work? I have an old one and wondered if it was usable.
If all the key bars are level it should work just like this. If they are not, then you need to figure out another method.
This immediately reminded me of Max Headroom TV show.
wow that must have taken persistence and a LOT of time. very well written.
Wow...would it be possible to stick the keyboard inside the typewriter so that pressing a key on the typewriter would also hit a key on the keyboard? Then you would also have a hard copy on hand for when you computer dies just as you move the mouse to click the save button...
That's awesome. But it would be more awesome if the typewriter would also function as his printer too!
maybe you could do that with a teletype and some software
A fine addition to the land of retro novelties.
Truely cool. I *love* retro-tech.<br/>
Neat. ... Kind of the reverse of the first 'letter quality printer' I saw. A guy had mad a 'unit' with lots of solenoids that would press the keys on his IBM Selectric typewriter to write business letters for his small business. I am sure he doesn't have it anymore, but it was great to watch, interfaced to his Altair 8800 computer through a parallel port!
...great way to get my mother used to the computer...
My hat goes off to you, sir, for making yours far more stable than mine (multipledigression.com/type) was. I think the momentary buttons are just the thing I've been looking for to make it more practical. Thank you for doing it *right* and thank you for describing it so well.<br/>
No problem. If it makes you feel any better, my first attempt was a mess of electrical tape, wire, glue and copper tabs.
Now that's dedication to a project! I think I would have shelved the project after the first dozen or so switches... I haven't seen an "IBM Electric" in ages! Quite a find.
Fantastic - true pointless genius Pete
That's awesome!

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Randy and I founded the Instructables Design Studio. I'm also the author of the books 'Simple Bots,' and '62 Projects to ... More »
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